The Root of Erdogan's Problems

The Root of Erdogan's Problems

Last Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan published a defiant Op-Ed in the New York Times, warning the Trump administration not to continue pressuring his government to release an American pastor jailed in Turkey.


Trump, unimpressed, slapped fresh tariffs on Turkey that helped push the country’s currency, the lira, down nearly 20 percent against the US dollar. In the past few days, the bleeding has only continued – with the lira touching historic lows as investors head for the exits in the once booming economy. Even after stabilizing a bit this morning, the currency has still shed a quarter of its value this month.

But troubled relations with the US aren’t the main reason for Erdogan’s economic problems. Nor are the “economic terrorists,” international conspirators, or social media opponents that Erdogan has lashed out at in recent days.

Trump’s action only exacerbated a crisis that is largely the result of Erdogan’s own policies.

For years, Turkey’s economic growth has depended on foreign creditors who have lent money to his country’s government, banks, and businesses. That growth, in turn, helped to underpin Erdogan’s political popularity.

But as a decade long boom subsided, the effects of Erdogan’s politically-motivated policy of pumping loads of cash through the economy – while dismissing inflation as a conspiracy rather than a consequence – began to spook those creditors, making Turkey’s economy increasingly fragile.

Brushing off the advice of his technocrat advisors and appointing his thinly-qualified son-in-law to run much of the economy worsened matters still. As investors pull their money, the lira is plummeting in value, making it increasingly hard for domestic companies and banks to pay back foreign creditors. Now, tipped further into the abyss by the dust-up with Trump, a full blown economic crisis looms and yet Erdogan is digging in his heels.

So where does he go from here? When it comes to the diplomatic spat with the US, he can probably find an artful way to fold. Defiant though he may be, Erdogan has gone from lion to lamb before. Back in 2015, he seemed ready to face down Moscow after Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet over the Turkish-Syrian border. But after a scolding from NATO and especially some economic pressure from Vladimir Putin, he issued one of the more abject apologies that we’ve seen from one leader to another.

The bigger question is whether the increasingly isolated and authoritarian Erdogan can back away from an economic policy built on nationalist pluck and paranoid conspiracy theories. If not, then irrespective of what happens between Erdogan and Trump, Turkey’s recent troubles are only a prelude to greater pain ahead.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal