Turkey without friends

Turkey's President Erdogan wearing a boxing glove

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.


US. Last weekend, Erdogan confirmed that Turkey has tested those Russian S-400 missiles, and dared the US to impose sanctions. The Turkish leader has few remaining friends in Washington, and if Joe Biden is elected president and Democrats win a Senate majority, US sanctions become much more likely. "You do not know who you are playing with," said Erdogan last Sunday.

Russia. Vladimir Putin likes to engage Turkey, if only to upset NATO leaders, but he doesn't like that Turkey actively opposes Russian proxies and allies in Syria, Libya, and the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia expressed its displeasure earlier this week by bombing a Syrian rebel camp in Idlib, the last stronghold of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition on Turkey's border.

Saudi Arabia. Longtime rival Saudi Arabia is taking aim at Turkey too. Broad disagreements over the proper role of Islam in politics and specific issues like disputes over the murder in Istanbul of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have created plenty of bad blood between Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Aware that Turkey's economy is in bad shape, the Saudi government has made clear to its business community that it wants a total boycott of Turkish goods into the kingdom. The boycott remains unofficial, and latest economic statistics don't yet show a big impact on Saudi imports, but the push will likely continue, and Turkish companies will feel the heat.

China. Perhaps aware that Turkey will need at least one deep-pocketed friend, Erdogan has been uncharacteristically restrained in his criticism of China for forcing one million Turkic Muslim Uighurs into internment camps in China's Xinjiang region. But even here, Erdogan's government can't completely overlook such a large-scale crime against Muslims, and Turkey's foreign ministry expressed its "concerns" earlier this month.

Turkey's economy is hurting. Erdogan's economic policies are creating turmoil too, and Turkey's people are now suffering real economic pain. Inflation and unemployment are rising. The coronavirus has taken a toll. The currency has hit historic lows against the dollar.

Maybe Erdogan believes that picking fights with foreigners will appeal to national pride and divert public attention from these hardships. It fits the neo-Ottoman image he has worked to build of Turkey as a strong and independent actor on the world stage.

But a strong Turkey needs a strong economy, and the health of that economy depends on both trade and foreign funding. In a moment of economic crisis, new sanctions and boycotts aren't going to help.

The big questions: How much economic pain will Erdogan accept before he becomes less combative with those who have the power to hurt him? And how long before he pays a heavier political price at home?

Yau Abdul Karim lives and works in Garin Mai Jalah, located in the Yobe State of northeastern Nigeria. Essential to his work raising cattle is reliable access to water, yet environmental degradation has led to fewer water sources, severely impacting communities like his that depend on livestock. In 2019, with the help of FAO, Eni installed a special solar-powered well in Yau's town that provides water during the day as well as light at night.

Watch Yau's story as he shows how his family and community enjoy life-enhancing access to both water and light.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And I thought I'd talk a little bit today about the latest in Israel, Palestine. It's obviously been driving headlines all week. And of course, on social media, there's no topic that we all get along and agree with each other more than Israel, Palestine. It's an easy one to take on. Yeah, I know I'm completely full of crap on that. But I thought I would give you some sense of what I think is actually happening where we're going. So first point, massive fight, big conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli defense forces. Not only that, but also more violence and a lot of violence breaking out between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. Extremists on both sides taking to the streets and fairly indiscriminate violence, in this case, worst since 2014.

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Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, says another independence referendum for Scotland is now a matter of "when not if," and that after leaving the UK, Scotland will launch a bid to rejoin the EU. But there are formidable obstacles ahead.

Getting to a vote will force a complex game of chicken with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If a majority of Scots then vote for independence — hardly a sure thing – the process of extricating their new country from the UK will make Brexit look easy. Next, come the challenges of EU accession. In other words, Scotland's journey down the rocky road ahead has only just begun.

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Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event on Tuesday, May 18.

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According to Delhi-based journalist Barkha Dutt, while the Indian government has finally started to mobilize in response to the COVID crisis, there's still a lot of denial about the severity of the ourbreak. "Our Health Minister, for instance, made a statement in the last 24 hours saying that India is better equipped to fight COVID in 2021 than in 2020. That's simply rubbish. We had India's Solicitor General telling the Supreme Court that there is no oxygen deficit as of now. That's simply not true." In an interview on GZERO World, Dutt tells Ian Bremmer that only the connection between fellow Indians, helping each other when the government cannot, has been a salve.

Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity

Listen: Ask national security experts how they view China today and they'll likely the use a term like "adversary" or "economic competitor." But what about "enemy?" How close is the world to all-out-war breaking out between United States and China? According to US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), who served as Supreme Allied Commander to NATO, those odds are higher than many would like to admit. In fact, Stavridis says, the US risks losing its military dominance in the coming years to China. And if push comes to shove in a military conflict, it's not entirely clear who would prevail. Admiral Stavridis discusses his bestselling new military thriller 2034 and makes the case for why his fictional depiction of a US-China war could easily become reality.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's the issue with the letter in France talking about the "civil war"?

Well, I think it is part of the beginning of the French election campaign. We have some people in the military encouraged by the more right-wing forces, warning very much for the Muslim question. That's part of the upstart to the election campaign next year. More to come, I fear.

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When asked about where a US-China war may start, US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) doesn't hesitate: Taiwan. He suggests that China may believe the US is distracted by internal politics: "I think it would be a miscalculation on the part of the Chinese, but they may calculate that now is the moment." How would a move against Taiwan play out? Stavridis speculates how the Chinese military may plan to invade the island on the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which begins airing on US public television Friday, May 14. Check local listings.

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Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace. Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT/ 1pm ET

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Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace | Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT / 1 pm PT

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