Erdoğan’s Turkey: A Nation to Watch in 2020 and Beyond
By Sunny Oputa
If for anything, the world will accord President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey as one of the most ambitious leader of this decade amid some of the brazen leadership style his domestic oppositions and antagonists must have labeled him. Erdoğan’s regime has put Turkey on the pedestal to become a commercial hub, energy- bridge in Europe, economic power house and a strategic military might in the Mediterranean and among European nations.
Turkey is on the global radar, with its influence flowing down profusely to Africa, Asia and Americas. It’s humanitarian- cum military presence in Syria, interaction with Russia, standing up against the Kingdom of Saud Arabia in the brutal slaying of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist in Saudi’s consulate in Istanbul, and currently Turkey’s military defense of the new government of Libya are defining the military, visionary and regional agenda of the government of Erdogan to install a new and rising Turkey in the globe.
Understanding the geopolitical significance of oil/gas as global commodities that draw power and influence, Turkey is on the verge of increasing its reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Though this move is opposed by U.S and European Union, the new government of Libya has stood out as Turkey’s major backer as it receives monumental military intelligence and support as Erdogan has established an unreserved readiness to deploy soldiers to Libya to protect the air zone, land and marine fortresses and push back the resistance of the renegade forces of Khalifa Hiffer in Tripoli. This highly ambitious move by Erdogan remains unacceptable to France and Egypt, as both countries support the renegade forces of Hiffer in Tripoli and ready for a show down with Erdogan if their advice on peaceful political power solution negotiation in Tripoli is not accepted.
In a recent publication, Al-Monitor asks the critical question “Could Turkey’s military capacity match Erdogan’s ambitions in Libya?” This is sequel to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pledge to help the Tripoli based government in the civil war torn Libya. Ankara’s idea of deploying soldiers to Libya through the routes of Greece and Egypt, nations that do not have amiable political relationship with Erdogan’s regime have been considered risky and might trigger other regional conflicts. Amid this drive of Erdogan to support the new government of Tripoli, analysts on global foreign policy have considered quid pro quo on Libya’s oil as Ankara’s driving interest in the conflict.
Turkey has continued to play a pivotal role in the economic and daily life of many Caspian nations, Central Asian suppliers, African businesses and European consumers. These have increased Ankara’s power as a commercial nucleus and beehive of geopolitical activities. According to Council on Foreign Relations, “Turkey is an energy-transit nation that links Caspian and Central Asian Suppliers with European consumers. But threatened interruptions to oil/gas transmission lines running through Turkey’s Anatolian heartland have raised new questions about the country’s place in the global energy market.”
This could be one of the reasons Turkey is working seriously to increase its quota in the energy business, enhance infrastructures and biff up competition around Europe. Turkey is not an oil/gas rich nation. But it understands her commercial and consequential role in distribution of oil/gas in the region and retaining much for its domestic utilization. The strength in supply chain management has made the economics to be favorable to Ankara.
Since 2016 when USA started to export LNG, Turkey has remained the second largest importer from U.S. In Africa, Nigeria has remained one of the major exporters of LNG to Turkey as the nation gets about 20% of its LNG supply from Nigeria. Ankara is working assiduously to improve and ensure the security of Europe’s natural gas supply and enhance its domestic utilization. It understands where the power lies. Turkey has indicated its intention to launch Turkistream with Russia on January 8, 2020. This is a project where Gazprom, Russia’s gas giant will use to convey gas through pipelines to Turkey and south Eastern Europe.
Turkey for years depended on foreign automakers; the positive ambition of Erdogan galvanized the nation’s companies that are interested in auto business under the acronym TOGG to launch a newly domestically produced electric vehicle in Turkey. The country has the intention of producing about 175,000 of such vehicle by the end of 2020 and has the grand intention of spending about $3.7 billion in the next 13 years to enlarge the industry for locally manufactured vehicles.
If creating a phenomenal and globally rising Turkey as a new entrant economic and political power are the ambitions of Erdogan, he is almost coming to that. Although, his quick-silver approach to domestic and foreign policies have been considered by many as brash and undemocratic and needs burnishing. Erdogan stands out globally as a visionary leader that needs to temper ambition with a better and humane geopolitical understanding to save the world from another catastrophe.