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News > Turkey

Erdogan's Win Thwarts US Attempt at Geopolitical Shift

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 2023.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 2023. | Photo: Twitter/ @SakaryaYerel

Published 31 May 2023

Türkiye's balance strategy between Russia and the U.S. upsets Washington. The Ankara-Moscow cooperation seems to be increasing in different dimensions.

On Sunday, Incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan beat his challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu in a presidential runoff to start a third term in office. 


Iran & Türkiye Presidents Looking to Expand Bilateral Relations

The election had been seen as the best chance for the pro-West opposition to beat Erdogan, but the result narrowly missed Washington's expectation. The 74-year-old pro-West politician Kilicdaroglu probably has no chance to run in the next election in five years.

There was no doubt that Washington saw Kilicdaroglu as a much better choice and expected that a geopolitical shift of Türkiye might happen if he won.

U.S. Ambassador to Türkiye Jeff Flake met Kilicdaroglu in March, implying that the United States would back him to be the new leader of the country.

The result, however, shows that Erdogan is still dominant in the power of his country and his political career is not coming to an end. It is also a clear sign that Erdogan's tough attitude toward the United States is popular among the Turkish people, as most Turks might not see the United States as the "City upon a Hill" anymore.

Washington has long been reckoning Erdogan's administration hampers the country's democracy, and the opposition parties are getting weaker and promoting secularism is not on the agenda of Ankara. The rift between Ankara and Washington becomes wider due to their different values.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said openly ahead of the election that Washington is seeking to impose its hegemony on global affairs and "the whole world hates America," and that the meeting between the U.S. envoy with Kilicdaroglu would further alienate Ankara from Washington.

Türkiye's balance strategy between Russia and the United States upsets Washington. The cooperation between Ankara and Moscow seems to be increasing in different dimensions.

As an energy-dependent country, Türkiye receives about 45 percent of its natural gas and significant amounts of oil and coal from Russia.

After the Ukraine crisis broke out, Türkiye refused to follow Western sanctions on Russia, and instead, its NATO membership actually boosted its cooperation with Russia.

Li Yanan, an expert on the Turkish issue and associate researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said that after Erdogan's successful re-election, he will still maintain a balanced foreign policy and play a more important role in the Ukraine crisis, and prioritize Ankara's own interests in its relationship with the United States and the West.

On Sweden's accession to NATO, Li said it still depends on whether Sweden can meet the conditions proposed by Erdogan.

However, during the third term of the presidency of Erdogan, Türkiye would not easily approve Sweden's NATO membership, as long as the demand of Ankara is not met. Erdogan accused Sweden of being soft on groups Ankara considers to be terrorists.

Li believes that Erdogan himself will not give up Türkiye's NATO membership, as it is still very important for Ankara, and is also one of the best bargaining chip to deal with Russia.

Following Saudi Arabia's reconciliation with Iran, Erdogan's win in the presidential election could further make major powers of the Middle East turn away from U.S. manipulation. This could be another fiasco of the U.S. Middle East policy after the Iraq invasion.

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