EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Erdoğan prepares to launch his campaign for presidential elections scheduled for November 2019. At a time of rising xenophobia and anti-western sentiments across Turkey, his campaign will undoubtedly target the “evil powers of the West,” adding to the isolationist Turkish psyche. Russian President Vladimir Putin could not have possibly found a better partner for his attempts to divide and weaken NATO.
The West’s self-imposed Pollyanna game over Turkey a decade or so ago seemed delusional to most Turks who knew the true nature of the Islamist politician lauded as a pro-reform, pro-West democrat. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, western leaders argued, would consolidate Turkey’s democratic system, bring the country closer to its western allies and even win a historic membership in the European Union. Erdogan’s Turkey would be a perfect bridge between western and Islamic civilizations, thus being a role model for less democratic Muslim nations.
A decade later, obliviousness has turned into bitter feelings, but Pollyanna is still out there, all smiles. In the words of Fabrizio F. Luciolli, president of the Atlantic Treaty Organization: “Since sixty-five years, a mutual commitment binds Turkey and NATO, which can hardly be scratched by contingent interests or frictions, or replaced by new strategic directions. In its dialogue with Turkey, NATO once again reveals its unique role as transatlantic forum for political consultation on security issues.”