Turkey - NATO crisis could see early elections
It feels like a major crisis is looming in Turkey - Western relations over Finland and Sweden’s NATO bid.
Erdogan needed a rabbit to pull out of the hat to give him a chance to win the next election and this could well be it.
He might well use this to go to early elections as there are two things which rally the nation in Turkey - opposition to the PKK and perceived Western hypocrisy. Likely Erdogan will use this to ban the opposition HDP party as well. Going to elections in August - maybe even with a referendum on Swedish/Finnish NATO membership to give him extra leverage - will not give time for HDP supporters to form a new party. It will also put the rest of the opposition alliance in a bind - splitting pro Western elements from nationalists and against the HDP.
If he wins then he can go back to the negotiating table with other NATO partners and negotiate a compromise. But until then he will look to raise tensions around the issue. But this will push Finnish and Swedish NATO membership until later this year, and it is very unlikely now by the time of the Madrid NATO summit in June.
Other NATO members will be furious with Turkey given the now clear and present danger to Europe presented by Putin in Ukraine. Turkey will be seen an an unreliable partner. This will leave even more bad blood/faith between the two sides - gone will be any remnants of a Turkish EU accession bid.
What can save all this?
Well maybe a last minute trip by Biden to meet Erdogan in Turkey. A clear show of deference to Erdogan by Biden. Some more compromises from the US on arms supplies - more F18s, what about going back to a solution on F35s?
The stakes here are now massive.
Putin will be loving it, but whatever Turkey decides to do there is no going back in terms of Sweden and Finland’s shift to NATO. They will either be in NATO or very close allies with mutual defence agreements with the likes of the US, U.K. et al.
On Turkey specific I just wonder if Turkish markets can survive a crisis with NATO - see extreme selling pressure in recent weeks on the lira. Well, I doubt they would have survived anyway until the time of slated elections by June 2023. Erdogan likely has enough FX reserves to get to August, beyond that it is touch and go. And in the midst of a national crisis, played up for patriotism I think many Turks will be reluctant to be seen to be selling Turkish assets. Foreigners, meanwhile, might stay on the sidelines, not willing to punt this side of elections which Erdogan might still lose and be caught the wrong side then of a huge market rally. And the nascent tourism season is just starting to provide some ballast to the lira and a feel good factor for the rest of the economy - even without Russian tourists it feels like it will be a record season with the Brits and Germans coming back in drones, helped by the very cheap lira.
The stars are finally aligning for early elections in Turkey.
Can Erdogan win?