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Erdoğan Comes in from the Cold

While the war in Ukraine has shown once again that Turkey and Europe need each other, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s behavior has underscored just how different the European Union and Turkey are. Given Turkey’s size and importance, these differences must be managed, because they cannot be ignored.

BERLIN – Around this time a year ago, very few people put much stock in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political future. Persistent hyperinflation was wrecking the Turkish economy, and the country was playing host to millions of Syrian refugees with no real chance of returning home. Then came the devastating earthquake this past February, which killed tens of thousands of people, completely overwhelmed local institutions, and exposed endemic corruption.

Moreover, since the failed coup in July 2016, Turkey has become increasingly authoritarian. There is still no prospect of solving the Kurdish question and ending the war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and anti-terror laws and a compliant judiciary have given Erdoğan powerful instruments for suppressing any kind of opposition.

For years, these domestic developments spelled trouble for Turkey’s relationship with NATO and the West. The government’s 2017 decision to purchase a Russian S-400 air-defense system seemed to augur the end of US-Turkish arms cooperation; and by that time, its rapprochement with the European Union had almost completely stalled.

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