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Taking Turkey Seriously

Turkey is at a historical crossroads after the July putsch, with political polarization supplanted, for now, by unity in defense of democracy. But if the West doesn't intensify its diplomatic engagement with Turkey during its time of need, the country could slip back toward authoritarianism and division.

STOCKHOLM – Istanbul, in western Turkey, is one of Europe’s great cities. As Constantinople, it was the capital of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and after its capture and renaming by Mehmed II in 1453, it served as the capital of the Ottoman Empire for nearly another 500 years.

Throughout its history, the city on the western side of the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe from Asia has been an epicenter of the relationship between the geopolitical West and East. And Istanbul will most likely continue to play that role, given the current importance of mostly Christian Europe’s relationship with the wider Muslim world.

Turkey itself emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, and Turkish political life has often been tumultuous, marked by competing visions and aspirations, successes and setbacks. Still, during the last two centuries, reformers seeking to modernize Turkey have looked to Europe for inspiration.