Earthquake opens Pandora’s box in Turkey

Earthquake opens Pandora’s box in Turkey

THE devastation caused by the quake that hit Syria and Turkey brings to the fore the dangers of wicked problems and how they can affect and tilt the balance of power insofar as international statecraft and diplomacy is concerned.

The earthquake has brought devastating consequences upon the thriving Turkish democracy; added misery to Syria, a country already beset by implications of strife and conflict as envisaged by the ongoing hybrid warfare and consumed an African talent, Christian Atsu who plied his trade in the Turkish football league. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace.

The conundrum brought about by the asymmetric event to the Turkish economy and geopolitics cannot be ignored. Turkey, an economic powerhouse, a member of the G-20 and an influential Muslim country, is faced with the worst socio-economic crisis to hit the country probably since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The country with a gross domestic product (GDP) of around 900 billion dollars, is speculated to have suffered at least direct economic costs to the tune of US$90 billion, representing an equivalent of 10% of its GDP.

As if that is not enough, the earthquake has added intrigue to the political situation in the country.

The Turks are scheduled to have their elections sometime this year where they are expected to elect their leaders. Strongman and current president, Recep Tayyip Edorgan was favoured to win further entrenching his hegemony in Turkish politics.

Erdogan has been the leader of Turkey since 2014, having been the Prime Minister since 2003.

He also was a beneficiary of lethargic response by the authorities to another disaster that befall Turkey when he was Mayor of Istanbul.

There is belief that the Turkish government was not prepared and hence did not offer coherent relief efforts after the devastating earthquake.

Added to that, observers are postulating that the areas hit by the quake are predominantly AK Party strongholds from where Erdogan derives serious influence, talk of your typical Uzumba. The response given by the Turkish government is being labelled as not to have been the best especially that the role of the military was limited.

The insinuations are to the effect that since the aborted Turkish coup, the military in Turkey has played second fiddle to the politicians. Most of the command elements of the military were accused of being loyalist Gullen supporters and fell, in a swop, at the purge that followed that botched coup attempt.

The lack of trust between the politicians and the military is now being suggested as the reason to why the Turkish government ignored giving the military the front seat early on in disaster relief efforts.

All this is manifesting amidst increasing Turkish influence within the context of global geopolitics. Turkey, besides the coup, hogged the limelight the past decade when its military downed a Russian fighter jet a mere 17 seconds after it had encroached Turkish airspace.

Russian Ambassador to Turkey was assassinated by ISIS militants in Turkey whilst the Turks where at loggerheads with the US when the Turkish government indicated that it wanted to establish a buffer zone in areas controlled by PKK rebels, who were being supported by the US in its so far futile attempt to account for Bashar Al Assad, the president of Syria.

Against all this, the Turks have recently hogged the limelight by indicating that they are not going to be supporting the move to have Sweden joining NATO due to the fact that the Swedes allowed extremist politicians to desecrate and demean the holy Quran. 

NATO, fighting via proxy, is presently bogged down in brutal meat grinding battles in Ukraine against its Russian nemesis. The alliance is in need of strategic partners to see through its objectives in Ukraine. Turkey has been playing a crucial role insofar as that thrust is concerned. For instance, the Turks are part of the Grain Initiative between Russia and Ukraine and brokered by the UN. The Turks have thus far been playing erudite statecraft, steering clear of being militarily involved in the brazen battles in Ukraine whilst retaining enough influence to remain a relevant stakeholder. The era of the Ottoman Empire is obviously beyond us but the current manoeuvrings by the Turks are not worth ignoring.

As such, the quake that hit Turkey had enough potency and momentum to cause serious ructions insofar as its geopolitical agenda is concerned. One has to remain hopeful that those who lost their lives, property and loved ones are comforted by the grace of God.

  • Sapien is a trade and security analyst.

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