Editorial

George Friedman: Turkey Coup Dashes US Hopes

July 26, 2016

BY PATRICK WATSON

The attempted coup in Turkey isn’t just a Turkish problem. It introduced yet more instability in a region where the US thought it was making progress. Now, those hopes are dashed—perhaps permanently.

Turkey was a linchpin of US strategy, says George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures. The top geopolitics expert says the coup attempt and President Recep Erdogan’s crackdown throws a major wrench in US plans for the region.

Speaking in a recent Mauldin Economics video, Friedman said Washington policymakers now have to wrestle with a two-dimensional problem.

Two US Strategies Hinged on Turkey

The Obama administration needs Turkish cooperation on two different fronts, according to Friedman.

The first one is containing Russia. NATO leaders worry Vladimir Putin could escalate his aggressive rhetoric into action. To contain the threat, they are building up forces along the border region: The Baltic states, Poland, Romania, and Turkey.

Separately, the US sorely needs to stop ISIS, but does not want to commit more ground troops to the terror group’s Syrian and Iraqi havens. Turkey’s cooperation could help, but getting it hasn’t been easy. Recent developments like a Turkish reconciliation with Israel had looked positive. Now, that strategy is in shambles.

State of Emergency

Once the coup threat was neutralized, Erdogan declared a nationwide state of emergency. Government forces have rounded up and imprisoned tens of thousands. Arrests and travel restrictions go far beyond the military to include even college professors and judges.

Some observers think Erdogan staged the coup in order to justify this crackdown. We don’t know if that’s true or not, but the result is the same. Turkey, a NATO member that hopes to join the European Union, has suspended democracy—at least temporarily. The government has offered no assurance when (or if) the state of emergency will end.

Washington Flummoxed

All this puts the US and its democratic allies in a bind. They need Turkey, but it is now far from clear they can trust Erdogan. Some reports say Russian intelligence intercepted the coup conspirators and warned Erdogan. If that’s true, he may owe Putin a huge debt.

It’s also unclear whether US intelligence knew the coup was coming. Missing the signs would be a major intelligence failure. If the Obama administration knew of the coup plans and didn’t warn Erdogan, he has one less reason to cooperate.

Bottom line: Washington is confused and doesn’t know what to do. But it has to do something. Implications for the region and the world are enormous.

Watch the full interview (6:36) below or on the Mauldin Economics site.

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