Anti-West Rhetoric Can Be Key To Success In Russia, Turkey

Anne Applebaum writes that Russian anti-Westernism is a threat that has reached into neighboring countries, such as Georgia. She notes that Georgia does not have a sizable Russian-speaking population as Ukraine does, but that pro-Russian ideology is evident through the leaders of the Georgian Orthodox Church and takes the form “of xenophobic, anti-European and, nowadays, anti-homosexual rhetoric,” she writes.

“Whether we like it or not, foreign policy choices increasingly have domestic consequences in the ­post-Soviet world. An alignment with Russia can bring Russian-style corruption and can inspire the rise of Russian-style xenophobia and homophobia, too. An alignment with Europe and NATO has different consequences,” Applebaum adds.

Thomas Graham of YaleGlobalOnline argues the West must recognize that Putin has “devoted himself, since he rose to power 14 years ago, to restoring Russia as a great power after the national humiliation of the 1990’s” and that the question which must be answered is not whether he has designs on other countries, but how far he is willing to take those desires.

He writes that Putin is betting that “that the West lacks the resources, the vision and the patience to help consolidate Ukraine. He believes that history is on his side and that his world is the real world. The West has yet to prove him wrong.”

He adds that sanctions of Russian officials and other business interests will not stop Putin, but consolidating Ukraine “as a modern state is an enormous task,” but one in which the West must invest if it wishes to prevent further annexations in Eastern Europe.

Taking on the West is not a strategy uniquely employed by Putin. In Turkey Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan chose to take on the West by taking on social media, namely YouTube. The West responded with criticism of his efforts to shut down freedom of speech and Amnesty International weighed in with angry press releases, but that outrage is just what Erdogan wanted.

“In the face of this opposition, we could be asking if the prime minister’s actions are rational. Erdogan, however, did not become the most powerful Turkish political leader in more than 60 years by being either stupid or crazy. In Turkey, picking a fight with the West is smart politics. Erdogan not only expected the international condemnation, he wanted it,”  Reuters columnist Howard Eisenstat

He is right to be concerned as Turkish voters cast ballots in local elections throughout the country. Those elections are not only controversial, but they have become violent with at least 8 killed when gunfire erupted in two municipalities.

Even if he emerges largely unscathed, Sinan Ulgen argues that Erdogan’s future will not be favorable if he does not begin to adhere to the rule of law.

“Turkey’s democracy has matured beyond the point of accepting this shallow version of a democratic contract. Erdogan may still be the most popular politician in the land but his government is losing legitimacy each day that it refuses to implement fully the rule of law and to bring more transparency to policy making. That is why political instability in Turkey can no longer be appeased just by winning elections. Even if Erdogan’s AK party wins the next elections, and wins big, this popular discontent will not go away.

The only way forward for the Turkish government is to recognise and address this critical shortcoming in its interpretation of democratic legitimacy,” she writes.

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