When the Greeks marched on Ankara in the 1920’s war for Turkish Independence, they soon found that the heat and rough roads left them isolated in invasion. Once communication lines had been ceased, the Turks victoriously drove the imperialist invaders back into the ocean and struck a victory for the newly formed Turkish Republic against their Greek colonists.
How far off that celebration seems now. Turkey is more divided than ever, pulled between a President’s desire to crush the native Kurds and his aspirations of integration with an ever-fragile European Union. Add in a recent face off with the Russian Bear and an ever-bubbling stream of refugees fleeing Syria, and you see the delicate balance faced by the nation as it stands today. Or rather, as it stood.
As of July 15th, factions of the Turkish military had seized control of the nation, placing Istanbul and Ankara under martial law. The military claimed no changes would be made towards Turkey’s military strategy. Given that this is Turkey’s 5 military coup since joining NATO in 1951, this is no shock. The Turkish people have long viewed their military as a protector from both internal and external threats to their cherished secularism. A more dangerous notion is that this coup is like every other. That sentiment is foolhardy and inward-looking. A removal of Reccip Erdogan in Turkey is yet another domino whose impact will ring far and wide through the global north.
The first impact, and most immediate, is that upon NATO and the United States. As an official member of NATO, Turkey has experienced 5 military revolts. If the NATO-wide reaction to the recent Egyptian coup is any indication, Turkey need not be afraid of seeing it’s membership status revoked so long as it continues to export a flow of rhetoric about the eventual implementation of just and equitable civilian leadership. But it does create an interesting line of questioning: If a renewed Russia, sensing weakness, attempts to bully Turkey once again, can the United States formally oppose such actions? After all, the United States typically shies away from formally supporting nations under martial or military rule (any more). And as a human rights and civil liberties offender on multiple occasions, the Americans may face a consequential decision impacting the coming election cycle depending on where they decide their allegiances lie.
The second impact will be felt by the European Union. Turkey’s recent migration agreement with the European Union saw movement towards the inclusion of Turkey in the Schengen Zone. How willing will an increasingly fractured European Union be to negotiate with a military government regarding freedom of movement across borders? The recent Brexit vote and populist uprisings within the continent indicate the European people find immigration to be a top concern. Can the EU afford to continue down the path of integrating Turkey into the EU at the risk of seeing member nations descend into their most nationalist identities? Given the risk of Syrian refugees pouring in from potentially yet another war-torn state, can they afford not to?
Contextually, this is not Turkey’s first, nor will it be it’s last major revolution. If President Erdogan is unable to regain control of his nation, a civilian government will eventually be put in place; perhaps one of a more democratic and accountable stature. But this transition could scarcely have come at a worse time for surrounding nations. Every party involved now looks to Turkey, waiting for the next domino to fall so each party may determine where to strike next.
Recent events have since humbled the Greeks to bowing beyond the victors of war to the holders of purse strings and acceptance in the European Union. Turkey should be so lucky.