Sezin Oney: “The authoritarian leader who benefits most from all these conflicts is Erdogan”
Political analyst Sezin Oney says that Erdogan is the authoritarian leader who benefits most from conflicts such as Russia’s war on Ukraine. “Orban is always a few steps ahead,” says Oney, when comparing the authoritarian leaders of Europe.
Does Turkey still want to be a part of Europe?
In a way, Turkey’s relationship with the West -Western allies- has been changing. This change is completed. There’s no way of going back to Cold War alliances with the Western block, under the umbrella of NATO. There is no way to return to those. But at the same time Turkey continues to benefit from the heritage of these alliances -especially with NATO members. Had Turkey been in a different alliance with the USSR or was non-allied during the Cold War times, it would have a different view. Turkey would not have been in this advantageous position. Turkey has been told that its strategic location doesn’t matter anymore. With the shift of attention Asia, Turkey is no longer there as part of the core of the strategic alliance. With Russia’s war on Ukraine and the current energy reconfigurations in the Middle East, these have not been sold yet. There can be a transformation in the coming years. Despite the war in Ukraine, it cannot be quick enough. Turkey is regaining its very important position once again in history. It’s a unique position. It’s engaged with Russia, but also engaged with the USA and EU. For example, even China cannot be in that advantageous position. Why? Because it is not in that strategic location. But, because of the former alliance structure, the West cannot afford to lose Turkey.
Can Erdogan bring Europe to its knees?
The structure of the relations has changed. It’s a transaction. It’s not a relationship based on values, although Biden administration tries to enforce this: the idea of democracy vs authoritarian regimes. A perception says that Turkey is in the Western block. If the question is about authoritarian leadership, then Turkey is in a very debatable position -quite comparable to Russia.
What are the differences between Erdogan and Orban?
Orban is always a few steps ahead as far as authoritarian leaders are concerned. He was the one who used the Ukraine war for his advantage. He won the election. Wiped out the hopeful position. He now has almost 70 percent support behind him. At the same time, he was the one who used this war to endorse the state of emergency. And now we are seeing that he is using it also for energy issues. Energy is going to be a very important issue when the winter comes. In this sense, Orban is always a few steps ahead. Also, he utilized the migration issue to his advantage. He started this debate earlier than the other European leaders. In 2015 and before, when he was talking about the migration issue, there wasn't that question. We have returned to Orban’s rhetoric. Now, more or less, everyone is endorsing the Orbanesque view when the subject comes to refugees or migration. I’m afraid, this is going to be same in the energy issues. For states like Turkey, the state of emergency is very functional. The same thing can happen in Turkey. For example, upcoming elections can be pushed or there can be a stronger push to opposition.
How do you see the relationship between Europe and authoritarian leaders?
Europe is now more trying to work with Orban. But when it comes to Erdogan, Ukraine did really benefit. Internally ongoing economic crisis and the incredible inflation -comparable with Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe etc- Erdogan is in a hard situation domestically. When we are talking about foreign policy, we see that he is reinventing himself with crisis such as the one at the NATO Summit: the membership of Sweden and Finland. It was a manufactured crisis created by Ankara. He gave the impression that he gained something from the crisis that he created. Although there was no tangible outcome. As the energy crisis develops and the war in Ukraine turns in a global crisis, he may utilize them and push domestic boundaries.
Are authoritarian leaders tolerated too much?
Now, of course, Putin is “persona non grata.” At the same time, Western leaders are trying to find a way to deal with China. The authoritarian leader who benefits most from all these conflicts is Erdogan. All the criticism he was facing is postponed or toned down. The human rights situation of Turkey is no longer a matter for real debates. Nobody is pushing Turkey to do something.
What’s the name of your cat?!
Meiling! It’s a Chinese name! All my pets had Chinese names!
*Born in Istanbul, Kadikoy in 1989, he has written for many different newspapers and magazines. He received his Cultural Studies Master's degree from Bilgi University. His first book “Futbol mu? Yok daha neler” was published in 2012, which was a compilation of his many interviews. He analyzed Resat Nuri Guntekin’s political views in his own material in his second book “Operada Mucella Suzan,” which was published in 2019. His first novel “Aksamlar Artik Serin” was published in November 2020, and his second novel “Biraz Ses Olsun” was published in January 2021.