Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Why the West Should Make Peace With Erdogan Now

By Maximilian Hess

22 Jun 2022 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

A Foreign Policy analysis on why it's critical for the West to woo Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan now that his country is suffering from a deep economic crisis.

The democratic West has a long and controversial history of entering alliances of convenience with dictators and strongmen around the world—unsavory but necessary partners in confronting threats to the international order. Denounced as ethically dubious, this sort of stance is also realist, balance-of-power politics par excellence. It enabled the world to unite to defeat Adolf Hitler in World War II and the West to win the Cold War.

Atop the list of unsavory partners the West urgently needs better relations with today sits Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That he is unsavory is clear: He has actively undermined Turkish democracy, undone decades of liberalization, weaponized migration, terrorized the Kurdish minority both at home and in neighboring Syria, and helped Iran violate U.S. sanctions. Most recently, he has threatened to block NATO membership for Sweden and Finland. It will take a long time before the West can genuinely trust him.

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