Robert L. Dilenschneider
While everyone is focused on North Korea and China, current developments in Turkey all point to an escalation of serious proportions. How it evolves will be crucial to the United States and the West generally.
The failed coup attempt of July 2016 was the first indication of the instability the Country is facing, especially since it occurred at a time when Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish issues are continuing to fester.
Following the attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expected to receive large-scale support from the U.S. and European Union, but was bitterly disappointed that this did not happen.
The strain was increased by an unprecedented incident last August. During a visit by Erdoğan to Washington, some of his bodyguards brutally assaulted demonstrators in front of the Turkish ambassador’s home. A grand jury brought criminal charges against 15 of the bodyguards, which provoked furious protests from Turkish authorities.
This was further complicated by Turkey’s arrest early this month of two Turkish nationals who worked for the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul. A third national was also summoned for questioning by security officials.
The U.S., which protested the employees’ innocence, retaliated by imposing restrictions on visas for Turks seeking to travel to the U.S. In a tit-for-tat response, Ankara reciprocated with identical restrictions on Americans planning to travel to Turkey.
This appears to be the first time two members of the NATO alliance have found themselves in such a serious confrontation. It is true that Erdoğan has somewhat diluted the harshness of his rhetoric recently. But everyone is concerned and trying to understand how it is going to end.
The conflict needs to be resolved urgently, given the importance of Turkey to the West and the negative consequences of instability in a region where the brutal war in Syria continues, the battle against ISIS remains unfinished, Kurds have voted to establish an independent nation, and Iraq is still a work in progress.
The future is anybody’s guess.
Robert L. Dilenschneider is founder and chairman of The Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations and communications consulting firm headquartered in New York City. The former CEO of Hill and Knowlton, Inc., he is also author of more than a dozen books, including the best-selling “Power and Influence.”