Five knock-on effects of Turkey’s failed coup

Five knock-on effects of Turkey’s failed coup
By Chris Harris
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Few would doubt Turkey’s strategic importance: straddling Europe and Asia it is a key player in Middle East stability at a time of unprecedented volatility.


Few would doubt Turkey’s strategic importance: straddling Europe and Asia it is a key player in Middle East stability at a time of unprecedented volatility.

So what affect will Turkey’s failed coup have on the region and beyond?

Here we look at how the instability in Turkey could affect the relations with the EU and US, the fight against ISIL and NATO.

Fighting ISIL

There have already been doubts raised about Turkey’s commitment to the fight to defeat ISIL, mainly because the extremists are also fighting the Kurds, an enemy of the Turkish regime.

Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist from the Istanbul Policy Center, told Euronews: “Turkey was always far from being a staunch ally of the anti-ISIL coalition and I don’t think that will change in the post-coup situation.”

Nevertheless, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be focused on flushing out those members of the military responsible for the alleged power bid, according to Brian Klaas, an expert on coups, based at the London School of Economics.

“He’s going to become much more paranoid,” said Dr Klaas. “This happens almost always with coup attempts that fail, that there is nearly always a subsequent refocusing on the domestic consolidation of power and that takes the regime’s focus away from foreign policy battles and fights.”

Klaas admitted the weakening of Turkey’s military was a potential lifeline for ISIL, but raised questions over whether, weakened by months of bombing, the extremists were in a position to take advantage.

The refugee crisis

Last year’s surge of refugees and migrants into the European Union came mainly via the Turkey-to-Greece route.

Numbers have dropped since Brussels and Ankara signed a deal in March 2016 that saw illegal migrants in Greece deported back to Turkey, in exchange for Europe taking in Syrian refugees already based in Turkey.

But Professor Aktar said the reduction was more down to the Turkey-Syria border being closed, than any deal with the EU.

So will the coup have an affect on refugee flows?

Dr Klaas said both the Turkish regime and coup plotters understood the importance of the country’s relationship with the west in protecting their well-being and would therefore be unlikely to tear up international agreements, such as the deal on refugees.

Marc Pierini, an expert on Turkey from the think tank Carnegie Europe, said it is likely core parts of the deal would still go ahead, despite post-coup instability.

“Several voices have expressed concern that the March 2016 EU-Turkey deal on refugees might be in jeopardy in the wake of the coup attempt, especially as a mellowing of the country’s anti-terrorism law (something the EU wants) is now out of the question in the post-coup context.

“What is more likely is that the EU and Turkey, which both have more vital concerns than visa liberalisation, will continue to implement core elements of the deal.”

European Union membership

The Turkish regime’s crackdown on media freedoms had already put long-running accession talks between Brussels and Ankara in doubt.

Both Dr Klaas and Professor Aktar think the failed coup – and in particular the purge and crackdown afterwards – could finish them off for good.


“Turkey’s relations with the EU have been dying for a long time,” said Professor Aktar. “It just needs a small push to collapse totally. But if the regime reinstates the death penalty, that will be the final nail in the coffin.”

Reintroducing the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004, is a red line EU foreign ministers urged Ankara not to cross on Monday (July 18).

“Reintroduction of the death penalty would prevent successful negotiations to join the EU,” said German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a position echoed by his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.


Turkey’s army is the second-largest conventional force in NATO and if it’s weakened by Erdoğan’s post-coup military purges, that’s going to raise questions over the alliance’s capabilities.

“NATO wants Turkey’s military to be as powerful as possible, because it’s a partner that’s extremely strategically important for the fight in Syria,” said Dr Klaas. “But at the same time Erdoğan has now seen the coup is a threat to his power base and his regime’s stability and survival.


“Leaders try to decapitate their military and weaken it to make sure no individual general or force within the armed forces has an independent power base and that’s not good for NATO’s goals because it ultimately undermines their strategic ability to project power in Syria and against terrorism.

“The cracks between Turkey and the west is not good for the fight against terrorism because you need a close relation as possible from the strategic allies, rather than bickering. So there’s no real good that’s going to come out of this.”

Relations with the USA

Erdoğan has pinned blame for the coup on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and Ankara has demanded he be extradited.

The US is asking Turkey to provide evidence of Gulen’s involvement.

This has affected relations with the US, but Washington, which has military bases in Turkey from which ISIL attacks are launched, is limited on how far it can rein in Erdoğan, said Klaas.


“You very often have to make very unsavoury alliances [in geopolitics], whether that’s a good thing or not is extremely debatable,” he explained. “But Turkey is in a geostrategically-important location at a time when that location is exceptionally important for international security between terrorism, the collapse of Syria and the refugee crisis.

“If Erdoğan adopts the death penalty for the coup plotters that will obviously poison relations with the EU, but certainly the United States cannot have the death penalty be the red line because many US states have it,” he added. “So while John Kerry might not lecture Erdoğan on the death penalty, he will lecture him on violations of democracy, rule of law and things like beating soldiers who are alleged to be part of the plot.”

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