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Erdogan: the Transactional Turk

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Erdogan has really excelled himself this time, the major obvious casualty of his machinations being Putin and his ever more flimsy stature & general political dignity.  Drones, Sweden, Azov, … what is the full nature of the Turkish “trade package”?  Does he have it in writing (from Biden / Ukraine / NATO / EU)?  Or is he just positioning himself for a Cunning Plan he has in mind?

(1) Transactional politics has upsides – and downsides

As I’ve written before, in some political spheres – foreign policy generally being one of them – the ‘lines of logistics’ can be incredibly short: unlike most domestic policy-making, it can be stroke-of-a-pen stuff instead of months & years of hard, practical grind, with all the attendant implementational friction & risks of material long-term projects.  (Thus, to take one of a million examples, Lenin took Russia out of WW1 in a morning.)  Some politicians, indeed some human beings in general, heavily lean this way: there’s no situation they won’t try to deal their way out of (negative) or into (positive). ‘Transactionality’ is one facet of this type of approach: Sadiq Khan is perhaps the most prominent UK exponent right now.   

The upsides are clear.  A stroke of the pen requires far less blood-and-treasure to resolve a dispute than ‘going to war’ or its analogues, & gets quicker results, too.

The downsides are there, too.  Obviously, transactionalism appeals not least to politicians of the bone-idle tendency.  Ditto, the heavily-overlapping subset of politicians who have no principles or red lines whatever.

And what can be done at the stoke of a pen can be undone just as fast.  Sometimes, “with one bound he was free” clever-cleverness doesn’t cut it: a fundamental solution is needed, the hard yards can’t be dodged**.  To give a foreign-policy example:  what could be more convenient for NATO backsliders like Germany than a neat, stroke-of-a-pen “resolution” on Ukraine that would mean they didn’t need to restore defence spending to prudent levels?  Very neat, yeah.

(2) Downside for Erdogan?  Oh yes there is

I’ll give you at least one.  Turkey is essentially 100% dependent on Russia for gas (as well as a lot of oil).  It gets very cold there in winter.

Less obviously, since the economic recession Erdogan foisted on his country Turkey has been having the utmost difficulty in taking all the gas they’ve contractually committed to.  They owe Gazprom a bunch of money.  Thus far, it’s been forgiven … That’s on top of a cold winter in Turkey.

Transactions, transactions.



** Also, the Clever Stroke often leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth:  in the Claudius novels, Graves writes of how on a particular campaign, Claudius engineered a lightning victory by having his men take the enemy camp at night by crawling up silently through the undergrowth, with total success.  The ‘victorious’ Roman troops hated it:  they wanted a proper conventional scrap in the morning.  Their triumph-by-subterfuge “smelled of the candle”.  


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