Since the beginning of the Cold War, Turkey has been the beneficiary of the East-West confrontation. The oft-used phrase that Turkey was a bulwark of democracy against Soviet expansionism is a euphemism for the actual mission that Ankara had been tasked to perform; that is, to do the dirty work that the West would not want to do openly, from the Korean War, all the way to the Arab Spring.
In the meantime, Ankara built up its military force and developed its economy to the point that today it can challenge its erstwhile benefactors.
The largesse of the US, particularly, towards Turkey, has been phenomenal. But today, Turkey is on a collision course with the US on the issue of values and politics.
For Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist AK Party (AKP), religion is a potent component for control and governance of the fanatical masses. Weaponized religion is equally effective in both domestic politics and foreign adventures for Erdogan.
Since the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, Erdogan has jailed hundreds of thousands of judges, military personnel and intellectuals, who have divergent views on Turkey’s future, to consolidate his power internally while externally playing the role of the champion of the Islamic world, rallying support from respective nations.
Therefore, yesterday’s bulwark of democracy has become today’s spring of despotism, precipitating a confrontation with the value systems of the Western nations, which had believed that modern Turkey would become part and parcel of the Western democracies.