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The West must engage, not demonize, Turkey

In Washington and European capitals, it will be tempting to conclude that Turkey is already “lost,” that it is fated to become a rising theocracy that will work against rather than for international order. This would be a grave mistake.

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A hundred years ago, debate raged in Europe over how to exploit the Ottoman Empire’s decline. Today, the Turkish question is turned on its head: How can the West manage an ascendant Turkey?

It can start by understanding Turkey’s position in the world. Turkey is a member of a select geopolitical club: rising democracies. This club encompasses not only Turkey, but also India, Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa. Their emergence is a crucial – but untold – development of the 21st century.

Rising democracies

Rising democracies offer the West an opportunity to perpetuate the international order founded in the wake of the Second World War. This order enshrines principles such as freedom of the seas, the moral superiority of democracy, and the primacy of free trade. But with economic malaise in Europe and Japan, and looming fiscal constraints in the United States, new partners are needed to sustain this order. The only possible partners are the rising democracies.

Current tensions between the West and one of them – Turkey – should therefore cause concern. Although US and European relations with India, Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa remain works-in-progress, recent developments with Turkey have few parallels elsewhere.


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