Ankara’s official narrative that the West abandoned Turkey during the failed coup of 2016 has been used by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to legitimise Turkey’s foreign policy change, which has left the country alienated in the international arena, Simon A. Waldman said in an article penned for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
The Turkish government has pedalled the idea that Western countries did not stand by Turkey on the night of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt to justify its turning away from its traditional allies, according to Waldman, a visiting lecturer and research fellow at King’s College London.
Over 300 people were killed and more than 2,100 were injured during the failed putsch of July 15, 2016, which Ankara maintains was orchestrated by Gülen movement. The Turkish government says the religious group, with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen at helm, led a long-running scheme to overthrow Erdoğan by infiltrating Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
According to Ankara’s official account, Western leaders arrived late to Turkey to show solidarity and offer condolences.
This narrative has been “used by Erdogan to legalise Turkey’s foreign policy, which has left the country alienated in the international arena, with few friends and allies at a time when the country’s ailing economy needs all the help it can get and Erdogan and his ruling AKP continue to see their ratings fall,” Waldman wrote.
But, Western nations and organisations did in fact send swift messages in support of Turkey, its people, government and its democratic institutions while the coup was still underway, he wrote.
“At 2:07am, when the balance of power was unknown, the State Department tweeted that both Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama agreed that “all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Gov’t of Turkey, show restraint, avoid violence,” Waldman said.
“At 2:08am, Steffan Seibert, head of the German government’s press office tweeted that the democratic order of Turkey must be respected.
He was soon followed at by NATO’s General-Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, who issued a statement and a tweet at 2:34am, saying that he had called Cavusoglu and also called for “calm and restraint, and full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and its constitution,” Waldman noted
For Waldman, therefore, Turkey’s divergency from the West was a choice, and the coup attempt of 2016 was its excuse.
“Before the fate of the coup was known, the Turkish government and Turkey’s democratic institutions had received the overwhelming support of its primary allies in the West such as the U.S., NATO, the EU and major European nations.”
Waldman pointed out hat Turkey’s non-Western allies Russia, Iran and China were not quicker to support Turkey during the night of the coup.
Turkey’s accusation that “the West showed a lack of support to Turkey during its hour in need is factually incorrect. If anything, it is towards China and Russia that Ankara should level those kinds of,” Waldman maintained.
“Now, five years after the coup attempt, with Erdoğan’s post-coup purge pervading the military, civil service, parliamentarians, teachers, academics, journalists and judiciary, accompanied by extra-territorial renditions, Western policy makers, academics and analysts should not be fooled into thinking otherwise, regardless of what Ankara might say and how loud it may shout it, at home and abroad,’’ Waldman wrote.