BERLIN/ANKARA (Own report) – The German government is negotiating new German Turkish arms deals, as was confirmed by the German Ministry of Economics. Brigitte Zypries (SPD), Minister of the Economy, spoke with the CEO of Rheinmetall weapons manufacturer about upgrading the Turkish Leopard battle tank. “In principle,” such deals with NATO partners “can not to be restricted,” according to Berlin. The German government is also seeking to re-invigorate German-Turkish economic cooperation, to strengthen bilateral relations. Germany does not want to loose Turkey as a “bridge” connecting Germany and the EU to the Middle East. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ankara is not only strengthening the country’s economy and, in the long run, make it one of the world’s top ten economies (“Vision 2023”), he is also planning to transform the country into an independent regional power, forming alliances as it chooses – no longer dependent on the western states. The reorientation of its foreign policy is accompanied by the country’s transformation into a presidential dictatorship.
One hundred years after the founding of the Turkish Republic, Ankara – under the slogan “Vision 2023” – is seeking to transform Turkey into one of the world’s top ten economies. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister at the time, announced this goal in 2011 and has been regularly repeating it ever since. With a GDP of only $230 billion in 2002, the country’s economy had grown tremendously by 2015 – with the exception of the crisis years 2008/09 – it is seeking to achieve a GDP of $2 trillion and an export volume of $500 billion by 2023. It is believed unlikely that Turkey will reach this goal – particularly after the sharp decline accompanying the massive repression since crushing of the July 15, 2016 putsch attempt. In 2016, Turkey’s economic growth was only 2.9 percent. Experts see potential for a remarkable economic growth. Turkey’s GDP could grow at an annual average of three percent – almost double the average expected for the G7 (1.6%), according to a prognosis of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) consulting firm, which projects the Turkish economy to take 11th place in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2015.
While pursuing the country’s economic growth, President Erdoğan is systematically transforming Turkey into a presidential dictatorship. The “expansion of centralized power” began “approximately in 2013,” according to a recent analysis published by the FERI research institute of the asset manager, the FERI Cognitive Finance Institute. “The gradual elimination and repression of the political opposition and critical media, targeted purges and disciplining the military and judiciary,” as well as “severe persecution of demonstrations critical of the government or other forms of expression of opinions” characterize this presidential dictatorship. Since July 15, 2016, 138,147 people have been fired, 101,485, arrested, and 50,601 imprisoned, according to the accounting made by the government-critical “Turkey Purge,” website. “Turkey Purge” places the number of journalists in prison at 231, which, according to Amnesty International, is more than in any other country. Recently, the Ministry of Justice in Ankara applied for the revocation of immunity of seven parliamentarians of the CHP traditional party, including that of Party Chair, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. This is the second oppositional force – after the pro-Kurdish HDP party – that has come under a crippling attack. In addition, according to the FERI Institute, the referendum on constitutional reform held April 16, had “democratically legitimated … authoritarian power structures.” “Now, with the implementation of the referendum” – which means the completion of Turkey’s reorganization into a presidential dictatorship – “Turkey’s political profile will again be dramatically transformed.”
Struggle for independence
The FERI Institute supposes that the “offensive repositioning” of a “new Turkey” in world politics is the objective behind the rapid economic growth and the Turkish state’s authoritarian transformation. Ankara lays “claim to power and influence” and is “politically and geostrategically” seeking “a new, clearly ‘elitist’ status.” “The objective is obviously the positioning of Turkey as an independent regional power with its own authority,” the FERI Institute explains further. “Its previous affiliations to ‘camps,’ ‘blocs,’ or ‘alliances’ – particularly to the EU – is, to a growing extent, being interpreted as an impediment and an inhibiting factor for Turkey’s further strategic development.” In fact, Ankara is not only expanding its cooperation with Moscow – as the intelligence service expert Erich Schmidt-Eenboom explained in his talk with german-foreign-policy.com, for example at the level of cooperation between the intelligence services  – but it also has intensified its relations to the Arab Peninsula dictatorships. President Erdoğan was in Kuwait last Tuesday for negotiations on the expansion of economic and arms – industrial cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Reports on a planned record-breaking Turkish-Saudi arms deal were published just a few days earlier. At the same time, Turkey is demonstrating its independence from Germany and the EU by continually provoking new conflicts. According to Schmidt-Eenboom, alongside the already existing breaches, at the level of intelligence services, it appears as if Erdoğan is also seeking “an abrupt transition … at the higher political level,” explains Schmidt-Eenboom. “If Turkey truly seeks to become an independent power, it needs this transition.”
Business as Mortar
Such a step would be a major blow to Berlin, which sees Turkey as the “bridge” for German policies for gaining influence in the Middle East and as the potential overland corridor to Central Asia’s energy reserves. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) Currently, according to Günter Seufert, an expert on Turkey at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), the “bridge function” was “badly battered,” but not yet destroyed. Even though Berlin and Brussels “currently only have their business relations, as a point of leverage in their relations with Turkey,” however, it is certainly possible to use them, given the fact that Ankara, “in terms of exports, investments and technical innovations, is still dependent on Europe.” For example, the Turkish government has “a great interest in the renegotiation of the customs union.” This must be used. “If Europe proves incapable of translating its economic power into unambiguous demands on Turkey, it will also lose its remaining influence.”