As history records contemporary leaders for posterity, tragically, many are misunderstood and thus recorded with a lack of accuracy, comprehension and candor. One of the most eminently relevant yet misconstrued leaders of the Western world is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Despite the frequently inaccurate and seemingly prejudicial rhetoric associated with him, he is, in reality, a reformer and has persistently sought to enshrine democratic and humanitarian values.
Throughout his rather pragmatic near-two-decade tenure, Ankara has become a key player in promoting governance reforms in international organizations, grown into a large donor of international aid, heavily contributed financial resources toward global infrastructure and invested in programs destined to strengthen output growth and agricultural productivity. Regardless of North America’s mainstream media’s reporting, international audiences are well aware of Turkey’s enormous leap forward in its geopolitical role and admirable economic growth, the waves of which are felt from Eurasia to Vietnam to Ecuador.
Mr. Erdoğan’s robust and collaborative foreign policy even beyond the realm of Europe and the Middle East paved the way for Turkey to secure two bilateral agreements with Vietnam (Prevention of Double Taxation; Civil Aviation and Maritime Cooperation) in 2014-2015.
Further, Turkey is increasingly present in Latin America; investments in Ecuadorean port infrastructure reaching over US $750 million. President Erdoğan has revitalized Ankara’s strategic ties with the Western Hemisphere; the only president to have conducted two official visits to South America and the Caribbean two years in a row (2015 & 2016).
With Washington’s general approach to leadership, Erdoğan possesses more commonalities than differences in terms of his statecraft, enabling him to lead a consolidated American-style democracy, advocating for economic growth and the harnessing of a free and open society.
The Turkish public demonstrated their unwavering support for President Erdoğan, actively participating in last year’s constitutional referendum; a historic accomplishment that brings Ankara’s governmental organization closer to that of the American governing model, complete with expanded responsibilities of executive branch.
Evocative of a decidedly Hamiltonian model, Turkey’s president is vested more authority, causing key leftist politicians and the media to cry dictatorship and authoritarianism when, in reality, the referendum brought the presidency of Turkey more in line with other democracies. Of note, it was a democratic move that makes it more difficult for him – not easier – to be reelected on June 24, this month.
Noticeably, U.S. President Donald Trump invested a good deal of clout and effort to repairing the frayed bilateral relations and strategic partnership that has existed with Turkey for decades. A genuine testimony to such a remarkable friendship is the White House reception held for President Erdoğan in 2017; only four months after Trump entered the Oval Office.
Mr. Erdoğan has also proven Turkey’s salient ability to muster the nation’s armed forces in equipment, cutting-edge technology, indispensable human and signals intelligence support to other NATO member countries. Further, he has exerted a unique political talent to enhance global security and contain a spillover of Syria’s civil war into South-east Europe and beyond. Safeguarding territorial sovereignty of Turkey has been a principal pillar in his apex of national defense strategy, complimented with his support towards Azerbaijan’s territorial sovereignty and economic zenith.
Falsely attacked for extorting the European Union (EU) by requesting financial assistance related to the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East, Turkey, regardless, endeavored to administer the continental crisis and played a critical role by mobilizing its financial and human resources to alleviate the suffering of millions from war torn Syria; a monumental undertaking implemented thanks to the sole commitment of Turkey, conspicuously with little assistance from the EU let alone moral encouragement from international media.
Across many developed countries, there is a strong sentiment against immigration, globalized economy, free trade and unhampered cross border movement of goods and services; while current practices of information flow are clashing with calls in favor of protecting intellectual property. Unlike any other country in Europe, Turkey has the geopolitical leverage, financial backbone, industrial might, consolidated democracy and its leadership’s resilience to ensure a propitious outcome for the country’s development.
Let’s not overlook that Turkey, under Mr. Erdoğan, sealed more bilateral trade agreements than the World Trade Organization’s multilateral trade negotiations, since its creation in 1995.
Under Mr. Erdoğan leadership, Turkey has encouraged a growing system for trade in goods and services; allowed a rapid spread of innovation in engineering; and embraced free trade partnerships with numerous countries. Such measures have improved the living standards in Turkey, allowing millions to escape poverty. Thanks to this bold leadership, Erdoğan has already entered the history of modern Turkey as the only prime minister to have won three consecutive elections with ever-growing popularity in a nation of tremendous international importance.
Mr. Erdoğan, his nation and people live in an increasing complex and dangerous neighborhood. Perhaps, Turkey should be cut some slack, lest a lesser leader delivers less of what the world order demands?
Peter M. Tase of is a strategist and analyst on the geopolitics and geostrategy of Eurasia, the Middle East the former Soviet Union and South America. His is the author of numerous white papers and opinion articles centered on geopolitical and geostrategic realities of these areas as they pertain to the U.S. He is the Founder of Paraguay Economic Forum.