Odd Military Coup

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Vladimir Avatkov

Ph.D. in Political Science; Expert in Turkish studies; Director, Center of Oriental Studies, International Relations and Public Diplomacy

The military coup in Turkey has failed. In fact, a military coup has ended in failure, as mutinies and revolts typify Turkish political culture. Analyzing the outcome, one can say that the attempted coup was bizarre and poses numerous questions. Still, the outcome and the consequences, including the effect on Russia, are as clear as day.

Military coups in Turkey are not an exceptional case. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, instructed the military to ensure compliance with the founding principles of the new state after his death. Among the “Six Arrows” of his ideology there was secularism (laicism). Whenever the powers that be ostensibly violated this principle from high-ranking officers’ perspective, the latter staged a coup to renew the political system and to hand over power to civilians after the elections. The military did it quite swiftly, which is somewhat unusual.

The military coups have predominantly been aimed to eliminate political Islamization. But, in fact, they also intended to put dissenters, including those supporting rapprochement with the Soviet Union, under lock and key. This policy was consistent with the pro-Western way of the country, which, in essence, advantaged the USA.

In this case, the coup evidently was to achieve one of the listed aims.

Indeed, the Islamization of the country provokes discontent among a significant part of the Turkish population. But most dissidents are intellectuals, who are incapable of staging an uprising. Militaries have constantly been subject to “purges” under the AKP administration. Eventually, most of the generals are closely tied to the political elite, are largely under the President’s thumb, and, consequently, will not overthrow the government. That is why the failed military coup was mounted by field officers, which apart from poor planning predetermined the outcome.

It is also possible that the attempted military coup was coordinated by the US-linked forces, as over the recent years the American administration has increasingly been displeased with the Erdoğan‘s and his associates’ rhetoric and steps. If it is the case, then the issue of insufficient planning arises. However, it can be easily explained by the fact that Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, the President’s sworn enemy who now resides in Pennsylvania, may have been charged with the preparation. As a preacher and philosopher, he has created a network empire, which he is formally not related to. This network organizes the lobby through science, culture and the economy. It exists in the post-Soviet space as well.

If it is true – and President Erdoğan is insistent that it is – many things become apparent in the development of Russian-Turkish cooperation. In particular, it becomes clear that the Russian bomber aircraft was shot down. The steadily developing relations between Moscow and Ankara stood in the American way and namely in Gülen’s way. Mind that many organizations associated with his name have long been banned in Russia. Ankara’s mayor has already said that one of the plotters had a hand in the downing of the Russian bomber aircraft.

Though it may seem farfetched and part of the conspiracy theory, we cannot rule out the possibility that the government itself tried to stage the coup, as the authorities seek to prop up Erdoğan and to ultimately make the military subservient. Such steps spur the electorate on to support a strongman to ensure stability and vote for him should elections be held tomorrow. In this case, it amounts to giving their ballot for a presidential republic, which is Erdoğan’s long cherished dream. In addition, the event gives the President an opportunity to portray himself as a savior, a hero who would finally eradicate the very possibility of a coup by identifying potential instigators and incarcerating them. The strong links between the country’s intelligence services and the ruling establishment, mainly the President, make this scenario possible. But such an operation could only be carried out with the participation of the intelligence services.

In any case, despite the persistence of some pockets of resistance, the coup has clearly failed. Now it will apparently be followed by the crackdown and the restoration of the death penalty. In this context, Turkey will undoubtedly remain unstable, at least in the short run. Conspirators and dissenters will be arrested and dissidents will be intimidated. Another military coup is out of the question, because all the possible plotters have been identified. Russia and the world will continue working with Erdoğan and his administration. It implies the need to look for some ways to handle the unresolved conflicts, for example, to find the way out of the Syrian trap. On the whole, Russian-Turkish cooperation depends on settling geopolitical and security issues, just like it was a year ago. It is necessary to learn the lesson and build a long-term strategy to cooperate with the Republic of Turkey, as well as to step up efforts to collaborate with all the actors of the political and social elite. The cooperation needs to be based on the necessity to build fruitful partnership with the “sworn friend”, who should long have become just a friend.

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