The Turkey-Erdogan crisis is the first geopolitical disaster in a while that isn't actually Trump's fault

Erdogan, who made his son-in-law finance minister last month, has steamed through domestic obstacles by having people dismissed or by jailing them in their tens of thousands

Erdogan defends Turkey's economy, accuses the US of jeopardising bilateral ties

It may well appear that little goes wrong in the world today without the malign involvement of Donald Trump. But it would be unfair to lay the blame on the current economic crisis in Turkey wholly at the door of the US president.

It is indeed the case that the sanctions imposed by Washington over the imprisonment of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical missionary and US national, by Turkish authorities have exacerbated the problem. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Trump of stabbing him in the back, told Turks not to buy American products like Apple iPhones and blamed “foreign attacks” for his country’s woes.

But the main reason the Turkish lira is in freefall and a recession looms is not the US increase of steel and aluminium tariffs. A normal, healthy, or semi-healthy, economy would be able to cope with that. The reason the hike flipped it over the edge was because it has been seriously weakened by Erdogan’s continuous interference in order to seek political gain.

With the steadily rising autocracy of the Turkish president has come his apparent belief that he has the right to shape every aspect of Turkey’s political, social, cultural and commercial policy. His victory at the last election making him head of state with – following a referendum last year – unprecedented powers has added to this sense of entitlement.

There are good reasons, from Erdogan’s point of view, for trying to control the economy. He has repeatedly declared that economic growth has come due to his wisdom and foresight. Much of this has been driven by massive projects: two of them currently under way are the new airport for Istanbul, which the government says will be the biggest in the world, and the Istanbul Canal which is supposed to link the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.

The Turkish president insisted on keeping interest rates artificially low to act as a monetary stimulus, declaring that he was “an enemy of interest rates”. The economy has overheated, and with that has come complaints of subterfuge and corruption about the awarding of lucrative contracts.

Erdogan has ignored or banished experienced officials who tried to warn of the risks of his approach, pointing out that it is creating structural problems as well as putting off foreign investors. He has surrounded himself, instead, with those who would support his position.

Two cabinet members, highly regarded in foreign financial circles, were seen as men who could address the flaws in the economy – Mehmet Simsek, deputy prime minister, and Naci Agbal, former finance minister. Both have been sidelined by Erdogan.

Last month, the president made his son-in-law finance minister. The lira fell at the news of the appointment of Berat Albayrak, who married Erdogan’s daughter in 2004. The new minister claimed that the currency fall and the general malaise of the economy was due to “operations of overseas origins” aimed at bringing down the government.

The general view of foreign analysts was reflected in the reaction of Nora Neuteboom, of the Dutch bank AVN Amro, who said: “Markets were awaiting the cabinet appointment and the signal is clear: it is not market friendly, but rather Erdogan friendly”.

Three months ago, in a television interview, Erdogan described why he wanted control over the central bank and monetary policy. “When the people fall into difficulties because of monetary policies, who are they going to hold accountable? Since they will ask the president about it, we have to give off the image of a president who is influential on monetary policy.”

The image now for Turks is of a president in charge of an economy in deep trouble and a collapsing currency. They will also witness the limits faced by the leader often described as a new Ottoman Sultan. Erdogan has steamed through domestic obstacles by having people dismissed or by jailing them in their tens of thousands.

But the international financial order is out of his reach. And the hardship which is likely to come for ordinary Turks may well see an end to the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Donald Trump will play only a subsidiary role in what is about to unfold.

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