Turkey keeps its foreign policy unpredictable to hedge its bets
The price of copper is cratering thanks to Europe’s dire economic outlook
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Today’s briefing is a ~4.8 min read:
- 🇹🇷 Turkish foreign policy: keeping their options open.
- ➕ Plus: Copper prices take a plunge, the South Korean President insults US Congress, and Kazakhstan renames its capital… again.
📰 GLOBAL HEADLINES
🤿 DEEP DIVE
🇹🇷 Erdoğan is playing hard to get
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made statements that run contrary to Turkey’s NATO commitments in an effort to distance his country from the alliance.
- In doing so, Erdoğan is trying to pursue an independent foreign policy without fully committing 100% to NATO’s policy agenda.
The whiplash effect
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been sending mixed foreign policy signals lately.
- Over the past two weeks, Erdoğan has alluded to military intervention against Greece, accused the West of provoking Russia and, most recently, suggested Turkey is looking to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a security grouping headed by China and Russia.
He’s said all this despite the fact Turkey is a member of NATO, which recently declared Russia the “most direct threat” to its security.
If you’re left a little confused, don’t worry, that’s kind of the point – Erdoğan wants Turkey to be unpredictable when it comes to its international loyalties. As Turkey analyst Nicholas Danforth explains:
Ok, but why?
📝 1. As a guarantee
There have always been tensions between Turkey and the West. The EU never fully accepted Turkey as a member, Ankara and Washington have very different views on the Syrian conflict, and Western countries view Erdoğan’s increasingly autocratic rule with distrust and alarm.
- Accordingly, Erdoğan is hedging his bets by avoiding aligning Turkey with a crowd that he feels could turn on him at any moment.
😏 2. As leverage
Playing world powers against one another is a high-risk, high-reward strategy in an increasingly multipolar world. But Erdoğan’s approach seems to be working; Turkey has so far enjoyed the benefits of increased trade with Russia without serious pushback from the US.
Is Turkey going to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?
Probably not. Erdoğan’s comments were more about distancing Turkey from any predictable policy pattern rather than establishing actual intent to join the Central Asian alliance.
A former diplomat familiar with the situation spoke with news outlet Al-Monitor under the condition of anonymity to explain why Turkey joining the SCO would be near impossible:
But with that said, if Turkey’s foreign policy under President Erdoğan has one constant, it’s to expect the unexpected.
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🔦 REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT
North & Central Asia
China’s former justice minister, Fu Zhenghua, has been sentenced to life in jail for accepting bribes of more than US$16M.
- Fu’s conviction is part of a wider effort to purge the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ranks of corruption and/or disloyalty to leader Xi Jinping.
- Timing matters: Fu’s sentence comes just weeks before the CCP’s 20th Congress during which Xi Jinping is expected to win a historic third presidential term.
Finally! Japanese authorities have announced pandemic travel restrictions for foreign tourists will be lifted starting on 11 October.
- Japan has been letting in visitors since June, but only if they’re part of guided tour groups (because tour groups are famously immune to covid 🤷🏻♀️).
- The new measures are aimed at boosting Japan’s tourism sector and increasing international demand for the yen, which has slid to a twenty-year-low against the US dollar.
If you ever beat yourself up for indecision, at least know you haven’t renamed your capital city three times in three years.
- That’s right, Kazakhstan’s capital is reverting to its original name Astana after going as ‘Nur-Sultan’ for a brief period of time.
- But behind the absurdity are hard politics: President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is attempting to dismantle the legacy of his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, after whom the city was named.
A new UN policy memo proposes that Pakistan should halt international debt repayments and concentrate its resources on disaster response and recovery from the recent devastating floods.
- The paper urges Pakistan’s biggest creditors, which include China, Japan and France, to engage in debt relief schemes such as debt swaps or restructuring.
- The market didn’t react kindly to the news, with Pakistan’s dollar bonds taking a significant plunge on Friday.
🇰🇷 South Korea
Finally an honest politician: South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol was caught by a hot mic referring to the US congress as “idiots” after a brief encounter with the US president late last week.
- South Korean officials have been caught off guard by Biden’s proposed bill to grant US-based electric vehicle manufacturers subsidies, which has disadvantaged Korean EVs.
- Referring to said bill, Yoon commented, “What an embarrassment for Biden, if these idiots refuse to grant it in Congress”.
🗞 IN OTHER NEWS…
Copper sinks in European waters
The news: If copper analysts once had to look at China’s copper demand to determine prices, now they’re looking to Europe.
- According to Reuters, Europe’s manufacturing crisis and high energy prices will drag down the copper market for “some time”.
A trend reversal: China, which still accounts for about half of the world’s copper demand, used to be the key driving force behind the price fluctuations. But now, the market seems concentrated elsewhere.
- Traders fear an outright decline in copper demand from Europe, which, combined with a seasonal supply surplus between December and March, will hit the metal’s price hard.
- Furthermore, Chinese demand isn’t likely to recover quickly enough to offset the downwards trend.
Why it matters: Copper has often been used as a useful – but not fool-proof – economic bellwether because of its widespread use in manufacturing.
- As economist and commodities analyst Carlos Risopatron told The Dispatch: “When you have a slowdown in industrial production, you have a slowdown in the copper price”.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the metals market:
- Iron ore and aluminium rates have been decreasing since a peak in March.
- Steel prices in Western Europe have stagnated despite high energy prices.
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