In the West, this weekend’s Turkish election has been described as “good and evil”. It’s more complicated.
go through Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of “Russian Global Affairs”, Chairman of the Bureau of the Foreign and Defense Policy Committee, Research Director of the Valdai International Discussion Club.
On the eve of the final round of Turkey’s presidential election, the suspense has dissipated.
The chances of Sinan Ogan, the third-ranked candidate two weeks ago, declaring support for incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chances of winning the extra 1.5 percent he needs to win have increased.
The reality, however, is that the game would never have attracted as much attention if it hadn’t been for commentators – especially those in Western Europe and the US – who described it as an almost civilized choice.
In this version, Erdogan’s opponent – the aging, urbane Kemal Kilidaroglu – is positioned as a symbol of Western-style democratic development. Meanwhile, the current president is the embodiment of a return to the past.
This narrative is illustrative and typical. The more complex the world around us is, the more often it rejects previous patterns and the more it seeks to fit it into a simple, understandable format. Ideally, the format would be one of contrast. In this case, a modern democrat who strives for good should confront an authoritarian who is evil and backward. The desire for simplification is not only understandable to humans, but it also has its uses. Policymakers need some kind of comprehensible picture. In a sense, it’s better to have it than not to have it, even if it’s wrong.
One is reminded of American journalist Thomas Friedman’s international bestseller The World Is Flat in the late nineties. At the time, he was referring to everything and everything coming together in the context of globalization. But today, that metaphor needs to change. Today, information should somehow be simpler and even more prosaic, because otherwise people would not be able to understand the terrible multidimensionality that is everywhere.
This practice is characteristic of contemporary international relations and has spilled from there into the domestic politics of every country. That said, within the states, everything is better understood, so real-world factors still matter. On a global scale, however, the picture is murkier.
The recent G7 summit in Hiroshima was a powerful illustration of the efforts to fix, if not consolidate, this very two-dimensional plan at the global level. This is perhaps the first time that Russia and China have been accorded essentially equal status—as rivals and major threats to the world represented by the US-led bloc. The organizers were very serious about expanding their circle of sympathizers—many major countries in the non-Western world were invited: India, Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia. They were joined by the heads of major international organizations.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky was the chief guest, which is notable. His country’s problems are becoming, as the saying goes, a “rallying point” for a community that believes it is “on the right side of history.”
In fact, here’s a curious detail: Japanese media wrote that after the summit, their Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was considering calling early elections because the success of the event, and especially the arrival of the Ukrainian leader, boosted his party’s support rate. In other words, Zelensky has managed to become a factor in the domestic politics of a country far from Ukraine.
It was clear that a strong, personal, unifying theme was needed. Without these elements, these communities tend to disintegrate because the world isn’t really two-dimensional. Not only is it diverse, but it is actually fragmented by interests, perceptions and agendas, requiring maximum flexibility to meet the challenges of increasing diversity. It’s hard to stay cohesive without heavy artillery, both figuratively and unfortunately literally.
What should the integration be aimed at? Probably just the opposite, namely that they should aim to maximize the variety of networking and development options, and insist on the right not to make a final and irrevocable choice about joining one group or the other.
The dichotomy of good and evil is understandable and morally appealing, but for the most part irrelevant to the real international process. And the G7’s attempt to win over India, Brazil and other countries on this basis will not work.