The landslide success of Erdogan’s party, the AKP, and Vladimir Putin’s skyrocketing domestic popularity in the wake of the Crimean crisis are golden opportunities for a rethink of Western officialdom’s policies towards Turkey and Russia.
Unlike my counterparts in Washington, I prefer to label the Turkish and Russian political systems as “alternative democracies”. Sure, on the White House’s national security site they are unceremoniously called “authoritarian regimes”, to distinguish them from outright dictatorships. Fact is, the West has been trying for too long to impose its own views and standards when it comes to the global economy (the ill-fated Washington agenda) or to world politics (liberal democracy).
In countries like Turkey and Russia, the state and its leadership have always been paramount to their economic development and political stability. As anyone would easily agree, over more than twelve years in power both the Russian and the Turkish leader have delivered exactly that. No Turk or Russian citizen in his right mind, however, expects their leaders to be thrashed on a daily basis in the media, or the latter’s political authority to be undermined with a helping hand from the West. These countries, while not fully democratic according to Western standards, do organize regular elections, allow for a multi-party system and do respect – with some exceptions – most of the basic human rights and freedoms.
The proof is, so to speak, in the pudding. Erdogan’s party has won the 2014 municipal elections with 47 percent of the vote, compared to 38 percent in 2009. A few years ago, Putin’s approval rating was hovering around 60 percent. Today, his most recent actions meet with the approval of some 82 percent of Russians. Consequently, Western policy-makers would be better-advised to refrain themselves – in the interest of regional and world peace – from sponsoring almost weekly attacks in the international media directed against these states and their leaders, as alternative democracies have earned the right to exist alongside their older, but far less stable liberal model.