Turkey, the Coronavirus Risk-Taker

A combination of economic and political threats to Ankara compel it to approach the pandemic differently from its peers.

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In early April, as the coronavirus pandemic descended on Europe and the Middle East, Turkey looked like it had it made. It boasted the lowest case rate in the region and bragged about its rapid response to contain the virus’ spread. But those days are over. Turkey now has the ninth-fastest-growing infection rate in the world, doubling about every six days. Even so, Turkey has been hesitant to order a full shutdown, convinced that the economic risk of the virus is a greater danger than the public health risk. Ankara has thus sacrificed an effective medical response to protect a fragile economy. It has its reasons for doing so, but there are other concerns at play. In the eyes of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the economic damage could provide the spark for a coup. The government will do everything in its power, then, to make sure that doesn’t happen. Ill-Equipped Turkey isn’t the only country with economic problems, of course, nor is it the only country struggling to manage the pandemic. But modern Turkish political culture is uniquely and curiously conducive to coups, especially those executed by the secular, historically empowered military. […]

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Caroline D. Rose
Caroline Rose has a Masters of Science (MSc) in the History of International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Just before joining GPF she served as a Research Associate for LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU), where she researched the nexus between illicit economies and armed insurgencies. She earned her undergraduate degree from American University's School of International Service and has worked previously at both Brookings Institute and the Atlantic Council. Her studies and projects at these institutions covered a range of topics, from Russian and Chinese cyber warfare, evolving American interest within a changing international order, and grand security strategies against state-led revisionism in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific. Throughout she's written for a diverse array of publications including Limes in Italy.