Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı is the regional director, Türkiye. Prior to joining GMF, he was the manager of the Resource Development Department of the Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey. Previously, Ünlühisarcıklı served as director of the ARI Movement, a Turkish NGO promoting participatory democracy, and as a consultant at AB Consulting and Investment Services.

Ünlühisarcıklı is an expert on transatlantic relations and Turkish foreign policy, domestic politics, democratization, and civil society. He is quoted frequently in international media including The New York Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Financial Times, Deutsche Welle, and the BBC.

After graduating from the Robert College (Istanbul), Ünlühisarcıklı received his bachelor's degree in business administration from Marmara University and his master's degree from Koç University. He speaks fluent English in addition to his native Turkish.

Media Mentions

Erdogan’s positive remarks about Hamas have made it more difficult for the Biden administration to pass Turkiye’s F-16 request through Congress. Both Biden and Erdogan can deliver on these two issues if they choose to put enough political capital into the process, but Turkiye has local elections in five months, and the US is approaching a presidential election cycle,” he said.

“We are closer than ever to see Sweden as a new NATO ally, but a little more political will is needed not only in Ankara but also Washington,” he added."
If the Turkish public starts to believe that Turkey doesn’t care for the human rights of Palestinians, then actually there could be such a strong backlash in the Turkish public that the Turkish government [would] abandon its constructive approach. So there is a certain limit to what the Turkish government can prevent in Turkey.
The point reached is not very surprising. Because it has been known for a long time that the F-16 issue and the issue of Sweden's NATO membership are related to each other. Even though both Ankara and Washington officially denied this, we knew that this was so. It is just a matter of who will take the first step due to the problem of mutual distrust. There was a problem.
Of course, neither Israel nor Hamas fully trust Turkey. But who else is there? I mean, there are not too many countries out there that have the trust of Hamas and Israel.
This is, of course, a notable change from Turkey's previous position. Before the normalization process signed a year ago, Turkey was in favor of Palestine and openly against Israel. But this is no longer the position.
Translated from Italian
Turkey’s trade with Russia nearly doubled last year to $68.2 billion, feeding U.S. suspicions that Moscow is using Ankara to bypass Western sanctions. Turkey says the increase is largely due to higher energy costs.

Their relationship is often characterized as transactional. Despite being on opposing sides in fighting in Syria, Libya and the decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, they have cooperated in areas like energy, defense, diplomacy, tourism and trade.

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the German Marshall Fund in Ankara, said the relationship’s dual nature dates back to the sultans and czars.

“Sometimes they compete, sometimes they cooperate. At other times they both compete and cooperate at the same time,” he said.

While the pendulum seems to have swung in Ankara’s favor for now, Unluhisarcikli noted the Kremlin has a few levers to pull, such as canceling a deferment of gas payments or removing financial capital for the Akkuyu nuclear plant being built by Russia. Moscow also could hurt Turkey by restricting Russian tourists, who visit in greater numbers than any other nationality. offering a steady flow of cash.

“How much weaker the relationship gets depends on how Russia responds to Turkey getting closer to the West,” he said.
Translated from English
If Russia undertakes any action that will result in the collapse of the agreement, it would be a blow to their public global image. This is just a show of a lack of goodwill on the part of Russia. There’s nothing in the agreement that would prevent Russia from doing this.
As Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of grain and nutrient oils to world markets, global food prices will be contained and famine will be avoided in developing countries. The UN has demonstrated its capacity to find solutions to humanitarian crises during wartime.
Turkey, Sweden and Finland are not on the same page when it comes to the definition of terrorism. Individuals who Turkey considers terrorists may be not considered so by Sweden and Finland and when Turkey requests their extradition this may still be refused.
We should see the message by the president and his subordinates as complimentary rather than contradictory. In combination they are saying, ‘We really don’t want to block Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO but we will unless they act.’ If Sweden and Finland are flexible and address Turkey’s concerns then I think this problem will be easily resolved. However, if they don’t, with President Erdogan doubling down … I think Turkey will block.
[Erdoğan] saw an opportunity to extract some benefits both for Turkey and for his own political standing [ahead of a crucial election next year.]
[I am] confident that the Turks, Swedes, and Finns will come to an agreement, the fact Erdogan is standing up at all helps add to his mythmaking as a unique leader in Turkey’s history. He can say in the past Turkish governments would unconditionally approve this application, well, as a strong leader, I’m not doing that.
Turkey having a strong air force is important from the perspective of deterrence. But, if there is a war, then of course Turkey having a strong air force would be very important for the war effort. A direct conflict with Moscow appears unlikely.
The US has a direct interest in the maintenance and modernization of its existing F-16 fleet. This would be a confidence-building measure that could lead to new F-16 fighters (acquired) by Turkey and eventually to the resolution of the S-400 crisis through a mutually agreeable model.
Economic challenges such as high inflation, eroding real earnings and unemployment, decreasing quality of education and the polarized political environment frustrate young people who are increasingly looking abroad for a way out.
For Ukraine, they would use it to get some civilians into safety but also continue receiving resupply from the West. I am afraid both sides would use such a cease-fire to boost their offensives.
Turkey is actually not balancing between Russia and Ukraine. Turkey is actively supporting Ukraine and pivoting away from Russia. Turkey is treading carefully so as not to attract Russian retribution.
A new mechanism needs to avoid a grand bargain approach or expectations that all outstanding issues between the two allies can be resolved in the short run. The new mechanism should instead focus on cooperation where possible, fixing what is fixable and managing outstanding differences before they turn into major crises.
[President Erdogan] is not listening to the economists which is typical of strongmen. [The president was] increasingly less tolerant of dissent, particularly from within the party.
It [is] now getting increasingly difficult for Mr. Erdogan [to] pass the new threshold even with MHP support. Therefore, they want to change this. But the MHP has two objections: It would destroy the principle of counter dependency and political legitimacy would be questionable if they don’t get half the vote.
[Erdogan] could have said Biden is not selling me jets, so I’ll buy [them] from the Russians. He’s not doing that. So despite the difficulties in the US Congress, he seems willing to walk the walk, which I think is positive.
A crisis of perhaps unprecedented magnitude was possible if this problem was not resolved. But [the fact] that it is resolved does not mean it hasn’t left a bitter aftertaste.
As elsewhere in the world, all politics is local. Turkish foreign policy has been excessively driven by domestic political considerations and this case is no different.
Turkey is already in a tense relationship with Russia over Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province and would not like to add a new layer to these tensions. At a time when Turkey is trying to improve relations with U.S., it would not like to introduce a new headache.
The Grey Wolves is an organization that is directly affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party, which is President Erdogan’s alliance partner. Therefore, the Turkish government cannot turn a blind eye to this development.
At the individual level of analysis, President Erdogan perceives a threat from the US thinking that it is intentionally undermining him with the ultimate goal of removing him from power. This frustration and threat perception leads President Erdogan to seek a counterbalancing alliance with Russia against the U.S.
Ankara sees [Afghanistan] as a topic that proves that the West still needs Turkey, or the West still benefits from cooperation with Turkey.”
In a democracy, it’s inevitable that governments will be concerned about perception management as well as crisis management but priority should always be given to crisis management.