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

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

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.]
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.
[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.
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.