How coronavirus pandemic could expand China’s footprint in Turkey

One of the west’s most important regional partners is being drawn further and further into Beijing’s orbit

The coronavirus pandemic is hammering Turkey’s fragile economy, which was only just emerging from a crisis in 2018.

Exports and tourism have collapsed, depriving the country of foreign currency. The central bank is bleeding dollars to prop up the lira, which recently hit a record low. Turkey may soon run out of reserves. Disaster is imminent.

Many countries are relying on the International Monetary Fund to help them through the economic crisis caused by Covid-19, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to ask for the fund’s assistance. Talks on a swap deal with the US Federal Reserve have so far not yielded results, and there is reason to doubt that Turkey would meet the criteria for such an arrangement.

Threat of sanctions

Moreover, relations with Washington are strained due to Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defence system. The US Congress is currently mulling sanctions, the last thing Turkey needs as its economy struggles. In an apparent effort to assuage US anger and gain financial support, Turkey recently delayed activation of the system, planned for April.

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Erdogan also went on a charm offensive, sending medical supplies and penning a letter to Trump. But Ankara seems intent on activating the S-400 eventually, as one of Erdogan’s top advisers confirmed last month, effectively killing any prospect of a meaningful improvement in ties.

Read more: middle east eye