Streetwise Professor

October 18, 2020

Eight Is Not Erdo’s Lucky Number

Filed under: Economics,Military,Politics,Russia,Turkey — cpirrong @ 5:58 pm

Tayyip Erdoğan has been on a real tear. Most recently, the Turkish military test fired S-400 missiles that Turkey had bought from Russia over strenuous US objections. This is a real Kim Jung Un move, the kind of provocative acts that unhinged dictators under pressure undertake. This puts him even more on the bad side of the US.

Moreover, Erdoğan has stoked the fires of conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, clearly having given the green light to Azerbaijan to escalate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and providing extensive military support to Azerbaijan. This puts him on the bad side of Russia.

He has ramped up conflict with the EU, and with France in particular, through his provocative drilling expeditions in waters claimed by Greece. Today, according to a connection in Turkey–who sent pictures–this involved sending a Turkish warship to the waters outside of Patara–and therefore close to the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

Which raises the question of why Erdoğan would pick fights with forces far more powerful than he. Perhaps he figures that neither Russia nor the US nor the EU are in a position to do anything to him. (The EU–totes understandable!) The US is embroiled in a contentious election. Russia is facing numerous problems, including covid, protests in the Far East, and the fallout from the Navalny poisoning.

But I think that is only part of the picture. If you’ve watched the Turkish Lira recently (USDTRY) you’ll see that it has plummeted to all-time lows, flirting with 8: it reached 7.94 on Friday. When I was in Turkey a few years ago, it was around 4. This is a good indicator of how parlous Turkey’s economic position is. Eight is a lucky number in China, but not for Turkey, when the lira is involved.

So what’s on the first page of the autocrat’s playbook? When facing domestic economic trouble, create international incidents. This is an especially important play in a non-post-modern country like Turkey, in which nationalism–chauvinism, really–is a potent political force, unlike in Old Europe and wide swaths of the US.

Perhaps a more interesting question relates to Putin’s extremely passive reaction to Erdo’s provocation in a region that Russia considers part of its post-Soviet space. Especially given the large Russian military presence in Armenia. Contrast Putin’s current passivity to Russia’s growling reaction to Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24 over Syria in 2015. Putin made harsh threats, and Erdo folded almost immediately.

Today, with Erdo romping in Russia’s backyard–nothing.

Perhaps this reflects Putin’s own problems. While the lira is flirting with 8, the ruble is flirting with 80, having fallen dramatically in recent months. Russia’s economy is stalled, and there is widespread discontent with its handling of covid. Putin has retreated to not so splendid isolation (though he is no doubt isolating in splendor), requiring those who wish to see him to quarantine for 14 days–a dramatic contrast with his “don’t worry, be happy” message to the public on covid. He’s also at loggerheads with Europe over Navalny, though given Europe’s anger at Erdo, Putin could probably earn Brussels brownie points by standing up to him.

Or maybe Putin wants to teach Armenia a lesson. But frankly, it would be stupid to encourage conflict in the post-Soviet space merely to chasten a recalcitrant satrap–especially when that chastening comes largely due to the intervention of a foreign power. I would have thought that a major red line for Putin.

So Erdoğan’s behavior, though extremely rash, is fairly understandable in conventional terms. Putin’s, not so much.

Would that the American establishment pay more attention to that puzzle, rather than descend into another frenzy of allegations about “Russian disinformation campaigns,” this one involving Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Just how would that work exactly? In 2016, Russia allegedly interfered in US elections by buying less than $100K cheesy Facebook ads. Yet apparently within a mere 4 years Russian disinformation has reached such levels of sophistication that it can create a laptop filled with forged material about Joe and Hunter Biden–including lurid photos of the latter doing what the latter is known to do, i.e., smoke crack and patronize hookers, not to mention incriminating emails–get it to some repair guy in Delaware who just happens to give a copy of the hard drive to Rudy Giuliani (after he had told the FBI about it).

Amazing tradecraft, if true. But to anyone who shaves with Occam’s Razor, it’s not true. The story that passes the Occam’s Razor test is that a drug addled Hunter–who, recall, in the past left a crack pipe and cocaine in a rental car because he saw an owl flying over him and thought it was following him so that he figured he might be hallucinating–dropped off the laptop and didn’t pick it up. Probably because he was distracted by too many lap dances, and paternity litigation involving lap dancers.

But what matters now to Biden and the establishment–including the traditional media and especially Twitter, Facebook, and Google/YouTube–is that Joe is able to dodge this until past the election.

At which time this October surprise could turn into the national November hangover.

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  1. Thanks for the article! Talking about Turkey, I find it strange that Michael Doran, who is very intelligent and knowledgeable person, continues to defend Turkey’s behaviour.

    Comment by mmt — October 19, 2020 @ 12:37 am

  2. I don’t get it: Biden’s been ahead in the polls since March. Why does the American left continue to go all-in on this very tenuous Russian stuff – the people who believe it are already going to vote against Trump, but those who don’t are (in my view, anyway) only going to see it as being bad for credibility… I don’t see the upside…

    Comment by HibernoFrog — October 19, 2020 @ 2:55 am

  3. @HibernoFrog There are two possible explanations: elections are much closer than polls show or because American left are going to use Russian boogeyman even in case of Biden victory. The first assumption is supported by recent comments of Biden campaign’s staffer. But I think they will use hysteria about Russian involvement regardless of election outcome.

    Comment by mmt — October 19, 2020 @ 6:30 am

  4. @mmt: Maybe the Russian bogeyman will be used to justify the need for reform of the Supreme Court or something… Can’t have the elected president appointing TWO judges… 😛

    Comment by HibernoFrog — October 19, 2020 @ 7:40 am

  5. @HibernoFrog Maybe. In our time I wouldn’t rule out of anything.

    Comment by mmt — October 19, 2020 @ 7:56 am

  6. Bit of a weird segue into the Hunter Biden story, still I guess you’ve got to spin this for all it’s worth, time being of the essence. I’m a big Occam’s Razor fan but even so it’s not beyond the wit of man to imagine how a couple of incriminating emails could have been planted on his laptop by forces unknown. It was a sweet move by the Dems to pin it on the Russians – a nice throwback to more innocent times – but the field of those with a motive must be almost boundless, and not just outside the US. Hell, I wouldn’t even be surprised if one of Count Orlokliani’s staff did it out of desperation. Weirder things must surely have happened this late in the contest.

    And even assuming the emails did originate from HB (not that we’ll ever find out), it is a bit rich the Trumpsters getting all upset about it. “Using our position to enrich ourselves?? Wah! That’s OUR game!!” I bet the likes of Manafort must be laughing his cock off, the irony of it all.

    Re Turkey, Putin is the least of Erdo’s worries. I see Kim Kardashian is on the warpath – I hope for your sakes that she doesn’t sashay into the Oval Office and hustle Donnie into doing something he might regret.

    Comment by David Mercer — October 19, 2020 @ 12:05 pm

  7. Ockham, William of.

    A long article from The Daily Mail about Hunter Biden’s lap top and the emergent scandal.

    Comment by Pat Frank — October 19, 2020 @ 1:34 pm

  8. Prof – have you checked Zerohedge today?

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — October 19, 2020 @ 6:06 pm

  9. Putin is busy adapting a standard edition Russian outhouse for use at the International Space Station after his cosmonauts broke their toilet there. Erdo will have to wait.

    Comment by Ivan — October 20, 2020 @ 7:05 am

  10. Hunter is in protective custody / witness protection. That is the irony of “Where is Hunter?”. PDJT knows well where Hunter is.

    Comment by Richard Whitney — October 20, 2020 @ 7:56 am

  11. I know I gave you guys a heads-up about the new Borat movie, but what’s this I’m hearing about the hotel room set-up featuring one Rudi Guiliani (AKA Count Orlok) allegedly “doin’ a Toobin”? This’ll kill off the HB story for sure.

    Comment by David Mercer — October 21, 2020 @ 11:16 am

  12. @11 David, will anything involving Giuliani kill off the Chinese 1.5 billion $ for Hunter, as well?

    And Joe’s ‘Ha, ha, I sure twisted the Ukraine’s arm, alright.’ Kill off that, too?

    Joe’s quo for Hunter’s quid — no problem because … Giuliani?

    Irrisoria pathologica; you’ve got a bad case, David.

    Comment by Pat Frank — October 21, 2020 @ 5:20 pm

  13. @Pat: With respect to the HB “story” (being generous), I think what we are looking at here is a dead parrot. Fox didn’t want to touch it, even them being wary of anything originating from Orlokliani, given his track record and connections. Also, I get the sense the vast majority of US voters are deeply inured to this type of nonsense (“What, another cooked-up scandal about someone’s emails?? FFS!”).

    Anyhow, this Borat/SBC scoop is waaay more fun, what with actual footage and all that. Someone did point out on Twitter last night that all those Mafia bosses in NY who fell foul of Orlokliani must be kicking themselves at how easy it would have been to entrap him with a simple honey-trap with a minor. Doh!

    Comment by David Mercer — October 22, 2020 @ 3:30 am

  14. @Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break–If you are referring to them reproducing my Munchausen’s Syndrome piece (via American Institute of Economic Research’s website), yes I did. I almost fell out of my chair. I have long been their bete noir. Hilarious.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 22, 2020 @ 10:47 am

  15. @mmt–You’re welcome. I think Doran is making the Realist case for supporting Turkey, in the hope that Erdo can be brought to his senses. I think that’s a vain hope.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 22, 2020 @ 10:51 am

  16. @13 David, the US Director of National intelligence says the laptop and emails are real.

    HB’s lawyer has asked the laptop be returned, and Giuliani says he has the repair shop receipts. Your snark is feeble.

    And you didn’t even address Hunter/Joe’s 1.5 billion dollar Chinese bribe, while Joe was the sitting VP.

    Those guys belong in gaol, in a cell right next to Hillary.

    Comment by Pat Frank — October 22, 2020 @ 11:24 am

  17. I suppose many people assumed Biden to be a perfectly ordinary US politician, indulging in the normal small scale corruption. A 1.5 billion dollar Chinese bribe though: does that put him in the Clinton class?

    P.S. If that’s what the VP was making, how much did the P make?

    Comment by dearieme — October 22, 2020 @ 4:06 pm

  18. @Prof That’s the one.

    My first thought was you were taking royalties under the table. Haven’t heard you trash talk them lately 😉

    Re. Erdo: What do you think will come first – Erdo runs out of money, his Nato mates run out of patience with him, his fellow countrymen run out of patience with him (again!!) or the Russian bear growls long enough for him to run back to the walk-in wardrobe in that monstrosity of a palace he built for himself?

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — October 22, 2020 @ 6:10 pm

  19. @Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break. No royalties. No kompromat.. Just boredom. What else is there to say that I haven’t said already?

    Re Erdo: money, most likely. Nato exhibits all of the defects of large alliances–a predilection for inaction. There’s no can that can’t be kicked just a little further. Erdo is betting on this actually.

    Maybe Putin will rattle his cage. My surprise is he hasn’t done it, despite numerous provocations (Syria, Libya, and now Nagorno-Karabakh.)

    Markets are a different beast. When they turn on you, there’s no appeasing them. And that’s when his fellow countrymen will turn on him and deliver the coup de grace.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 22, 2020 @ 6:52 pm

  20. @cpirrong Thank you for the answer!

    Comment by mmt — October 23, 2020 @ 10:24 am

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