Khaki Revolution in Turkey? Too Early to Celebrate

Three hours after this story began to break it’s increasingly clear that we are seeing the biggest Happening of 2016 to date, far overshading the Nice terrorist attacks yesterday. As Lenin purportedly said, “Sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen.”

The initial regime response was to blame the Gulenists, but it is clear now that it is in fact a Kemalist faction within the military (their branding of themselves as a “peace at home council” is a direct allusion to Kemal’s foreign policy). A key question going forwards is to what extent the military is united against Erdogan, or whether it is just the officer ranks taking the lead (in which case rumors of Erdogan’s demise might be “highly exaggerated”). That the head of the General Staff, instead of making statements as the coup leader, has instead been detained, suggests that the second interpretation is closer to the mark. However, it’s well known that Erdogan had replaced the upper ranks of the General Staff with his own loyalists. The question then becomes to what extent the changes percolated down the ranks.

It appears they haven’t – not enough, at any rate, to avert the seventh Turkish military coup since 1913. Ankara and Istanbul are apparently under military control, as are most of the airports and state TV channels. The military has surrounded government buildings across Turkey, including the Parliament and the Presidential Palace, in what currently appears to be an extremely well-executed coup that could not have been carried out if the military had truly been significantly divided. The F-16s seen in the air indicates that the Air Force supports the Army. Erdogan has been reduced to calling on social media for people to go out into the streets, even though the AKP ruling party itself had ironically repeatedly banned both social media and street protests in the past. Even as he calls for this supporters to go out into the streets, latest rumors have Erdogan asking for asylum in Berlin and/or London (there are jokes on Runet that he could soon be the ProFFesor’s new neighbor in Rostov).

The next key question, then, is what will be the response of the other actors in Turkish society and abroad: The people, military units stationed outside Istanbul/Ankara, the Kurds, and the “international community” (aka the US and its allies).

Despite the well publicized problems of its tourist sector, as the Russians boycotted Turkish beaches after the Su-24 shootdown and Europeans increasingly stayed away out of terrorism fears, the wider Turkish economy has not been doing at all badly – growth was 4% in 2015, rising to 4.8% in Q1 2016. In contrast, the last coup in 1980 had been preceeded by one of the worst crises in Turkish economic history, featuring a multi-year recession and triple digit inflation. Erdogan’s approval rating in 2015, at 39%, was still quite respectable, even if significantly down from 62% in 2013. It was also higher than Yanukovych’s 28% approval rating on the eve of Euromaidan. It is reasonable to expect a large level of popular opposition to his ouster, though given the overt violence and military curfews, we might not see the sort of mass marches in support of Erdogan that helped return Charles de Gaulle to power after the insurrections of 1968 (who had in the meantime fled to a French military base in Germany in a curious parallel to Erdogan’s rumored asylum request).

Although a low-intensity civil war against the PKK has reignited under Erdogan, so far as official politics are concerned, the Kurds remain supportive of Erdogan – who at least stresses a more inclusive Islamic “many-national” identity for Turkish citizens (much like official Putinism with regards to Russian minorities) as opposed to the more overtly Turkish civic nationalist Kemalists who oppose him.

Finally, Turkey is a member of NATO, and friends look out for each other. Obama has already stated that all parties in Turkey should “support the democratically elected government of Turkey,” a sentiment that was conspicuously lacking during Euromaidan, even though Yanykovych was just as democratically elected as Erdogan and not any more corrupt, but unlike the Turkish strongman imprisoned zero journalists to Erdogan’s dozens, wasn’t anywhere near as violent at breaking up protests, and hasn’t had family members implicated in buying oil from ISIS. But US double standards on which regimes deserve color revolutions and which do not is hardly breaking news but a long well known and banal reality. And it matters as well. In the event that the coup does end up succeeding, with Turkey’s financial indicators cliff-diving, the position of the military junta will be precaurious and isolated, which might well lead it to strongly reaffirm its loyalty to its Western allies and supranational institutions.

Which probably means that, understandable as it might for Russia to celebrate, doing so might well be a premature. The obvious reason is that the success of the coup is not yet a done deal (indeed, even as I write this, momentum seems to have shifted again as compared with several paragraphs previously).

But another reason is that a Kemalist military junta will not necessarily be any better for Russia (and Syria) than Erdogan, and quite possibly, worse.

Up until the Syrian Civil War, there was a lot of BRICS/”Rise of the Rest”-style triumphalist fanfare over strengthening ties between Turkey and Russia, expressed in Russian tourism to the beaches of Antalya, burgeoning gas projects, and nuclear power plant construction. These sentiments completely reversed after the Turks shot down a Su-24 for crossing into its borders for a few seconds. In recent weeks, however, it appears the Turkish and Russian leadership agreed to bury their differences, with Erdogan sending his apology(-but-not-really) letter to Putin, and Russia lifting the ban on charter holidays to Turkey. And as if on cue, Kremlin propagandists have gone from “remove kebab” mode to hailing yet another victory of Putin and waxing lyrical about the prospects for renewed cooperation.

Observed on a longer timescale, relations between Putin’s Russia and Erdogan’s Turkey have been characterized by pragmatism – or at least as near can be considering the absurdly large scope for geopolitical hostility between them, regardless of which particular faction rules either country.

Consider the following contested spheres of influence:

Central Asia: Especially Azerbaijan, which is closely related to Turkey, while Russia backs Turkey’s bugbear Armenia along with Iran; as well as the Turkic peoples of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, where Turkey is also interested in extending its influence. Clashes here can be expected to accentuate when Russian Eurasianism and/or Turkish Pan-Turanism strengthens.

The Balkans: Turkey is historically a sponsor of its Muslim coreligionists there, while Russia is a historical sponsor of the Orthodox, especially Serbia. The situation there is now fairly calm there, but this might not last whenever the Balkans enters one of its periodic flareups of instability, especially if Russian Pan-Slavism and/or Turkish Islamism becomes more influential.

Crimea: Turkey is a historical sponsor of the Crimean Tatars, who have a divided (if not hostile) relation to Russia. The Ukraine has warmed up greatly to Erdogan’s Turkey, especially after the Su-24 incident (to be expected of a country whose politicians call on ISIS to behead Russian airmen). Not an issue while Russia remains strong, but liable to be a subject of Turkish demands or even claims should Russia’s position weaken, e.g. if Putin is replaced by pro-Western liberals.

Syria: The most recent focal point, as Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman and Russia’s “warm water ports”-national focus both spiked at the same time. There is also a nationalist and Turanist element in this for Turkey; the guy who shot the Russian fighter pilot as he was parachuting down was not an Islamist, but a “Gray Wolf” nationalist and the son of a nationalist MHP politician.

Note that the MHP itself is intimately connected with NATO, Operation Gladio, and the Turkish “deep state” that Erdogan has repressed, but none of which can be at all described as friends of Russia (except perhaps a few marginal Duginist Eurasians). Indeed, it is rather curious that this “Khaki Revolution” has come at the precise time when we are seeing a sort of “Erdosliv,” or the apparent surrender on Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman and Turanian pretensions in Syria (Turkish equivalent of Putinsliv, the much prophesied but as yet unrealized Russian betrayal of the LDNR), which took the form of the restoration of ties with Russia, followed by making up with Israel and amazingly, Syria itself in recent days.

Now if Erdogan was to be now replaced by a military junta, as per above, the new regime will find itself stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not much is known about the motivations of the coup plotters, but let us play a thought experiment. An easy way of (re)gaining favor with the West, as well as appease hostile sentiment within Turkey itself, would be to – ironically – reverse that very same Erdosliv, bearing in mind that the State Department hawks themselves have been in no rush to normalize relations with Assad. In the short term, this might involve reopening munitions supplies to the rebels in Aleppo and Idlib, making the planned SAA offensive against them untenable. Once Hillary Clinton and her R2P/humanitarian bombing clique comes to power, comes to power, even more daring – and perhaps outright apocalyptic – provocations might ensue against Russian forces in Syria.

Or maybe – even probably – not.

Even so, this particular conjunction in Turkish foreign policy developments and the coup against Erdogan is probably not a complete coincidence. And while it is tempting to celebrate unreservedly the troubles of a man who has become close to universally disliked outside Turkey – his human rights abuses amongst liberals, his support of ISIS amongst conservatives, the downing of the Su-24 amongst Russians, his support for Islamists amongst Syrians – it is worth looking closely at what the alternatives to him would entail.

Ultimately, there is a reason that the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire fought a war pretty much every other decade. Exchanging Sultans and Tsars for Presidents is probably not going to alter the underlying geopolitical faultlines.

Now to be sure, Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman stance after Erdogan gave up on FM Ahmet Davutoglu’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy until a month ago did lead to competition with Russia along many fronts. But if Turkey was to change in a more Eurasian direction, unlikely as the prospect might be, tensions might diminish over the Balkans (more centered around religion) but might instead intensify over Azerbaijan and Central Asia (more centered around ethno-cultural identity). And if Turkey were to become more explicitly tied to Washington and NATO, especially under a Clinton Presidency, then that might be the worse outcome of them all for Russia, for Syria, and for world peace.

After all, even a hostile but independent Turkey can be feasibly played off against a hostile West, whereas a “nationalist” Turkey in thrall to the neocon globalist agenda might end up turning out to be but a copy, if a more powerful one, of Maidanist Ukraine to the north.


It does increasingly look like the coup has failed. The critical moment appears to have been the failure to arrest Erdogan and other senior members of the government from the outset (though since many of the coup plotters were officers, not generals, they presumably just didn’t have the necessary high level access… they did apparently bomb his hotel, but by that time, he had already left). And, as I suspected, Erdogan’s not insubstantial popularity played its role as well, with crowds coming out to protect him with their bodies and the conscripts doing the gruntwork of the coup being unwilling to get too bloody.

I suspect that Erdogan will now simply be too consumed with domestic factors to pay much heed to foreign policy in the months ahead. This is probably good.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Assuming the coup leaders were americaphiles, them launching a coup, almost succeeding, committing minor (but very graphical) atrocities and eventually being defeated by Erdogan… This is pretty much the best possible outcome, isn’t it not?

  2. While the coup still seemed likely to succeed, Saudi remarks on it, and even those of Kerry, were not negative.

  3. latest rumors have Erdogan asking for asylum in Berlin and/or London

    The best joke on that subject:

    BREAKING: #Erdogan Becomes First Muslim Refugee Denied By Germany.

    It was also higher than Yanukovych’s 28% approval rating on the eve of Euromaidan.

    I think Porky’s in single digits.

    In recent weeks, however, it appears the Turkish and Russian leadership agreed to bury their differences, with Erdogan sending his apology(-but-not-really) letter to Putin

    Maybe he sensed that trouble was coming and looked for friends?

  4. Anatoly Karlin says

    That’s my cautious assessment as well.

    Of course Erdogan is a wildcard so you probably can’t make any bold projections from that. He will presumably now start hardcore purges, after which his domestic position will be secure enough to start thinking of even greater foreign adventures. Hopefully the Syrians, Iranians, and Russians use this window of opportunity well.

  5. Anatoly Karlin says

    I think Porky’s in single digits.

    The bad part is that none of the East Slavic states have any tradition of independent militaries, and in any case, any “Russophile” elements of the UAF would have long since been expurged.

    I have a standing bet (no money) with a well informed Ukraine watcher, who is considerably less Russophile than I am (LOL), that there will be no coup/revolution/loss of power by the Maidan in 2016. Whereas he bets there will be. I just don’t see where the revolutionary impulse is supposed to come from. The security forces are politically defanged (to the extent they had any agency in the first place), most anti-Maidan activists are in prison or severely cowed, and the pensioners and older workers who are getting hammered most by shock therapy are not exactly the demographic that is capable of storming armories in protest.

    Maybe he sensed that trouble was coming and looked for friends?

    Sounds likely. It was a strangely abrupt sliv.

  6. I agree that the Maidanite rats will not be overthrown no matter how bad things get in the Ukraine. Things were awful in Russia in the 1990s, but no one was financing a revolution against Yeltsin, so it didn’t happen. The idea of large numbers of people rising up because they’ve had enough is probably false in general. These things come from above or from the side (foreign governments), not from below.

    If Hillary, as president, orders the Ukraine to attack the Donbass, the Crimia or both, Putin might respond by enlarging Novorossiya, but it’s hard to imagine him going for Kiev or for the whole of the Ukraine. So I expect to see a Maidanite Ukraine, in some form, for a long time.

  7. So we’re supposed to be rooting for Erdogan now? That just doesn’t feel right.

  8. OTOH, Ria is now reporting that one of the coup plotters was the pilot who shot down the SU-24…

  9. Pseudonymic Handle says

    It was fascinating to watch on reddit and youtube tv live feeds as the plot developed and collapsed.
    The coup was very amateurish, from doing it on a Friday night at 10 PM, in the summer, when everybody is out and about, to failing to secure the president and the prime minister.
    It is also clear that they were opposed by other security forces and even branches of the military.
    Maybe they expected more support from the opposition and the West?
    Anyway, Sultan Erdogan is back in the saddle and this will be the perfect excuse to purge anyone left who is opposing him, both kemalists and gulenists.

  10. From Flyboy to Coup Plotter in 1 year? It must be the Hermann Göring of the Internet Time.

    Lee Adama’s transformation from Flyboy to Legal Counsel in Battlestar Galactica is more believable.

  11. @El Dato

    I certainly make no claim as to the veracity of the story itself, my point was simply that the Russian propaganda machine spin indicates whose side Russia is on.

  12. More significantly, the mayor of Ankara, who told the story, explicitly blamed the plotters for having deliberately spoiled Russo-Turkish relations.

  13. A failed coup is nothing to write home about.
    Turkey is in the Middle East. By the Middle Eastern
    standards 265 killed is nothing special, life is
    cheap in the MENA countries. In contrast, 84
    killed in Nice is enormous by European standards.
    EU has extremely low murder rates, much lower
    than the U.S., Russia or Ukraine. Measured by the murder
    rates, Western and Central Europe are extremely peaceful,
    comparable to Japan in that regard

  14. michael dr says

    Sounds to me exactly what the US might plan – after all they turned away from Turkey last year when they joined the Russian/Iran/Hezbollah/Syria coalition in a desperate attempt to avoid being painted xx uncovered as ISIS supporters through Turkey.

    Indeed it might well have been planned as a punishment for Erdogan for actually noticing it has been dumped by the US. My guess is that the US has had a few people giving out cookies to the Turkey military in order to convince them that there would be international support for the coup.

    Russian advance intelligence may have helped Erdogan (after all the last thing Russia wants is a US directly controlled Turkey).

  15. Anatoly Karlin says

    Has any concrete evidence emerged yet that Gulen was behind this?

    In practice, I would imagine that Gulen is subject to US monitoring and would be hardpressed to coordinate any sort of coup from half the world away.

    To me it looks like nationalist officers were the driving force.

    (Sort of what might just about conceivably happen if Putin was to formalize Putinsliv of Novorossiya except not because of the Russian military’s long tradition of political non-interference).

    But since they are a politically weak force anyway, one understands why Erdogan would use his soaring political capital to mainly go after the Gulenist globalists (a potentially much more dangerous faction even if they had nothing to do with this).

    Anyhow, only people I feel somewhat sorry for are the conscripts who participated. The poor hoodwinked bastards are presumably looking at a decade in Turkish prisons staffed by AKP loyalists.

  16. “To me it looks like nationalist officers were the driving force.”

    Secular Kemalist, rather than “nationalist” in the sense that that word applies in today’s Turkey (since in today’s Turkey “nationalist” is virtually synonymous with “ultranationalist” of the Grey Wolves variety). These people were probably some of the last remnants of truly committed secular Kemalist officer cadres in the Turkish military.

    “Anyhow, only people I feel somewhat sorry for are the conscripts who participated. The poor hoodwinked bastards are presumably looking at a decade in Turkish prisons staffed by AKP loyalists.”

    They should have fought like real soldiers against the Erdogan loyalist thugs who came out to stop them, instead of laying down their weapons and surrendering. Every single one of those loyalist thugs who spilled out into the streets, is an Islamist militant – many probably connected to international jihadis as well. (Most of them actually came directly from the mosques.)

    Anyway, the people to really feel sorry for in this thing are not the reluctant conscripts, but the secular officers who, rather than sitting on their hands and watching as the country sank into a morass of Islamofascist tyranny around them, actually tried to do something about it – unlike the vast majority of the country’s population, including those who “dislike Erdogan” but do nothing about the situation except occasionally bitch. They are brave men who held steadfast to their oath and the principles of their education; and took their job to protect the secular republic set up by Atatürk seriously. My heart goes out to them, although they botched it and the surviving ones will probably suffer terribly (in addition to their names being blackened by smearing as “Gülenists” or “U.S. stooges”). The fact that they had to actually DUPE their own conscript soldiers into taking action to protect the secular republic from an Islamist terrorist loony dictator, shows you better than anything how low Turkey as a society has sunk.

  17. LondonBob says

    Russian intelligence didn’t even see the Ukraine coup coming, what would they know, more interested in their money making schemes.

    Any evidence that the hotel was bombed, as claimed by Erdogan?

    Given how so few were involved in the purported coup it does look like it was a small clique baited into it, Erdogan can now carry out his purges. If the CIA were involved it would have been much more professional. Gulen is a nice scapegoat for Erdogan, not know for their presence in the officer corps.

  18. Most of my Turkish friends–who are resolutely secular and hate the AKP–believe that Erdogan himself staged a fake coup, in order to proceed with his plan to rewrite the Turkish constitution in a more Islamist fashion. Now, he can finally complete the process of becoming a full dictator under cover of ‘saving democracy from the Kemalists’. They note that most of the real Kemalists in the Turkish army were already purged back in 2008 during the so-called Ergenekon trials. The senior army command–in fact, the entire Turkish deep state–is now fully under the control of the AKP.

    As far as the geopolitics of the thing is concerned, this idea also jibes well with the theory that Erdogan–angered by Washington’s refusal to help him in Syria and their support for the Kurdish YPG (which is affiliated with the PKK)–is now switching sides and going with Russia and China. Thus, blaming Gülen (who is a CIA stooge) for the coup, however unlikely, is necessary in order to inflame anti-Americanism and anti-NATO sentiments among his base, justifying his re-alignment with Russia–a country which, as Anatoly correctly noted, has historically always been unpopular among the Turks.

    As Anatoly has correctly intimated, this will be of immense benefit to Russia in the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia. It also means that the Anglo-Zionists’ plan to build pipelines up from the Persian Gulf and into Europe in order to circumvent Russia’s pipelines is now OPD.

    Mackinder’s dread ‘Eurasianism’ has arrived!

  19. Mitleser says

    Russian intelligence didn’t even see the Ukraine coup coming, what would they know, more interested in their money making schemes.

    They saw it coming, hence the successful counter-coup in Crimea.
    The problem was that in Kiev there were no Russian forces and/or enough pro-Russian locals who opposed the coup.
    It was up to Yanuk to prevent it in Kiev and he fucked up.

  20. The Kemalist-Eurasianist Turkish Homeland Party has been rehabilitated and is deeply involved in the negotiations with Russia and Syria to “reset” Turkish foreign policy:

    There has been a lot of extremely vague talk about using Dugin’s “Radical Centrism” as a strategy in the Alt Right, but very little understanding of how it actually works as a political practice. The example of Turkish Eurasianism is very instructive and increasingly important, but the Alt White prefers terminal deviancy spiraling to real politics.

  21. anonymous says

    Looks like the gains Ataturk accomplished to modernize Turkey are being eroded and little by little being rolled back. This may have been a late stage attempt to halt this decline but it was apparently too little too late. Now Erdogan can ensconce himself as dictator; the mass arrests and purges sure didn’t take long, almost as if he already had the blueprints ready. Erdogan is greedy and crooked beyond the average person’s comprehension as well as pathologically egocentric as demonstrated by him building a huge palace for himself, greater than that of most other leaders. How fourth-rate mentalities like him become leaders of countries everywhere is an interesting subject. Turkey reverting back to it’s pre-Ataturk past may have a silver lining in that it’ll become more glaringly incompatible as a member of the EU and easier to reject, diminishing the threat of millions of them moving westward.

  22. If it’s true, as official Turkish sources are now claiming, that the linchpin of the plot is the brother of a veteran AKP member of parliament, that could be taken as evidence in favour of the Gülenist version of its origins. But as always, who knows.