Over the last decade, Turkey has averaged at least five percent growth of gross domestic product per year with a per capita income now more than $17,000, according to the country’s Ministry of Finance.
Those numbers are only expected to rise, even as a revolution continues to boil over next door in Syria, Iran faces severe economic sanctions, and economies in Greece and Cyprus melt down.
Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says after Turkey’s attempt to join the European Union failed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan forged a new path, facing neither East nor West.
“This happened also at a time when communism collapsed,” Landis says. “And Turkey now has $30 billion worth of trade per year with Russia, which is two times the amount of trade it had with the United States. During the Cold War, it had almost no trade with Russia.”
Turkey’s relationship with Iran has drawn the ire of the United States by increasing oil and gas imports from Iran, and trying to build pipelines to funnel Iranian oil and gas to Europe.
“Its foreign policy is based around what it calls ‘Zero Problems With Neighbors’," Landis says. "And it has tried to bring Greece, Armenia – some of the more vexed relationships that is has – into much better balance, and to play all ends off against the middle."
But Landis says as civil war continues to the south, and with more than 400,000 Syrian refugees now in Southern Turkey,
"Things could go wrong so easily," Landis says. "And every Turk you talk to is anxious. Bombs went off in Southern Turkey, and all the businessmen in Istanbul were terrified, because those 35 million visitors could dry up if there's political instability."