*In foreign policy, the easiest relationships are those in which both parties are friendly toward each other.
More difficult is the relationship in which both parties dislike each other; but even in this situation the understood hostility determines policy options and dictates that relations can only improve.
Most difficult is the relationship that the United States and Turkey currently find themselves in – something in the middle. Turkey has been a long standing ally of the United States but has also recently embraced its ties, politically and culturally, to Muslim nations of western Asia. It is in this shade of grey that allows for the most diplomatic options which in turn allows for the most things to go wrong.
Western Europe and the United States have come to a fork in the road with regards to Turkey and are delaying a definitive answer. In part because of the diplomatic standstill to its westerly neighbors Turkey has extended a hand of friendship to its easterly neighbors.
One consequence has been a renaissance in traditional Muslim theology and culture as Turkey remembers its common ground, religiously and historically, with nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Another consequence, which naturally grows from the first, has been a strengthening of political and economic ties between Turkey and other countries in the Middle East.
Over the course of the twentieth century Turkey always sought to westernize its society; now that the western imperative has been weakened its neighbors in the Middle East have renewed interest in the country that at one point was the centerpiece of the Ottoman Empire.
USA has to pursue a closer relationship with Turkey or abandon their longstanding relationship. In fact if the United States does not pursue a closer relationship with Turkey it is in effect abandoning that relationship and allowing Turkey to form closer ties with its easterly neighbors. Naturally the United States should then support Turkey and help its growth instead of allowing that nurturing role to be filled by a country that is not friendly toward the United States, right? The caveat is that Turkey is such a large land mass with many natural resources and a prime strategic location, easily categorized with either Asia or Europe and with access to the Black, Caspian, and Mediterranean Seas, that to support Turkey’s growth could mean to start down a road of no return. Because of all of the aforementioned factors, Turkey could be the next world power. Under such developments Turkey would be progressing from strategic partner that invariably sought and heeded suggestions from American policy advisors to able to a country able to support itself with a government that would not need American approval for its international policy decisions. The stagnation in current American-Turkish relations is due to the fact that the United States leadership has realized this and is trying to keep Turkey as a loyal friend but also trying to hinder its growth.
One of the events to solidify the beginning of the Cold War was the Truman Doctrine which referenced civil unrest in Turkey. The United States decided to get involved and in return was able to place armaments close to Soviet Union for the duration of the Cold War. The mutually beneficial setup has been upset in recent years as the United States, not needing Turkey as much since the end of the Cold War, has let Turkish relations go downhill. This situation must be improved. If Turkey is to become the regional power with either western support or eastern support, better that the United States support Turkey and share in the benefits.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War and he maintains a blog called This Seems Familiar. You can reach him at [email protected]