WHERE ARE WE IN TURK­ISH US RE­LA­TIONS?

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - FAHRETTIN ALTUN

IT IS highly sig­nif­i­cant to un­der­line that Turk­ish-U.S. re­la­tions are go­ing through nei­ther a struc­tural cri­sis nor a con­jec­tural ten­sion, but rather a struc­tural ten­sion

Clearly, Turk­ish-U.S. re­la­tions are go­ing through a rough patch. What is not yet clear is whether the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion should be eval­u­ated as a struc­tural cri­sis or con­jec­tural ten­sion. In my opin­ion, Turk­ish-U.S. re­la­tions are go­ing through nei­ther a struc­tural cri­sis nor con­jec­tural ten­sion. I think re­la­tions are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing struc­tural ten­sion. The source of the ten­sion is clear. The two coun­tries have mu­tu­ally sus­pended ap­pli­ca­tions for new visas. Turkey is of the be­lief that U.S. am­bas­sador in Ankara John Bass is be­hind this cri­sis. It is very ob­vi­ous that Bass’ steps en­sured a fait ac­com­pli for the White House. In any case, the visa ten­sion be­tween the two coun­tries is the true source of the stress.

On the other hand, what lies in the back­ground of this ten­sion is very clear for Ankara. The at­tempted coup on July 15, 2016, was a par­a­digm-chang­ing de­vel­op­ment for Turkey. Turk­ish ad­min­is­tra­tors think this at­tempted coup was not sim­ply car­ried out by lo­cal el­e­ments, but also sup­ported by out­side ac­tors, and not just sup­ported, but di­rected by them, as well. In this sense, the Turk­ish ju­di­ciary is ex­pected to con­duct every kind of in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­lies on its al­lies – the U.S. in par­tic­u­lar – to aid it in this sense. How­ever, the U.S. con­tin­ues to keep and pro­tect the main ar­chi­tect of the July 15 at­tempted coup, Fe­tul­lah Gulen. Ad­di­tion­ally, Ankara re­gards the U.S. arm­ing of the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG), the PKK ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion’s af­fil­i­ate in Syria, with heavy weaponry as a threat to its own na­tional se­cu­rity.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the U.S. is prob­lema­tiz­ing the ar­rest of one of its cit­i­zens and a Turk­ish ci­ti­zen work­ing at the U.S. Con­sulate. The Amer­i­can me­dia has even re­ferred to them as hostages.

Now, I have come to why I re­fer to this as struc­tural ten­sion. In the af­ter­math of World War II, Turk­ish-Amer­i­can re­la­tions were shaped by a world or­der formed by the U.S., of which Turkey was sub­ject to. A sit­u­a­tion re­sem­bling one-sided de­pen­dency was cre­ated. Turkey’s ad­min­is­tra­tive elite led the coun­try in a way that was in line with Amer­i­can dis­course of de­vel­op­ment and mod­ern­iza­tion. With the ex­cep­tion of the Cyprus cri­sis in 1964, Turkey’s for­eign pol­icy was shaped within the bor­ders drawn by the U.S. Turkey’s re­la­tions with the Mid­dle East, Europe, the Cau­cus and the Balkans were formed par­al­lel to U.S. in­ter­ests. Three im­por­tant fac­tors of the West­ern­iza­tion par­a­digm at the end of the Ot­toman era ef­fected the de­vel­op­ment of this sit­u­a­tion. The first was an econ­omy based on out­side sources, the sec­ond, a fear of Rus­sia and the third, the pres­ence of West­ern pro-Amer­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tive elites. These three el­e­ments re­sulted in Turkey en­ter­ing the U.S.’s or­bit after 1945.

After the 2000s, Turkey ex­pe­ri­enced a se­ri­ous trans­for­ma­tion in the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, so­cial and cul­tural arena. While ben­e­fit­ting from all of the op­por­tu­ni­ties of the glob­al­iza­tion process, it also em­barked on a search for de­vel­op­ing its in­de­pen­dent poli­cies in the are­nas of econ­omy, se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy. The Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party) and its chairman, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan, be­gan this process, which de­stroyed the three col­umns on which the par­a­digm of West­ern­iza­tion had risen. The coun­try’s ad­min­is­tra­tors thought they were rid of a de­pen­dent econ­omy after pay­ing off its In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund (IMF) debt. They em­barked on in­tense com­mer­cial re­la­tions with Rus­sia after 2000. The bi­lat­eral com­mer­cial re­la­tions first al­lowed for part­ner­ships in en­ergy, which then led to part­ner­ships in the se­cu­rity sec­tor. Un­doubt­edly, an­other im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment in post-2000 Turkey was the trans­for­ma­tion of the po­lit­i­cal elite. West­ern­iza­tion lost its place as the dis­tin­guish­ing fac­tor of Turkey’s po­lit­i­cal elite. In its stead, the po­lit­i­cal elite who said that equal re­la­tions should be es­tab­lished with the West be­gan to take on ac­tive roles in the man­age­ment of the coun­try. This was not just a po­lit­i­cal or ide­o­log­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion pe­riod, it was a so­cial and eco­nomic un­der­tow that found a place for it­self in the po­lit­i­cal arena.

This sit­u­a­tion, which was achieved in the 2000s, even­tu­ally be­came a cause for ten­sion after 2010. Turkey be­gan to be­come the fo­cus of crit­ics. The start of the Arab re­volts and Turkey be­ing pre­sented as a model by the pro­tes­tors was the fi­nal straw. There were si­mul­ta­ne­ous in­ter­ven­tions in Turkey and Egypt. In essence, the mean­ings be­hind Turkey’s Gezi Park protests and the coup in Egypt are the same. The fail­ure of Gezi to bring about ad­min­is­tra­tive change did not work, prompt­ing other in­ter­ven­tions. This ac­tu­ally re­sulted in a low-in­ten­sity war with Turkey fo­cused on bring­ing down Er­doğan. For­mer U.S. Pres­i­dent Barak Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion heav­ily sup­ported this war.

There are many ac­tors in the U.S. to­day who think that the Turkey prob­lem can be re­solved if only Er­doğan were forced out of power. These ac­tors as­sume that they can es­tab­lish a re­la­tion­ship with Turkey sim­i­lar to the one after 1945. How­ever, the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic changes that have oc­curred in Turkey are so­cial trans­for­ma­tions that came about after be­ing well-di­gested. It was a trans­for­ma­tion that oc­curred bot­tom-up, not top­down. To be suc­cinct, Turkey’s so­ciopo­lit­i­cal re­al­ity will never again ac­cept one-sided de­pen­dence on the U.S.

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