Özgür Ün­lühis­ar­cikli: “I think the US-Turkey re­la­tion­ships as we have known it is al­ready dead”

“I think the US-Turkey re­la­tion­ships as we have known it is al­ready dead”

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Yuriy La­payev

The di­rec­tor of Ger­man Mar­shall Fund's of­fice in Ankara on the cur­rent state of re­la­tions be­tween Turkey, USA, and Rus­sia

Dur­ing the 3rd Lviv Se­cu­rity Fo­rum The Ukrainian Week met with Özgür Ün­lühis­ar­cikli, the di­rec­tor of Ger­man Mar­shall Fund's of­fice in Ankara to dis­cuss the cur­rent state of re­la­tions be­tween Turkey, USA, and Rus­sia and per­spec­tives of Ukraine-Turkey di­a­logue.

What are the roots of the cur­rent de­clin­ing in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the USA and Turkey?

— I be­lieve there are three core prob­lems in the US-Turkey re­la­tion­ship. The first prob­lem is mu­tual sus­pi­cions. Ba­si­cally, Amer­i­can pol­icy-mak­ers sus­pect, that Turkey at some point could flip to an­other side. The other side could be Rus­sia, Iran or what­ever, but away from West. The sec­ond sus­pi­cion, which is grow­ing in Wash­ing­ton, is that the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion in Turkey has im­plicit for­eign pol­icy agenda of Is­lamists, co­op­er­at­ing with rad­i­cal Is­lamists in a way, that un­der­mines the se­cu­rity in­ter­ests of the USal­lies in the Mid­dle East. This is maybe a con­spir­acy the­ory or not, but for the peo­ple, who are believ­ing in them per­cep­tions re­place re­al­ity. So when they are mak­ing their poli­cies, th­ese sus­pi­cions whether they are true or not, play a role. When we come to Ankara, Turks in gen­eral, ac­tu­ally, not only the gov­ern­ment, be­lieve and fear that the US has a long-term plan to cre­ate a Kur­dish state on Turk­ish bor­ders, that would in time claim some ter­ri­to­ries from Turkey and desta­bi­lize the coun­try. This be­lief is ac­tu­ally very wide­spread in Turk­ish so­ci­ety right now. And there­fore US co­op­er­a­tion with cer­tain Kur­dish groups in the Mid­dle East ac­tu­ally seen through this prism. The sec­ond im­por­tant sus­pi­cion in Turkey is lim­ited to Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan and his po­lit­i­cal cir­cle, which is that the US plan of re­mov­ing Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan from power. Some peo­ple think, that this is just talk­ing points for Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan, but I think he re­ally be­lieves in this. On one of the ral­lies, he said on the record ex­actly the fol­low­ing: “They came against us with Gezi protests, they failed. They came with cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions and failed. They came against us with a coup at­tempt and failed. Now they are com­ing against us with the eco­nomic cri­sis, they will fail. In the fu­ture, they will come with other means and again they will fail.” And the “they” in th­ese sen­tences is al­ways the United States.

The sec­ond core prob­lem is the lack of a valid strate­gic frame­work of the re­la­tion­ship. Ba­si­cally, the US-Turkey re­la­tions were set up in the mid­dle of the Cold war and this was ac­tu­ally the re­sponse to the Soviet Union's claims for fur­ther con­trol over the Turk­ish straits. And for this rea­son, Turkey reached out to NATO and was wel­comed, be­came a NATO mem­ber. Turkey was also in­cluded in the Tru­man doc­trine, be­came a US ally. So the re­la­tion­ship was based on that re­al­ity. On the other hand back to a strate­gic frame­work is about how the United States will pro­tect Turkey and how Turkey would con­trib­ute to NATO's strat­egy for con­tain­ing Soviet ag­gres­sion. Turkey was ba­si­cally the key coun­try in the Al­liance south­ern flank. So at that point, Turkey was a flank coun­try. But now the Cold war is over, we have other chal­lenges. Turkey is ac­tu­ally no longer a flank coun­try if you think of the other the­aters in the Mid­dle East and North Africa. The cur­rent strate­gic frame­work ex­plains very well how the United States would pro­tect Turkey from ma­jor power such as Rus­sia or how Turkey would con­trib­ute to Eu­ro­pean se­cu­rity, but it tells us noth­ing about how the US and Turkey will co­op­er­ate in the Mid­dle East, which seems to be the main the­atre right now. So we need a more up­dated strate­gic frame­work, for the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween two coun­tries.

The third prob­lem is an own­er­ship prob­lem. In the good old days, the own­ers of this re­la­tion­ship were the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary and the Turk­ish mil­i­tary. Two things hap­pened with the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary: af­ter the 9/11 mil­i­tary gained the up­per hand in the for­eign pol­icy for­mu­la­tion in the US. In the past, The White House, De­part­ment of State, the CIA, etc would play the ma­jor roles. But af­ter this ter­ror­ist act, ev­ery­thing was se­cu­ri­tized and there for the Pen­tagon, par­tic­u­larly if it con­tains the use of hard power. This was not nec­es­sar­ily bad for Turkey, be­cause we have per­fect re­la­tions with Pen­tagon at that time. But an­other thing had hap­pened si­mul­ta­ne­ously, which is within the US mil­i­tary: the CENTCOM gets the up­per hand against EUCOM. In the Cold war, the EUCOM was the core of the US mil­i­tary, they were the most ac­tive part of the Army in de­fend­ing Eu­rope against the Soviet Union. Af­ter the end of the Cold war, the EUCOM be­came less sig­nif­i­cant and due to never-end­ing wars in the Mid­dle East, the CENTCOM be­come more im­por­tant. With that Turkey starts ex­pe­ri­enc­ing prob­lems, be­cause while Turkey en­joyed ex­cel­lent com­pany with EUCOM, it did not have the same type of ex­pe­ri­ence with the CENTCOM. That was be­cause of Turkey's re­luc­tance to join the Gulf war in 1991, and then Turk­ish re­jec­tion to open the coun­try for Amer­i­can troops dur­ing the Iraq war in 2002. Of­fi­cers of CENTCOM had not so good re­la­tions with Turk­ish col­leagues, but same time have good co­op­er­a­tion with Kur­dish groups, which Turkey sees as a chal­lenge. So the Turkis and Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ac­tu­ally give up their own­er­ship of the re­la­tion­ship, as the re­sult of this fol­low-up. But not only that, there were in­di­vid­u­als in both armies, who would stand up for the re­la­tion­ship. But now the at­mos­phere in Ankara and in Wash­ing­ton is so toxic, that peo­ple are in­tim­i­dated to de­fend the re­la­tion­ship any longer. This is the case in Ankara, but also in Wash­ing­ton. I don't keep silent that we need this re­la­tion­ship, but many peo­ple do. So that three core prob­lems are gen­er­at­ing all other prob­lems, that we are fac­ing, such as US co­op­er­a­tion with YPG, or Amer­i­cans im­pris­on­ing in Turkey. Th­ese are not the causes of the prob­lems, but the out­comes. I think the USTurkey re­la­tion­ships as we have known it is al­ready dead. If we value this re­la­tion­ship we need to build a new one.

If we talk more about per­spec­tives for de­fence co­op­er­a­tion — what is the fu­ture for S-400 and F-35 pro­grams?

— It's very gloomy. Turkey for a decade wants to buy Pa­triot, but the United States was un­able to make this of­fer at­trac­tive to Ankara in terms of price, fi­nanc­ing and tech­nol­ogy trans­fer. Af­ter the decade of ne­go­ti­a­tions, Turkey at the end of the day de­cides to buy S-400 sys­tems from Rus­sia, which Turk­ish politi­cians thought was a bet­ter deal. The prob­lem is that Turkey was in the F-35 pro­gram, so Turkey would not only pro­cure more than 100 of this fifth-gen­er­a­tion fighters but also Turk­ish com­pa­nies would man­u­fac­ture key com­po­nents of th­ese planes, make a lot of rev­enue as op­posed to the money, that Turkey would be pay­ing for ac­quir­ing F-35s and there will be a se­ri­ous tech­nol­ogy trans­fer. The F-35 is the most ad­vanced net­work-based sys­tem that NATO will have. And so far as Amer­i­can pol­icy-mak­ers are con­cerned F-35s and S-400s should not come to­gether. So Turk­ish on­go­ing pro­ce­dure of ac­quir­ing and op­er­a­tional­iz­ing the S-400 sys­tems for Amer­i­cans means that Turkey can not have the F-35 and can­not play a role in the man­u­fac­tur­ing of th­ese planes. I don't think that this would change un­less Turkey gives up on S-400. The story doesn't end here. This pur­chase makes Turkey a pos­si­ble sub­ject of CATSAA sanc­tions. If they are im­posed upon the coun­try, this could con­cern the fu­ture of Turk­ish own de­fence sec­tor and of course, there would be im­pli­ca­tions not only for Turk­ish F-35 pro­gram (which is al­ready over, I think) but also for up­dat­ing of its ex­ist­ing F-16 fleet or other im­por­tant sys­tems that re­quire Amer­i­can com­po­nents. Ei­ther this could be in­cluded to CATSAA sanc­tions, or be­cause of the US Congress could de­cide to cre­ate ad­di­tional hin­drances for Turkey.

Are there con­cerns that the US could move its nu­clear arse­nal from Turkey?

— It is very in­ter­est­ing, be­cause Pres­i­dent Trump by men­tion­ing it, ac­tu­ally, has ac­knowl­edged that the United States store grav­ity nu­clear bombs in Turkey, which of­fi­cially was not ac­knowl­edged ear­lier. But it can lead to that sit­u­a­tion when the US will re­move ev­ery­thing from Turkey.

There are other sym­bol­i­cal steps, such as recog­ni­tion of the Ar­me­nian geno­cide. What could be the im­pact of that?

— I think that de­ci­sion was wrong for three rea­sons. First of all, this is the leg­is­la­tion of his­tory. There is al­ready a dom­i­nant ver­sion of his­tory, which is that the Ot­toman Em­pire com­mit­ted geno­cide against Ar­me­ni­ans. But that doesn't mean that there are no other ver­sions of his­tory. Leg­is­la­tion of his­tory by US Congress tells us, that there is only one vi­sion. I don't think that the Par­lia­ments are the right place to make de­ci­sions on what his­tory was. Sec­ond, that leg­is­la­tion was clearly based on po­lit­i­cal devel­op­ment, which is

to­tally ir­rel­e­vant to what hap­pened in Ana­to­lia in the First World War. If I was an Ar­me­nian lob­by­ist, I would be ac­tu­ally against it, be­cause they had been strug­gling al­most a cen­tury to make the US Congress ac­knowl­edged that there was a geno­cide, but now the US Congress could use that as an ar­gu­ment in non­re­lated po­lit­i­cal devel­op­ment, what un­der­mines the cred­i­bil­ity of the claims. Third, it is a short­term re­ac­tion to short-term devel­op­ment with long-term im­pli­ca­tions for US-Turkey re­la­tion­ships. When the re­la­tion­ships can be ac­tu­ally fixed, in the near fu­ture, but ges­tures like this could cre­ate per­ma­nent rap­ture and also de­stroy what­ever sup­port the US en­joys in Turk­ish so­ci­ety.

Com­ing to an­other close neigh­bor. Why nowa­days we wit­ness some cozy re­la­tions be­tween Er­do­gan and Putin? What are the rea­sons for that?

— There are a cou­ple of ways to ex­plain that. Coun­tries, when they are fac­ing a threat, they have two op­tions. They ei­ther band­wagon with the source of the threat, mean­ing that they try to ap­pease the source of threat. Or they bal­ance against the threat with other coun­tries. The an­swer is ei­ther Turkey is per­ceiv­ing the threat from Rus­sia and then Turkey doesn't have a chance to bal­ance against Rus­sia and there­for band­wag­o­ning with Rus­sia. Or Turkey is ac­tu­ally per­ceiv­ing the threat from the USA and try­ing to bal­ance to­gether with Rus­sia. If Turkey was per­ceiv­ing a threat from Rus­sia, it could eas­ily bal­ance against Moscow with the US and NATO, this is what we are do­ing for decades. Turkey had bal­anced the Soviet Union when it was much stronger than Rus­sia is to­day. That is why the band­wag­o­ning is not very usual. So the sec­ond ver­sion seems more likely. But then we need to ask who in Turkey per­ceives the threat from Rus­sia and here we should make anal­y­sis at the state level and at the in­di­vid­ual level. On a state level, I don't think that Turkey per­ceives a threat from the United States. Oth­er­wise, the Turk­ish pol­icy-mak­ers wouldn't be so keen on buy­ing F-35 and wouldn't be so re­luc­tant as op­pose to Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan for buy­ing S-400. The pur­chas­ing of the Rus­sian sys­tem is the de­ci­sion of the Turk­ish pres­i­dent and the gov­ern­ment, but not the mil­i­tary. So at the state level, I don't see the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment fears the US. But at the in­di­vid­ual level of anal­y­sis, we see Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan and cir­cles around him fear that the US has a plan to re­move him from power. So it is he who bal­anc­ing against the USA with Rus­sia. There is a very im­por­tant an­gle here: if there would be a po­lit­i­cal change in Turkey, the Turkey-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship will col­lapse. Be­cause it is Er­do­gan re­la­tions with Rus­sia. But if Pres­i­dent of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion will be re­placed, Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan will con­tinue his re­la­tions with who­ever comes next. What should the USA do in this sit­u­a­tion — to al­le­vi­ate Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan's fears, and do what­ever it is in their ca­pac­ity to prove that the US has no in­ten­tion to play any role in the Turk­ish do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal fu­ture.

What to do with fur­ther mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the Black Sea?

— Rus­sia is de­cided to mil­i­ta­rize this re­gion, so it is Moscow, who should agree to de­mil­i­ta­rize it. And the only way that Rus­sia could be per­suaded is to make the mil­i­ta­riza­tion too costly. It is al­ready very ex­pen­sive and the Rus­sian econ­omy is not do­ing great. It could ap­pear as a mil­i­tary gi­ant but eco­nom­i­cally is rather a dwarf, fac­ing the whole transat­lantic com­mu­nity. But how Rus­sia can still af­ford all th­ese costs? Be­cause it is ben­e­fit­ing from the growth of its mil­i­tary power, Black Sea Fleet in par­tic­u­lar. Rus­sia pur­sues two goals with this mil­i­ta­riza­tion — first, do dom­i­nate coun­tries in the Black Sea re­gion and to make sure that they can not in­te­grate into Euroat­lantic struc­tures and sec­ond, to project power to Eastern Mediter­ra­nian and be­yond. The re­sponse to the Rus­sian strat­egy should be not to al­low Rus­sia to dic­tate the fu­ture of the coun­tries in this re­gion. Which would be to con­tinue the in­te­gra­tion of th­ese coun­tries to the Euroat­lantic sphere, what­ever Rus­sia does. And ac­tu­ally, be­cause Rus­sia is do­ing what it does. And then sec­ond — to make it more ex­pen­sive for Krem­lin. We are not do­ing well on ei­ther front, so ba­si­cally we slowed down the in­te­gra­tion of Black Sea coun­tries to NATO, pre­cisely be­cause of the Rus­sian strat­egy, what is a mis­take. Be­cause we are not united in the transat­lantic com­mu­nity, we can­not re­spond to the Rus­sian strat­egy in the Eastern Mediter­ra­nian. Look at what Turkey and the Amer­i­cans are do­ing in Syria. Rus­sia is play­ing there for di­vid­ing two NATO al­lies very suc­cess­fully. And in the Mediter­ra­nian NATO and the United States need to co­op­er­ate with Turkey in or­der to con­tain Rus­sian ex­pan­sion there. But there is draft leg­is­la­tion in the US to con­tain Turkey in Eastern Mediter­ra­nian. How do they ex­pect to co­op­er­ate with Ankara af­ter that? We need to unite bet­ter, but we are not there.

What is the cur­rent Turk­ish po­si­tion on Crimea?

— De­spite the close re­la­tions be­tween Er­do­gan and Putin, the Turk­ish pol­icy to­ward Crimea and Ukraine is crys­tal clear, has not changed and will not change. First of all the Turk­ish Black Sea pol­icy is based on the in­de­pen­dence, sovereignt­y and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of newly in­de­pen­dent states in the area. This is why when there was a sep­a­ratist’s move­ment in Ge­or­gia with groups, who feel the close­ness to Turkey be­cause of the re­li­gion, Ankara ac­tu­ally stood with Ge­or­gia for the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and ac­tively helped Tbil­isi. This Turk­ish at­ti­tude has not changed. Turkey strongly re­jects the il­le­gal an­nex­a­tion of the Crimea. We are also con­cerned about the hu­man rights of Crimean Tatars. And that re­mains the pri­or­ity.

But same time just re­cently we have wit­nessed an of­fi­cial meet­ing of Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan with some mem­bers of the Rus­sian Par­lia­ment, in­clud­ing il­le­gally elected Natalia Pok­lon­ska.

— That is maybe a con­tra­dic­tion, but it doesn't change Turk­ish pol­icy. Be­cause chang­ing of pol­icy would be con­trary to Turk­ish in­ter­ests. Be­fore 2008 Turkey en­joys two buf­fer states be­tween our coun­try and Rus­sia, I mean Ukraine and Ge­or­gia. Af­ter the Ge­or­gian war and an­nex­a­tion of Crimea, Rus­sia is much closer. Rus­sian S-400 sys­tems, which prob­a­bly could be soon re­placed with more ad­vanced and long-ranged S-500, if lo­cated in Tar­tus, Crimea, and Yere­van, can cover up to 90% of Turk­ish airspace. That makes Turkey un­easy. Also af­ter the an­nex­a­tion of Crimea Rus­sia try to re­place Turkey as a dom­i­nant power in the Black Sea, this is not good for Ankara ei­ther. And the last thing - Turkey gives lots of im­por­tance to non-chang­ing of the na­tional bor­ders through war be­cause Turkey is con­cerned about pro­tect­ing its own bor­ders. Turkey for its own in­ter­ests will al­ways be against chang­ing bor­ders by mil­i­tary means.

THERE IS A VERY IM­POR­TANT AN­GLE HERE: IF THERE WOULD BE A PO­LIT­I­CAL CHANGE IN TURKEY, THE TURKEY-RUS­SIA RE­LA­TION­SHIP WILL COL­LAPSE. BE­CAUSE IT IS ER­DO­GAN RE­LA­TIONS WITH RUS­SIA. BUT IF PRES­I­DENT OF THE RUS­SIAN FED­ER­A­TION WILL BE RE­PLACED, PRES­I­DENT ER­DO­GAN WILL CON­TINUE HIS RE­LA­TIONS WITH WHO­EVER COMES NEXT

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ukraine

© PressReader. All rights reserved.