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  • How to Win Turkey

    British Prime Minister David Cameron has completed a visit to Turkey with a passionate defense of Ankara’s aspiration to join the European Union. The charismatic young leader, who also completed a successful Prime Ministerial visit to Washington this month, has joined leading figures, such as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in accusing Brussels of not playing fair with Turkey. They’re right. When negotiations with Ankara began, Brussels set out 35 chapters of EU law for Ankara to discharge before a final vote on accession can be taken, but France, Greece, and Cyprus have repeatedly blocked the opening of many of these chapters.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have been at the forefront of opposing full Turkish membership in the EU, proposing instead a privileged partnership between Ankara and Brussels. Turkish leaders have dismissed this proposal as insulting, because Turkey already enjoys a privileged relationship with the EU. There is a pervasive sense in Ankara that the EU is negotiating in bad faith. The Turkish government has undertaken significant reforms to align itself more closely with law, but the feeling that Brussels may not be serious about Turkey’s eventual accession has led to disenchantment with the EU. Favorable polling toward the EU currently stands at just 22 percent.

    But Brussels cannot be entirely to blame. On critical issues, especially on energy and the Middle East, Turkey currently stands at odds with the United States and Europe. Ankara’s vote against sanctioning Iran at the U.N. last month sent shock-waves through Turkey’s traditional allies, especially Israel and the U.S. Turkish foreign policy has displayed elements of creeping Islamization as a new, more religiously observant political and social elite is increasingly challenging the traditional, secularist Kemalist elite’s dominance of Turkish political life. Replacing Turkey’s long-held pro-NATO and pro-U.S. policies, Ankara is slowly fashioning a closer relationship with Russia and the Middle East.

    The EU hasn’t done right by Turkey, and Cameron is right to want an increased trade relationship with Ankara. Turkish membership of the EU’s Customs Union—where it enjoys preferential access to EU markets and free trade in certain products—really makes sense only if accession to the alliance is imminent. Therefore, the EU should adopt a full and comprehensive free trade agreement with Turkey to replace the customs union agreement as part of a broader Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area (EMFTA). Enhancing trade among Turkey, the EU, and the other members of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership would invariably bring greater prosperity and regional stability.

    For its part, the United States should also seek to revitalize the strategic relationship between Washington and Turkey, warning the Turkish government that support for the Iranian nuclear program and continuing confrontation with Israel undermines the foundations of U.S.–Turkish relations and jeopardizes military and intelligence cooperation. The Obama Administration should mediate the repair of ties between Ankara and Jerusalem while encouraging Turkey to play a significant role in conflict resolution in its neighborhood, especially the Caucasus. Europe and the U.S. should also expand energy cooperation with Turkey, especially on the Nabucco, Turkmenistan–Azerbaijani, and Iraq–Turkey gas pipelines, excluding Iranian oil and gas exports.

    On its current trajectory, Turkey’s traditional strategic relationship with the West is likely to be replaced with a looser affiliation as Turkey enters into a closer alignment with Iran and other Middle Eastern powers hostile to U.S. leadership. The United States and NATO should not stand idly by watching this happen. The U.S. in concert with its European allies needs to address the serious differences that are emerging and encourage Turkey to be a strong regional partner, not a competitor.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to How to Win Turkey

    1. Rob, Delaware says:

      Is Turkey showing sympathies towards Iran and the Arab nations because it feels jilted by the EU? Perhaps inclusion in the EU would strengthen its ties to the West. I don't know much about this, but perhaps looking at how its NATO membership affected its relationship with the West. (Although I don't know if the context of the Cold War would make this example less analagous.)

      And how does the issue of the Kurds work into this? Isn't that one of the purported reasons why the EU has denied Turkey membership?

      Interesting article! Thanks for posting it. :-D

    2. George says:

      Britain and the UK want to get Turkey into the EU for their own selfish interests. A Turkey into the EU will serve better the UK – USA alliance by keeping the EU weak and disoriented in such a way that the EU will never attain an independent voice on its own but will follow whatever the United States dictates and that will happen only with the inside help of the UK that usually finds itself in a different position than most EU states especially in matters of foreign policy. Having Turkey a Muslim country of 80 million with a completely different culture, values and interest into the EU the cacophony of voices among the Europeans will dramatically increase in such a way that in the end the whole European project will disintegrate and collapse. If the US and the UK want better relations with the Muslim world by creating bridges (the excuse they give to people for Turkeys acceptance into the EU) then they should watch and direct their foreign policy towards the Muslims in a much different way than they do now and they should not try to sacrifice Europeans future for their own failed policies toward the Muslim world. In short they should go themselves to the Muslims and sort things out, but they should not bring them to Europe en masse for their own veined and miss oriented gain.

    3. Fred says:

      How can one "revitalize" the relationship with Turkey by threatening them? I'm not sure that the author really grasps the reality of the situation. Turkey, an ally, and a member of NATO, who spent the better part of the 20th Century on the front lines for the United States against the Soviet Union, is now being told to carry out what we fancy vs. what they view as their interests? It's no wonder that the Turks are moving so quickly towards the development of a nuclear weapon — clearly the trust between our two nations is continuing to quickly evaporate.

      Moreover, mediating the relationship between Jerusalem and Ankara? To what degree? As many people at the Heritage Foundation are absolutely convinced that Israel will attack Iran's nuclear program, hasn't someone thought that Israel will probably fix that themselves as they need that airspace in order to accomplish the former?

      This relationship has been completely mismanaged for some time now, and the author suggests that we make it worse by issuing a veiled ultimatum to a nation that we need at the present time, far more than it needs us. Not understanding leverage (especially in a situation like this) is a dangerous thing. Ignoring leverage to satisfy one's emotional agenda however, borders on malfeasance.

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