I recently wrote two different but related articles about Turkey’s ties with the west which can be found here and here. I have come to the view that there is no longer a basis for strategic relations between the West and Turkey. This does not mean that I am advocating that the US and Europe cut diplomatic and economic ties with Turkey, far from it. Trade away! However, I am arguing that there should not be a security component between North America, Europe and Turkey.
Follow my logic.
Strategic alliances are built on mutual concerns over shared security threats. From the perspective of Turkey’s government, its main threats are the Gulen movement (FETO in the parlance of the Turkish government) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Note that both of these organisations are primarily Turkish internal non-state actors with transnational connections. However, from the perspective of the West, the PKK and the Gulen movement are not threats at all. It is not a PKK terrorist attack or the goings on in a Gulenist school that keep leaders in Washington, Paris, London or Berlin awake at night. In fact, the PKK’s sister organisation in Syria is considered an asset against ISIS which the West’s main enemy along with Russia. So, where’s the basis for strategic cooperation? I hold there are none.
As Turkey moves away from the West’s orbit based on its own security calculations (which Ankara is fully entitled to do), Turkey seems less like a strategic partner. The fact that Turkey is a NATO member only makes matters worse. As my articles suggest, Turkey doesn’t really offer its NATO allies that much by way of security anymore. Lax border controls during the Syria crisis until 2016, closer ties with Russia marked by intent to purchase Russian S400s, fighting the YPG, these do not contribute to the West’s security. If anything, they hinder them.
Again, this doesn't mean that trade can’t continue or other forms of cooperation. Perhaps if politicians on both sides are honest with each other and discount the strategic fallacy of their relations, the value of trade might actually increase. That is, of course, if human rights are brushed under the carpet in bilateral meetings and discussions. Kind of like China.
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