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13/11/2018

Neither Friend nor Foe The Future of U.S.-Turkey Relations

Steven A. Cook

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. Founded in 1921, CFR carries out its mission by maintaining a diverse membership, with special programs to promote interest and develop expertise in the next generation of foreign policy leaders; convening meetings at its headquarters in New York and in Washington, DC, and other cities where senior government officials, members of Congress, global leaders, and prominent thinkers come together with Council members to discuss and debate major international issues; supporting a Studies Program that fosters independent research, enabling CFR scholars to produce articles, reports, and books and hold roundtables that analyze foreign policy issues and make concrete policy recommendations; publishing Foreign Affairs, the preeminent journal on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy; sponsoring Independent Task Forces that produce reports with both findings and policy prescriptions on the most important foreign policy topics; and providing up-to-date information and analysis about world events and American foreign policy on its website, CFR.org. The Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional positions on policy issues and has no affiliation with the U.S. government. All views expressed in its publications and on its website are the sole responsibility of the author or authors. Council Special Reports (CSRs) are concise policy briefs, produced to provide a rapid response to a developing crisis or contribute to the public’s understanding of current policy dilemmas. CSRs are written by individual authors—who may be CFR fellows or acknowledged experts from outside the institution—in consultation with an advisory committee, and are intended to take sixty days from inception to publication. The committee serves as a sounding board and provides feedback on a draft report. It usually meets twice—once before a draft is written and once again when there is a draft for review; however, advisory committee members, unlike Task Force members, are not asked to sign off on the report or to otherwise endorse it. Once published, CSRs are posted on CFR.org. For further information about CFR or this Special Report, please write to the Council on Foreign Relations, 58 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10065, or call the Communications office at 212.434.9888. Visit our website, CFR.org. Copyright © 2018 by the Council on Foreign Relations ®, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. This report may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form beyond the reproduction permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law Act (17 U.S.C. Sections 107 and 108) and excerpts by reviewers for the public press, without express written permission from the Council on Foreign Relations. To submit a letter in response to a Council Special Report for publication on our website, CFR.org, you may send an email to CSReditor@cfr.org. Alternatively, letters may be mailed to us at: Publications Department, Council on Foreign Relations, 58 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10065. Letters should include the writer’s name, postal address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published online. Please do not send attachments. All letters become the property of the Council on Foreign Relations and will not be returned. We regret that, owing to the volume of correspondence, we cannot respond to every letter. This report is printed on paper that is FSC ® Chain-of-Custody Certified by a printer who is certified by BM TRADA North America Inc.

INTRODUCTION

Since the 1950s, U.S. presidents have recognized Turkey as a critical ally. Throughout the Cold War, close U.S.-Turkish security cooperation played an important role in containing the Soviet Union. Despite difficulties throughout the decades of partnership, the overarching threat that the Soviets posed to both countries ensured that these crises, problems, and irritants never broke the bilateral relationship or Turkey’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership. The legacy of this Cold War partnership continues to frame U.S. policy discussions about Turkey in which the country is routinely referred to as a strategic ally. Yet the United States and Turkey’s past alliance does not mean they will be partners in the future. The world has changed considerably since the Cold War ended. The transformations in global, U.S., and Turkish politics over the last three decades require a reevaluation of the U.S.-Turkey relationship. As difficult as bilateral relations have become under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), many of the problems in U.S.-Turkey ties are structural. Had Erdogan never come to power, there would still be a strain between Washington and Ankara. Turkish opposition politicians have been supportive of the Bashar al-Assad regime, are hostile to expressions of Kurdish nationalism, joined the AKP in demanding Fethullah Gulen’s extradition from the United States, and stoke anti-Americanism. Although some present and former U.S. policymakers continue to make the case that Turkey is a strategic partner and an anchor for stability, the evidence for these declarations is thin.1 The two countries do not share interests or values. Officials in Ankara have made it clear through their rhetoric and actions that the goals of American foreign policy conflict with Turkey’s interests. Turkish leaders are also suspicious of the United States, casting blame for the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and the failed July 15, 2016, coup d’état in part on the United States. As a result, Ankara has sought to diversify its foreign policy, forging stronger ties with Moscow and Tehran as well as attempting to repair its relations with the EU. Analysts and officials looking for a new and positive framework for bilateral ties are unlikely to find one. Instead, the basic assumption that should guide Washington in its approach to Ankara is that while Turkey remains formally a NATO ally, it is not a partner of the United States. The two countries are linked to each other by the Cold War, but with few common interests three decades after that conflict came to an end, the bilateral relationship is marked by ambivalence and mistrust. The strategic relationship is over, and going forward, cooperation between the countries will be limited and contingent on specific circumstances. Policymakers should regard Turkey as neither a friend of the United States nor as an enemy. In many areas, Turkey is a competitor and antagonist of the United States. As a result, American officials should abandon the intensive and often fruitless diplomatic efforts to convince Turkish policymakers to support the United States. Instead, the United States should not be reluctant—as it has been in the past— to oppose Turkey directly when Ankara undermines U.S. policy. In practical terms this means the United States should develop alternatives to Incirlik Air Base, suspend Turkey’s participation in the F-35 jet program, and continue to work with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to achieve its goals in Syria.

You can read the whole article here:

https://cfrd8-files.cfr.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/CSR82_Cook_Turkey.pdf

 

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