The NATO Foreign Ministers have met in Antalya, Turkey, instead of Brussels. Various public diplomacy activities were organized as well. I think this is great, as Turkey is at a NATO “front-line” and has also been drifting away from the West as the AKP policies and public opinion polls by the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Trends have shown in recent years. Thus, any policy or gesture to reverse the trend is welcome.
What has been going viral from the meeting, however, is something else. A video of senior leaders singing “We are the World,” often with critical comments:
Will Turkey side with the United States, its NATO ally, and let more U.S. military ships into the Black Sea to assist Georgia? Or will it choose Russia? A Turkish refusal would seriously impair American efforts to support the beleaguered Caucasus republic. Ever since Turkey joined NATO in 1952, it has hoped to never have to make a choice between the alliance and its Russian neighbor to the North. Yet that is precisely the decision before Ankara. If Turkey does not allow the ships through, it will essentially be taking Russia's side. (...)
Bulent Kenes opines in Today’s Zaman that US support for Turkey’s military operations against the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) is a breakthrough for Turkish sovereignty:
During the years of the Cold War, there could be nothing more normal for Turkey, an ally of the US, than to conform to the global policies determined by the US, the super power of the Western bloc that it belonged to in the bipolar system. However, the US wanted to maintain this habit even after the end of the bipolar system when the Cold War ended... Turkey was, of course, placing importance on its relations with the US and alliance in this new era, but the thing to which it attached a greater importance was the fact that it was a sovereign country. Therefore, Turkey was no longer “a bird in hand” for the US and was endeavoring to become a country which was treated as an equal party at the negotiation table.
Today’s Zaman also reports that Turkey will not join the International Criminal Court in the foreseeable future, despite pressure from the EU to do so:
Noting that the US also opposes the statute's ratification, Justice Ministry officials assert that the court may be called to prosecute Turkish officers who participate in cross-border operations against the PKK in northern Iraq.
I wonder how this will affect Turkey’s accession to the EU? The EU did not set Turkish ICC membership as a mandatory precursor for EU membership, but Turkey’s decision to stay out of the court will undoubtedly provide fuel for the anti-Turkey fire burning across Europe.
Does Turkey see the US as a more reliable partner than Europe?
First, in an ideal world this question would not need to be asked since Turkey is a member of NATO, and all NATO members are presumed to be reliable allies. When you are done laughing at how far from the truth this is (see my previous post War for Dummies for more), here are some initial thoughts to the question:
While US and Turkish cooperation against the PKK is probably more circumstantial rather than signifying some greater paradigm shift as Kenes suggests, it is nonetheless a positive step for US-Turkey relations after they hit a low leading up to the Iraq war. Concomitantly, Euro-Turkey relations continue to decline as Turkey becomes increasingly frustrated with its spurious EU accession process. I especially think Turkey has little chance of accession to the EU with the influential anti-Turk Sarkozy as Frances’ president.
So if current trends continue, Turkey will increasingly view the US as a more reliable partner than Europe.