The Decline of Turkish-American Relations under the Bush Administration and Opportunities for the Final Two Years
Maxey, Melissa, Insight Turkey
Turkey and the United States are close historic allies. Turkish-American relations have, of course, not been perfect. Two main issues have caused small problems throughout the duration of the partnership. Yet the relationship did begin to change under the administration of American President George W. Bush. The United States must shift its policy toward Turkey to stop the downward direction of relations. It must respond to Turkish internal and external pressures. To succeed it needs to work towards resolutions of current and past problems and allow Turkey to fully develop its own leadership role and position as a prominent member of the Europe and the Middle East.
Turkey and the United States are close historic allies. During World War II, Turkey participated on the Allied side and received financial and military aid from the United States and the United Kingdom. (1) Following the war the United States continued supporting Turkey under the Truman Doctrine. (2) During the Cold War Turkey remained a strong ally of the United States, assisting it in the Korean War in the early 1950s, joining North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952, and becoming host to Incirlik military base in 1954. (3) Turkey further benefited from American anti-Soviet policies under the Eisenhower doctrine in 1957. (4)
Turkish-American relations have, of course, not been perfect. Two main issues have caused small problems throughout the duration of the partnership. When Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 the United States stopped military aid to Turkey, which, in turn, prohibited all American non-NATO related military activities within Turkey. The pause in military aid and operations lasted until 1978, after which relations returned to normal, although the issue of Cyprus still causes some sporadic, but not as serious, tension between the two states. The issues of the Armenian Genocide, allegedly perpetrated by Turkey from 1915 to 1916, also created, and still creates, periodic problems for its friendship with the United States. This event, however, has not caused as much difficulty with the United States as it has with European states and the European Union. These few difficulties have not detracted from the overwhelming tendency toward friendship and cooperation that has been established and wisely cultivated by the two states.
Despite the fact that the Cold War acted as one of the primary reasons for the great strengthening and development of Turkish-American relations, the implosion of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War and the resulting change of the international political structure did not change the positive and cooperative nature of that relationship. Under the administrations of American Presidents George H. Bush and William Clinton and the Turkish administrations of Suleyman Demirel, Tansu Ciller, Mesut, Yilmaz, Necmettin Erbakan, and Bulent Ecevit, American-Turkish relations continued to strengthen as Turkey sought regional leadership and a stronger international position and the United States sought a stable cooperative regional partner.
Yet the relationship did begin to change under the administration of American President George W. Bush and his Turkish counterparts Abdullah Gul and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (and the last two years of Ecevit's administration to a lesser extent). The Bush Administration has presided over and facilitated the most drastic and negative shift in the history of Turkish-American relations and must alter its foreign policy regarding Turkey if it is to recover Turkey as the valuable regional partner it has consistently been.
This paper will present information detailing the continued strength and closeness of relations between the United States and Turkey during the American administrations of George H. Bush and William Clinton. It will show the subsequent decline of relations under the George W. Bush Administration and the coinciding rule of the Turkish Justice and Development Party. It will analyze the relationship between the two states at the state level, focusing especially on the internal changes within Turkey. It will also approach the relationship at the international level, focusing on the response of American foreign policy to the domestic developments in Turkey and on Turkey's regional position and the part it plays in American foreign policy.
Following the descriptive and explanatory analysis, this paper will present several prescriptions for the future of American foreign policy vis-a-vis Turkey. The intention of the section containing policy recommendations is to offer methods to stop the decline in Turkish-American relations that has taken place under the Bush Administration and to begin to reverse that trend within the remaining two years of that administration. Research for the paper will be based primarily on scholarly journals, statements and speeches by political officials, public polls, government documents, and news articles, the combination of which provides a good amount of both primary and secondary source information.
Turkey as a partner of the United States
Following the Cold War the primary function and importance of the continued partnership between the United States and Turkey remained preserving the strategic regional security alliance. Yet, instead of centering on countering the international threat posed by the Soviet Union, the security alliance was perpetuated for other reasons. Turkey sought to continue the already strong friendship because it strengthened its regional and, to some extent, its international position. The United States saw the preservation of good relations as beneficial because it gave it a strong and relatively stable regional ally with an important strategic location.
Turkish-American relations under American Presidents George H. Bush and William Clinton continued to strengthen and expand. During the last half of the first President Bush's Administration, Turkey was a cooperative partner of the United States in international affairs. During the Gulf War Turkey publicly supported the war and even permitted the United States to launch part of Operation Desert Storm from Incirlik base. (5) In order to assist in isolating Saddam Hussein Turkey shut down the Kirkuk to Ceyhan oil pipeline in southeastern Turkey, which provided a significant amount of income and oil to Turkey. (6) The Turkish Government absorbed an enormous financial burden and much domestic political unrest in order to assist in the Gulf War and the subsequent embargos against Iraq. Both of these efforts on the part of Turkey were extremely beneficial to the Turkish-American partnership. (7)
Turkey also participated with the Bush Administration in Operation Northern Watch, accepting almost 500,000 Kurdish refugees from Iraq in 1991 before it had to close its borders because it could not take in that many refugees at once. (8) Although this undoubtedly added to the Kurdish problem in Turkey, it is a definite demonstration of the Turkish commitment to the Gulf War efforts and to assisting in American or American-led operations.
During the early 1990s Turkey also started to take on a larger role in the preservation of Central Asian regional security and economic development. Its interests conveniently coincided with those of the United States in the region: economic development, free trade, stability, and security. (9) Turkey acted in its own interest but also as a regional proxy of the United States to help reach these goals. Due to its control of the strategic waterways out of the Black Sea and of one of the possible (and probably the most safe) land routes from the Caspian Sea region, Turkey began to play an important role in the transport of natural resources, negotiating deals to begin construction of pipelines in the later 1990s. (10)
The Turkish-American partnership continued to be strong and mutually beneficial throughout the Clinton Administration. The United States helped assuage Turkish fears of American leniency concerning Kurdish terrorists. Several former American officials have confirmed that the United States assisted Turkey in fighting the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) and capturing Abdullah Ocalan in 1999. (11) The United States gained much confidence from Turkey by providing Turkey with information to help find and apprehend Ocalan. (12) This helped prove the sincerity of American assertions that it considered the PKK a terrorist organization and would help Turkey fight against it.
Turkey and the United States also cooperated closely on other military operations. Turkey sent troops as part of the International Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Additionally, it sent troops as part of the Kosovo Force to help maintain security in Kosovo. (13) These episodes are a demonstration of the increasing cooperation and strategic importance of Turkey to the United States and of Turkey's desire and willingness to cooperate with American and European partners to increase its role in the region and internationally.
Turkish-American relations also grew stronger as a result of the increase in excellent public diplomatic relations. President Clinton was extremely interactive with the Turkish Government and with the Turkish population. The United States not only provided substantial financial and material assistance to Turkey after the August, 1999, earthquake in Izmit, but President Clinton made a four-day personal visit to the affected area to meet with some of the victims. (14) In the minds of Turkish citizens such actions present a picture of goodwill and friendship that creates significant public support for strong ties to the United States. (15)
During this time Turkey's foreign policy was also similar to that of the United States regarding key regional issues. Important to many dissenters within the Muslim and Arab worlds, Turkey established stronger ties with Israel, concluding a military cooperation agreement in 1996, and also agreements increasing their interaction in the private sectors, such as tourism, finance, and education. (16) Additionally, Turkey refrained from close interactions and ties to states that were seen as hostile to itself and to the United States, such as Iran and Syria. (17)
Transition during the early Bush Administration years
The increasingly positive tone of Turkish-American relations began to falter slightly in the first two years of the administration of George W. Bush. Turkey remained a solid partner of the United States in some regional and international actions spearheaded by the Bush Administration. The biggest instance of this is Turkey's consistent and active participation in, and leadership of, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Created by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386 in December, 2001, the multi-national International Security Assistance Force was established to help rebuild Afghanistan, especially in the domestic security sector. (18) As the only Muslim state to participate in the operation in Afghanistan, Turkey set itself out as a regional leader and as a strong ally of the United States and Europe. (19) Turkey not only participated in the Force, but led it during part of its operation. (20)
Despite this significant example of cooperation, the usually positive nature of Turkish-American relations began to decline beginning under the first Bush Administration. Part of this is a result of the poor public diplomacy of President Bush, especially compared to that of President Clinton. During his first term in office, President Bush visited Turkey only once for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization conference, which was not until June, 2004. (21) His image, from quite early in his first term, has been consistently negative in the eyes of the Turkish populace. (22)
The primary source of the development of animosity of the Turkish people and Government toward the United States is the war in Iraq. The increase in tension and hostility between the United States and Iraq started during the first two years of the first Bush Administration. (23) This development and the resulting pressure the United States put on its regional and other allies to join its international diplomatic struggle against Iraq, significantly decreased the popularity of the Bush Administration in Turkey. (24) From the beginning of American efforts to gain support for military action, Turkey actively opposed it, even appealing directly to Saddam Hussein to cooperate with weapons inspectors in early 2002 in an attempt to prevent a military conflict. (25)
The shift from partner to ally is completed
After approximately the middle of President Bush's first administration the Turkish-American partnership started to weaken quite rapidly. This was the result of several developments both domestically within Turkey and in its relationships with Europe and the United States over several issues. The rise to power of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, the United States-led invasion of Iraq, the regional issue of the Kurdish population and its nationalism/separatism, and Turkey's bid to enter the European Union have all had a negative impact upon Turkish-American relations.
The election of the Adalet ve Kalkinma, or the Justice and Development Party, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2003, significantly changed the domestic political situation. (26) Although Prime Minister Erdogan has been in high government positions prior to this, the Justice and Development Party, as a whole, has never led the Turkish government before. The Party has a very conservative Islamist element that stems from the banned Refah, or Welfare, Party, the former party of Erdogan. (27) As a result, it has shifted Turkey's orientation more towards a favorable position with its Arab and Muslim neighbors.
The United States, on the other hand, dislikes the attention Turkey has been giving to some of its neighbors in the past few years, specifically the cooperation and friendship it has extended towards states the United States perceives as hostile or threatening. It would like its traditional ally to stand with it against members of the "axis of evil" and, for instance, actively oppose Iran's development of nuclear power. There have even been reports that government officials from the United States have offered increased financial assistance to Turkey if it aligns with American foreign policies regarding Iran. (28) The United States sees both Iran and Syria as the most destabilizing and dangerous states in the region and has accused them both of supporting terrorism.
Turkey under the Justice and Development Party has resisted these overtures, however, and moved even closer to some of its neighbors that are more antagonistic toward the United States, such as Syria, Iran, and Palestine. For example, Turkey has increased its exchange of high-level officials with these states, with Prime Minister Erdogan visiting both Syria and Iran in 2004, President Sezer also visiting in 2005, and Syrian President Bashar Assad visiting Ankara in 2004. (29) These meetings created further tension by fostering a perception among American officials that Turkey was not acting consistently against terrorists: demanding that all possible actions be taken by any involved parties against the Kurdistan Worker's Party, while not being firm with Syria, for example, concerning its alleged involvement with Hezbollah. (30)
Yet, Turkey has continued to significantly strengthen its diplomatic ties and overall relationship with Syria, even after Syria became increasingly isolated internationally following its alleged involvement in the assassination of Lebanese leader Rafiq Hariri. Turkey maintains this friendship as a way to be a leader in the struggle for regional stability.
Turkey has also increased its connections to Iran, a definite shift away from maintaining a similar policy to the United States. Turkey and Iran have developed a large number of economic ties, including Turkey's purchasing of natural gas from Iran and the beginning of projects for mutual transport of natural resources. (31) Additionally, Turkey signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Iran on security issues and cooperation. (32) They each agreed to list primarily domestic terrorist organizations operating in the other's territory on their own domestic terrorist lists. (33)
Turkey is also similarly positioned regarding the Kurdish issue as are Iran and Syria, which has led to increased cooperation between them since the American invasion of Iraq. All three states have significant domestic Kurdish populations: over 14 million Kurds live in Turkey, mostly in the southeast; just under five million reside in Iran, primarily in the north and west; and approximately half a million live in Syria, in the north and northeastern. (34) Furthermore, the foreign policies of Iran and Syria coincide with that of Turkey regarding the strength of the Kurdish zone in Iraq; they consider an independent Kurdish state (or even too strong of an autonomous Kurdish region) in northern Iraq one of the worst possible outcomes to the situation in Iraq. (35)
Under the leadership of the Justice and Development Party, Turkey has also strained its relationship with Israel. In 2004, for example, Erdogan called Israeli actions in Palestine, specifically the assassinations of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantisi, as terrorism, which led to a significant public condemnation on the part of Israel. (36) Nearly simultaneously, Turkey has developed a good working relationship with some Palestinian groups that are seen as threatening to Israel and regional stability, such as Hamas. (37) In February, 2006, Khaled Meshaal, an exiled Hamas leader, visited Turkey, further signaling its desire to shift into a strong regional leadership position (in which a pro-Palestinian, but not necessarily anti-Israel, approach is necessary). (38) While developing this connection projects Turkey into an automatic position of increased importance within in the region, it also led to enormous tension with Israel and threats by Israel to the military and economic ties between the two states. (39) Israeli officials described the Turks' welcoming of Meshaal as equivalent to Israel inviting Abdullah Ocalan to Israel, which, obviously, angered Turkish officials and citizenry.
Another problem over which the Turkish-American partnership has weakened significantly is the American-led invasion of Iraq, which constitutes the most pronounced disagreement between American and Turkish foreign policies in recent history (perhaps since the dispute over Cyprus in 1974). (40) Before the beginning of the invasion, the United States requested the right to deploy forces, specifically the Fourth Infantry Division, from Incirlik air base in southeastern Iraq. (41) The Turkish Parliament rejected that request on March 1, 2003, a move which marked the lowest point in modern Turkish-American relations and from which both states are still trying to recover. (42)
The Justice and Development Party-led government is one cause of the extreme backlash against the war in Turkey. Most elements within the Party have not favored the military intervention since the beginning of the conflict, even characterizing American plans as similar to the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
An even bigger motivation behind the Turkish objection to the war lies in the domestic threat posed to Turkey by the Kurdistan Worker's Party. Turkey wants to eliminate all links the Iraqi Kurds have to the Kurdish terrorist elements in Turkey in order to undercut the PKK's ability to operate domestically. (43) Furthermore, Turkey seeks to protect those Turks living in northern Iraq. Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu has stated that a large portion of northern Iraq, including cities such as Kirkuk and Mosul, properly belong to the Turks residing in the region. (44) The Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party responded to this statement by threatening the lives of Turks and saying it would create a "graveyard" for the Turks in northern Iraq. (45)
Turkey has also entered the dispute over control of some northern Iraqi cities. The status of the city of Kirkuk is set to be decided by a referendum in 2007 and it is anticipated that it will remain a Kurdish controlled city instead of a city controlled by Turkmen. Turkey objected to the referendum saying that Kirkuk had always been a city of Turks. Of course, the extent to which this dispute was undertaken as a genuine effort to protect people to whom Turkey has cultural ties may be hard to tell, especially given the large oil reserves in and around the city. As a result of interactions such as this Turkey is understandably nervous about the existence of an autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region bordering its own troubled southern Turkish Kurdish region.
Turkey has become even more apprehensive about the issue as a result of the American utilization of Iraqi Kurdish cooperation in the invasion of Iraq. When the United States requested permission to launch part of its forces into Iraq from Incirlik, it also asked the Turkish Armed Forces to stop military actions against the Kurds on the border of Iraq and Turkey and in northern Iraq because the United States needed Kurdish cooperation. The Turkish Parliament rejected that request as it did the first one. Although the United States has publicly agreed with Turkey that an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq would not be in the best interest of the region, Turkey is still apprehensive due to American support of Iraqi Kurds. Moreover, Turkey objects to the double standard being carried out by the United States regarding terrorist organizations: it believes the U.S. should be completely supportive of Turkey's battle against the PKK.
Yet what Turkey is observing is that the Kurds have gained much power and control since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, partially with the assistance of the United States. They have a large amount of autonomy in northern Iraq and they hold key positions in the Iraqi Government and, as a result, have gained a stronger international voice, especially in the United States. This has not, however, stopped Turkey from seeking to alter the situation on the ground in northern Iraq and has probably encouraged it to intervene more. Turkey still supports the Iraqi Turkmen Front and in July, 2003, it had special operations forces in Sulaymaniyah that were reportedly acting against local Kurdish political leaders. (46) The United States arrested these troops, sparking widespread Turkish domestic objections to it and the broader war in Iraq.
In addition to the domestic national leadership of the Justice and Development Party and Turkey's fears of a strengthened Kurdish movement in northern Iraq that would assist Turkey's domestic dissident and terrorist groups, the American-Turkish relationship has also been affected by Turkey's campaign for membership in the European Union. This has led it to shift its foreign policies more in line with European Union states instead of the United States.
Turkey has shifted its foreign policies on issues such as Israel, Syria, Iran, and the Iraq War to align more with those of European states. For example, Turkey took a non-confrontational position on the invasion of Iraq, consistent with the positions of European Union members. (47) Furthermore, it has also been shifting toward the European Union in its willingness to accommodate and compromise with Iran on issues related to nuclear power development. In regards to Israel, Prime Minister Erdogan made the policy shift vis-a-vis Israel quite blatant when he called it (and the United States) state terrorists. The increased closeness of relations between Turkey and Syria has been noted elsewhere, but is also indicative of a shift toward more European-like positions.
Further adding to the increased tension between the United States and Turkey is the United States' failure to maintain the positive public diplomatic contact with Turkey that was cultivated and expanded under the Clinton Administration. For the majority of the Bush Administration public diplomatic engagements have been distant and unfriendly. President Bush has visited Turkey only twice since taking office. The first trip took place in the summer of 2004 when President Bush attended a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Aside from participating in the conference, President Bush spoke with high-level political officials and only made one public address, which was to a small audience at a private university.
The second trip President Bush made to Turkey occurred in June, 2005. This visit received just as much negative attention in the Turkish media as the first one and opposition to both visits can be seen as reflecting, at least in part, negative popular opinion of the Bush Administration in Turkey. (48) A 2004 PEW study found that the Turkish population had a mostly unfavorable view of President Bush, with only four percent of the population expressing a very favorable opinion of him. (49) Furthermore, 82 percent of the population thought President Bush's reelection would have negative international repercussions. (50) Also, another PEW report of the same year found that the majority of those surveyed distrusted the Bush Administrations motivations and stated reasons for going to war in Iraq. (51)
Recognizing that the usually positive relations between Turkey and the U.S. have been extremely poor lately, the Bush and Erdogan Administrations have begun making some slight changes aimed at improving the tense situation. First, and quite significantly considering the strong Turkish opposition to the invasion of Iraq, in May, 2006, Turkey approved a plan allowing the United States to begin transporting cargo, but only cargo, through Incirlik to Iraq. (52)
Beginning in mid-2005 high-level American political officials began visiting Turkey. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit in February, 2005, was the first visit of a senior official to Turkey since the increase in tensions between the two states (excluding President Bush's visit to what should be considered NATO and not an actual visit to Turkey). (53) In June, 2005, Prime Minister Erdogan visited the United States to meet with President Bush concerning "strategic relations." (54) In addition, several high level American military officers visited Turkey throughout the remainder of 2005. (55)
President Bush's visit to Turkey in June, 2006, was an extremely important trip. This meeting was arranged in recognition of the severe decline in Turkish-American relations and specifically to attempt to improve and revitalize them. (56) While it did receive much criticism in the Turkish media, it should still be seen as a positive step on behalf of the Bush Administration to change its policy concerning Turkey. Yet, while this and the other small changes discussed have signified a shift in the negative direction of relations, there is still much more room for improvement.
The Final Two Years of the Bush Administration
The United States cannot afford to lose Turkey as a close ally; it is too strategically important in relation to the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caspian Sea Region. To prevent the continued deterioration of the once firm partnership, the United States must alter its foreign policy and make several changes including addressing the immediate security concerns and any unsettled disagreements, facilitating Turkey's development of ties to Europe, and the overall revitalization of Turkish-American relations, especially in the sphere of public diplomacy and public opinion.
First, immediate disagreements need to be addressed and settled, especially the Kurdish issue. The United States needs to do everything it can to ensure the survival and success of an Iraqi government that is inclusive of the Iraqi Kurdish population. This should lessen the likelihood of and need for an autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq. If the Iraqi Kurds are permitted an autonomous region there is a chance that they will eventually become completely independent, which would encourage Kurdish dissident groups in Turkey to continue to campaign for their own autonomy or independence. If the United States continues to give significant levels of support to the Iraqi Kurds, Turkey will continue to see this as a threat to its own domestic stability, which would prevent a mending of the relationship between it and the United States.
The United States must also allow Turkey to have some participation in the protection of Turkmen in Northern Iraq or it is likely that Turkey will continue its clandestine operations on their behalf against Kurds in that region. Simultaneously, the United States needs to address the problem with of the PKK in Iraq, seeking its full cooperation. While it has taken a stance against the group as a terrorist organization, it needs to put more pressure on influential Iraqi Kurds to prevent any PKK operations in the state. It needs to reassure Turkey that it is doing everything it can to combat the terrorist organization that Turkey perceives as its biggest domestic threat. The United States should also encourage open and frequent dialogue between Iraqi Kurdish leaders and Turkey centering on the subject of the PKK.
Older disagreements should also be permanently settled as they create much tension when relations are at a low point. These issues are the situation in Cyprus and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The United States should do all that it can to encourage Greece to accept negotiations and reconsider a plan along the lines of the Annan plan that it rejected in 2005. The Bush Administration needs to try to prevent any more anti-Turkish bills from entering the American Congress. It needs to promote bilateral communication between Armenia and Turkey, in relation to the genocide and to broader issues, such as economics and development, which would allow the two states to cooperate more on other issues, providing the foundation for cooperation on more difficult issues. The United States should also support Turkey's efforts to establish a multiparty group of scholars to examine the issue of the alleged Armenian genocide in Turkey. (57) Turkey has offered to allow full access to such a group of researchers in order to enable them to facilitate a strong and final resolution to the dispute.
The United States should facilitate Turkey's rise as a regional leader and its association with Europe. Securing its position as a regional leader will enable it to be a moderating influence on some of its more hostile neighbors. It will give the United States a strong regional ally that is a model of democracy and has good relations with all of its neighbors. Also, as Turkey clearly has disagreements over regional issues with the United States, unwavering partnership despite these differences will also prevent more critical states from accusing Turkey of allowing its foreign policy to be dictated by the United States. It will allow Turkey to be simultaneously an independent regional leader and a successful mediator between the United States and various states in the Middle East.
Additionally, the United States should not seek to deter Turkish foreign relations with its neighbors just because those neighbors happen to be more hostile to the United States. The United States should take into account the internal considerations that Turkey needs to secure through relations with its neighbors, such as the economic cooperation it needs to preserve through friendly relations with Iran. It will not be best served by following the United States down a path of diplomacy designed to isolate Iran.
Concerning Turkey's ascension to the European Union, the United States should continue and increase its lobbying in support of Turkish membership. The United States should use its strong ties with many European states to help minimize the objections or assuage the fears of those states objecting to Turkey's membership. Joining with European states to encourage Cyprus to accept a resolution to its dispute with Turkey is one such area in which the United States could be more active.
The United States should make an effort to revitalize relations with Turkey and create the momentum and focus needed for the strengthening of relations. This could be done partially through increased connections and openness on all levels of society, from government to the private sector. This could also be achieved from explicitly recognizing and maintaining constant dialogue about the common concerns the two states have, such as regional stability of the Middle East and of Central Asia, combating terrorism, and increasing economic development.
Of equal importance, this revitalization should occur through a concerted effort to alter Turkish public opinion through the positive use of public diplomacy. There is a need for more public oriented, interactive, and humanitarian-based visits of high level American officials to Turkey. This strategy made President Clinton quite a popular world leader in the opinion of the Turkish populace. The Bush Administration should seek to emulate this.
Prior to President Bush recent American Administrations have had good relations with the Turkish governments. Especially under Presidents George H. Bush and William Clinton, American and Turkish foreign policies consisted of mostly commonalities. In the first two years of the George W. Bush Administration the strong partnership between the two states began to falter and wane.
The close partnership devolved into the status of mere allies under the second half of the Bush Administration through until the present. Internal changes in the government of Turkey, coupled with the United States-led invasion of Iraq, the regional issue of the Kurdish population and nationalism/separatism, and Turkey's bid to enter the European Union led to this decline in relations and the increased tensions between the two states.
The Justice and Development Party created a stronger Islamist trend in the Turkish government and caused it to alter several of its previously consistent and American-supported foreign, and especially regional, relations. The disagreement over the invasion of Iraq and the American cooperation with Kurds during that invasion has widened the rift between the U.S. and Turkey states due to Turkish fears of strong Kurdish political organizations in Northern Iraq. Turkish-American relations have also gotten colder as Turkey has campaigned for membership in the European Union, shifting its foreign policies to align more with those of European Union states.
The United States must shift its policy toward Turkey to stop the downward direction of relations. It must respond to Turkish internal and external pressures. To succeed it needs to work towards resolutions of current and past problems and allow Turkey to fully develop its own leadership role and position as a prominent member of the Europe and the Middle East. Finally, the United States must devote a significant amount of effort to improving the public diplomatic contact it has with Turkey and increasing Turkish public opinion in support of the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration should use the two years it has left to begin enacting some of these shifts in policy in order to start recovering Turkey as a strong, strategic partner.
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Melissa Maxey is a graduate student at California State University, San Bernardino.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Decline of Turkish-American Relations under the Bush Administration and Opportunities for the Final Two Years. Contributors: Maxey, Melissa - Author. Journal title: Insight Turkey. Volume: 9. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2007. Page number: 18+. © 2008 SETA Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.