The Decline of Turkish-American Relations under the Bush Administration and Opportunities for the Final Two Years

By Maxey, Melissa | Insight Turkey, January 2007 | Go to article overview

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.

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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.

Methodology

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. …

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