Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Determinants of Turkish-American Relations and Prospects for the Future

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Determinants of Turkish-American Relations and Prospects for the Future

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT This article analyzes the fluctuating course of the Turkey-U.S. relationship with a special focus on Barack Hussein Obama's presidency. When Obama held office, he aimed at reinventingU.S.' image and shifting center of gravity from the Middle East to Asia-Pacific. These led U.S. to develop its relations with its allies in the region to provide the course of politics go along with the American geostrategic goals. Obama suggested a "model partnership" concept to draw a line between his Administration's and that of his predecessorGeorge W. Bush. Differences of opinion, however, meant the concept did not go beyond being a surface change. Ultimately, two problems remained unsolved; the FETO leader's ongoing residence in U.S. and American support for YPG/PYD in Syria.


Turkey's relations with the U.S. have occupied a special significance in its foreign policy agenda since the end of the Second World War. This priority stems from three essential roots: the comprehensive security and military relationship developed since the Truman Doctrine (1947), the intensive economic and financial relationship that emerged as a result of the Marshall Plan (1948), and the joint strategic initiatives, which emerged after the Cold War in the vast Eurasian region. (1)

Throughout the 1990s, Turkish and American statesmen have characterized bilateral relations as strategic alliance or strategic partnership. Having been critically damaged during the Iraqi War of 2003, the strategic dimension of the relationship was restructured by a series of trust building measures during George W. Bush's second term. (2) However, the AK Party government's efforts to rehabilitate the relations with a new common strategic vision did not yield the expected positive results. Barack Hussein Obama developed another term and called the for a model partnership (3) in 2009. (4) This new approach was welcomed in Ankara and then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported developing a relationship built on a new understanding--a perception of mutual benefits and common interest. Nevertheless this win-win concept only effectively worked for two years until the Arab Spring erupted. After Obama's two terms of presidency, the current situation of Turkish-American relations can more readily be described as well apart from a strategic or model partnership.

Considering the deterioration in 2003 crisis, the U.S. military assistance to YPG/PYD terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq, made relations even worse. On the other hand, the relations are shadowed by public suspicions about U.S. involvement in FETO's coup attempt, and U.S.' resistance to extradite the FETO leader--displaying lack of solidarity in Turkey's fight against ISIS. Therefore Turkish-American relations necessitate an urgent renewal and upgrade. Donald Trump's presidency may create an opportunity to open a new page in Ankara-Washington relations, which face the most dramatic divergence in its bicentennial history.

This article attempts to assess eight years of Turkish-American relations during the Obama administration and analyzes future prospects for the upcoming Trump presidency. Bearing in mind that ignoring the long history of bilateral relations, which present a number of indicators for the elements of continuity and change would endanger the accuracy of the conclusions, this study will first highlight key turning points in Turkey's relations with the U.S.

The overwhelming share of academic literature about the relations between Turkey and the United States assert that the two countries started to interact with each other following the Second World War. Although it is true that the volume and scope of Turkish-American relations dramatically intensified after 1945, no one can ignore the historical roots going back to late eighteenth century. Moreover, early dynamics of the nations' bilateral relations paved the way for the pre- and post-Second World War encounters. …

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