Turkey-US relations in the new global order

Each crisis with Ankara has more significant repercussions regarding the future of Washington's relations with its other allies. In other words, what happens between Turkey and the U.S. does not not stay between Turkey and the U.S.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve written in this column that based on the most significant strategic documents and threat assessment reports, the United States is adopting a new foreign policy based on updated geopolitical and geo-economic factors in the changing international system.

In this new environment, U.S. agencies are taking steps to modify their priorities and policies in accordance with these new threat assessments. However, it is not clear how these new priorities will impact alliances around the world.

Countering new threats is a significant dimension of this new direction in U.S. foreign policy, and it was emphasized both in these documents and debated among observers of U.S. foreign policy. However, how to protect, revise and improve alliance relations has never received the same degree of attention from policymakers in Washington. There are many unknowns about the future of U.S. bilateral and multilateral security arrangements and alliances, at least in the minds of U.S. allies. Does Washington have a new policy concerning existing and emerging alliances around the world? What will be the degree of commitment of the U.S. for the security of its allies, given the shifting of its focus to different regions and issues?

Last week, attitudes in the Munich Security Conference demonstrated an increasing concern among U.S. allies and a lack of response from the U.S. regarding questions and concerns. At this point, the situation has simply brought unpredictability and created question marks, but if this situation persists in the next few years, it will become a major irritant in relations between the U.S. and its allies. It will generate an environment in which Washington’s allies will start looking for alternatives, leading the U.S. to accuse them of being unreliable.

In this context, the trajectory of U.S. relations with Turkey is extremely important for the future of allied relations. For the last few years, most U.S. allies have been watching relations between Washington and Ankara very closely. In the Syrian civil war, each time Ankara expressed its discontent with U.S. policy because of unfulfilled promises, other allies were registering this exchange as a potential future situation in their own interactions with Washington.

When the U.S. started supporting a group one of its allies considers a terrorist organization by arming and equipping this group, other U.S. allies around the world also watched this unthinkable incident. Similarly, when Washington levied sanctions against its ally because of an ongoing trial in Turkey and threatened to do more in public settings, its allies watched in shock at how quickly the U.S. was willing to destroy a decades-long alliance and strategic partnership with a country. Thus, each and every crisis between the U.S. and Turkey had more significant repercussions regarding the future of U.S. relations with its allies. What happened between Turkey and the U.S. did not stay between Turkey and the U.S.

Now we are in a critical juncture for Turkey-U.S. relations. There have been debates about forming a safe zone in Syria and the potential crisis regarding the S-400 system is looming on the horizon. In both instances, the potential cooperation and coordination between the U.S. and Turkey will not just affect bilateral relations between the two countries. As in previous crises, what happens between the two countries will significantly impact the future of U.S. relationships worldwide. Any fallout in relations due to these crises could generate further skepticism and concern among U.S. allies for the trajectory of alliance relationships in the changing international system.

[Daily Sabah, 23 February 2019]

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