EU - US

US administration drives Turkey closer to Russia, EU

The U.S. administration's anti-Turkey actions have led Ankara to simultaneously end its disagreements with EU countries and deepen its strategic partnership with Moscow

Ater its otherization and alienation by the U.S. administration, Turkey began to prioritize the institutionalization of diversification in its foreign policy. For this purpose, Ankara took significant steps that will maintain its relations with other states (i.e. Russia, China, India, Malaysia and Iran) and regions (i.e. the Middle East, Latin America and Africa). In this context, even though Russia seems to come into prominence in the short term, I argue that Turkey will improve its relations with the European Union countries, which have also been otherized by the Trump administration.

The U.S., a longtime Turkish ally, has withheld technology transfer to Turkey and supported anti-Turkey security threats. The U.S. administrations have been hosting the mastermind and the leading figures of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt who attempted to overthrow the democratically elected Turkish government.On the other hand, they have been providing huge amounts of financial resources, weapons and military training to the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG)/Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria.

These two factors greatly contribute to the loss of trust in U.S. policies and to the dramatic increase of anti-American sentiment in Turkey. Not satisfied with this, the Trump administration is exploiting the pastor Brunson case for domestic consumption and imposed economic sanctions on Turkey. Thus, the U.S. showed that it does not give importance to its relations with Turkey.

Therefore, Turkey tries to improve its relations with other global actors, Russia in particular, in order to get rid of the American pressure. Especially after the coup attempt in 2016, Turkish-Russian relations have improved significantly in different sectors, like energy, trade, tourism, defense industry, intelligence and diplomacy. Turkey signed an agreement to buy S-400 air defense system from Russia to protect itself against threats emanating from the chaotic Middle East. The U.S. once again tried to reduce changes in Turkish foreign policy to a single reason.

Similarly, Turkey took a strategic step towards Russia by awarding it a contract to build a nuclear power plant, which will decrease Turkey’s energy dependency and foster economic development. However, improving relations with Russia does not mean that both countries do not have problematic areas. It seems it is quite difficult to develop institutional and sustainable relations between Turkey and Russia due to the problems in Syria, Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefore, Turkey will try to strike a balance between its longtime partners and the new ones.Having tense relations with the U.S. will persuade Turkey to reconsider its relations with the EU members, who are also considered as “economic foes” by the U.S. administration. But both sides are convinced that bilateral relations will be redefined. Due to significant changes both in the EU and in Turkey, instead of continuing the full-membership process, they will try to improve strategic relations. There is an increasing anti-Turkish sentiment in Europe due to rising racism, ultra-nationalism, xenophobia and Islamophobia.

On the other hand, improving sustainable relations with the non-European regions make Turkey a global actor, more than a European state. Under these new circumstances, Turkey and the EU will redefine their bilateral relations based on a realist approach and develop a strategic partnership. In spite of many problems between Turkey and the EU, they are deeply interdependent and share many historical, economic and political bonds. They have to cooperate in many regional and global issues such as the refugee problem, U.S. sanctions on Iran, the American unilateral policies and threatening discourse, and Middle Eastern crises.As a result, after the conversion of Turkey’s relations with the U.S. into an open confrontation, Turkey was forced to institutionalize its relations with alternative actors in order to overcome the problems caused by its asymmetrical power relations with the U.S. Turkey has been trying to minimize the losses caused by the crises between the two countries. Therefore, it will continue to prioritize its relations with actors like Russia and the EU. Turkey has been trying to determine a new foreign policy orientation based on the changes both in its domestic politics and in the global system. The new political system in Turkey and new power balances across the world require a redefinition of national interests and foreign policy behavior.

[Daily Sabah, 28 August 2018]

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