International relations of the new Turkey

International relations of the new Turkey

After Turkey changed its political regime, it seems it is now time for a radical change in foreign relations. The recent crisis over the United States demand to free Brunson from house arrest is only the last episode of increasing tension between the U.S. and Turkey. In fact, Turkey started to have problems with the U.S. as early as 2012 after the U.S. changed its politics of the Middle East, particularly regarding Syria.

The policy priorities of the two countries have started to drift away from each other, as Turkey has insisted on the politics of regime change in Syria and has perceived the Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria as a major threat. Moreover, Turkey has started to view U.S. politics as rather hostile to Turkey, since the U.S. is perceived to undermine Turkey’s interests. Nonetheless, the matter has become even more complicated since both parties have chosen not to face the significance of the growing problems and have refused to acknowledge the deterioration of relations because of the fact Turkey is a NATO member and a traditional Western ally.

Nevertheless, Turkey has not refrained from openly accusing the U.S. for its perceived hostility as the ruling party believes the U.S. was behind the July 15 coup attempt and efforts to remove the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from power. Under the circumstances, Turkey tended to ally itself more with Russia and started to find alternative alliances to compensate the weakening relations with the West in general and with the U.S. in particular.

Finally, it has turned out to be a vicious cycle as in the case of the decision to buy S-400’s from Russia, despite that it is impossible to integrate weaponry with a different kind of IT. If Turkey tries to change it, NATO would not accept it. Thus, such a move has only enforced the tension between Turkey and NATO and the U.S. Now, as Turkey seeks to borrow from China to overcome the economic crisis and looks for alternative sources, it will become another issue of tension with the West and a sign of drifting further away from the Western alliance.

Finally, Trump’s decision of the Iran embargo will push Turkey into another set of tension and problems with the U.S. However, it is not only Turkey who disagrees with the U.S. on Iran but also the EU. Turkey-Iran relations are more essential for Turkey, politically as well as economically. Under the circumstances, Turkey’s new regime seems to consider solving the problem by reviewing its international relations and by seeking new alliances to compensate the loss of the Western alliance and to ensure independence from the West.

In a way, the recent situation resembles the politics of the late Ottomans, who sought an alliance with the German Empire against other Western powers to break away from a political and economic impasse. Unfortunately, we have paid a very high price for that strategy, regardless of how that choice could be justified. Besides, there are no longer such contests of power to subscribe to in the international arena.

Russia is not a reliable option since it is not an equal power contender with the U.S. and the Western alliance in general, nor is it willing to challenge the Western alliance altogether. Moreover, the interests of Russia and Turkey differ on many fronts and even on Syria. Iran is an essential ally but has its own agenda and problems. China is a controversial power center, which may create more problems as an ally or partner and cannot compensate for the loss of the U.S. and Western partnership. It is not to say Turkey should surrender itself to U.S. demands by sacrificing its interests but it seems promoting tension is not a good idea.

Andrew Brunson,