[Marxism] Is Turkey Leaving the West? (from "Foreign Affairs")

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 28 10:36:00 MDT 2009

Fred Feldman wrote:
> (http://www.foreignaffairs.com)
> Is Turkey Leaving the West?
> An Islamist Foreign Policy Puts Ankara at Odds With Its Former Allies 
> Soner Cagaptay
> SONER CAGAPTAY is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Turkish Research
> Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the author
> of Islam, Secularism, and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who Is a Turk?

NY Times, October 28, 2009
Tensions Between Turkey and the West Increase

ISTANBUL — With Turkey’s prospects for joining the European Union 
growing more elusive and the country reaching out to predominantly 
Muslim countries with a vigor not seen in years, a longstanding 
question is vexing the United States and Europe: Is this large, 
secular Muslim country turning East instead of West?

When President Obama visited Turkey in April — a symbolic gesture 
that underlined Turkey’s geostrategic importance — he emphasized 
the country’s role as a bridge between East and West, acknowledged 
its mediation in the Arab-Israeli conflict and threw his weight 
solidly behind Turkey becoming a European Union member.

Now, six months later, some in Washington and Brussels are 
questioning Turkey’s dependability as an ally, and many Turks are 
asking whether they should reject the European Union before the 
bloc rejects them.

Fears that Turkey is abandoning its bridge-building role were 
fanned this month when it canceled air force exercises with 
Israel, straining ties that frayed in January when Prime Minister 
Recep Tayyip Erdogan castigated Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, 
over the war in Gaza, in front of world leaders at Davos, Switzerland.

Senior Turkish officials say Mr. Erdogan, who was mediating 
between Israel and Syria just weeks before the conflict in Gaza 
broke out, felt personally betrayed by Israel’s aggression and 
what he regarded as the needless killing of innocent Muslims.

At the same time, some Western diplomats say, Turkey has made what 
they consider alarming overtures toward Iran.

When the official result of Iran’s disputed presidential election 
was announced in June, Turkey was one of the first countries to 
congratulate President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his re-election. On 
Tuesday, during a visit to Tehran, Mr. Erdogan said the West was 
applying a double standard in pressuring Iran over its nuclear 
program. “Those who are chanting for global nuclear disarmament 
should first start in their own countries,” he said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has vociferously opposed 
European Union membership for Turkey, arguing that it is not 
geographically part of Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany 
has expressed similar reservations. Many Turks have interpreted 
the rejection to mean that their country is not welcome because of 
its large Muslim population.

At a meeting in Istanbul last week about Turkey’s relations with 
its neighbors, Representative Robert Wexler, chairman of the 
European subcommittee in Congress, said: “You wonder why Turkey is 
curious about different avenues? Look at your own behavior and 
attitude, Europe.”

Other analysts say that cultural and economic factors are also 
pushing Turkey in that direction.

Ersin Kalaycioglu, a political science professor at Sabanci 
University, noted that the global financial crisis had contracted 
European economies, prompting Turkey, a large exporter, to seek 
different markets. He and others also suggested that leaders of 
the governing Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., a socially 
conservative party with Muslim roots, felt more at home in Riyadh, 
Damascus and Baghdad than in Paris, London or Rome.

Even a partial collapse of talks with the European Union would 
have far-reaching consequences. Turkey is an indispensable ally 
for the United States and Europe. Bordered by Iran, Iraq and 
Syria, Turkey is a powerful symbol of the compatibility of 
democracy, capitalism and Islam. Located between the Middle East 
and the former Soviet Union, it has vital strategic importance as 
a transit country for gas. It also has deep influence in 
Afghanistan and is a regional leader in the Caucasus.

Yet the country’s European Union negotiations are in a precarious 
state. Negotiations on a number of issues have been blocked 
because of its long dispute with Cyprus. For the first time in 
years, leading figures in the business establishment, which has 
always led the drive for European Union integration, are 
questioning the wisdom of continuing a negotiating process that 
appears to have no end.

“We Turks are a proud nation and we don’t want to go to a house 
where we were invited but where the host keeps slamming the door 
in our face,” said Hasan Arat, an executive at a top Turkish real 
estate development firm.

For all the country’s wounded pride, Turkish officials and 
analysts insist that Turkey has no intention of abandoning the 
West. Rather than reorienting Turkish foreign policy toward the 
East, Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s minister for European Union affairs, 
argued in an interview that the recent outreach to its neighbors — 
including the opening of its border with Syria, the signing of a 
historic agreement with Armenia to establish normal diplomatic 
relations and the engagement of Iran — was helping Turkey become a 
more effective interlocutor for its Western allies.

“Any bridge with one strong leg and one weak leg can’t stand for 
long,” Mr. Bagis said.

Ibrahim Kalin, chief foreign policy adviser to Mr. Erdogan, said 
Western critics of Turkey’s new inclusive foreign policy were 
using a double standard. “When the U.S. makes an overture to 
Russia, everyone applauds this as a new era in diplomacy,” he 
said. “But when Turkey tries to reach out to Iran, people ask if 
it is trying to change its axis.”

Mr. Kalin said that the anti-Turkish talk emanating from key 
European capitals was making it harder to convince the Turkish 
people about the need for European Union membership.

Rather than worrying that Turkey is moving toward the East, said 
Cengiz Aktar, a leading expert here on the European Union, the 
West should fear a wounded Turkey turning to Russia. Already, 
Russia has been courting it as a distribution point for energy 
supplies, while Turkish investment in Russia is intensifying.

“This government is perfectly capable of saying ‘no thanks’ to 
Europe and instead shifting toward Russia,” Mr. Aktar said.

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