By Georgia Logothetis, Managing Director, HALC
It’s usually not a good indicator of health for a democracy when allies are treated like enemies, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Turkey.
Adam Taylor at The Washington Post explains:
[T]he latest development stems directly from the arrest of Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, on charges of espionage last week. On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara announced the immediate suspension of all non-immigrant visa services at diplomatic facilities across Turkey. The incident, the embassy said, required the United States to “reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of U.S. Mission facilities and personnel.” Just hours later, the Turkish Embassy in Washington issued a nearly identical statement about the suspension of nonimmigrant visas for Americans. Prosecutors also summoned a second U.S. employee on Monday and took his wife and child into custody, according to reports in the Turkish press.
This is the latest in a series of provocative actions by the Turkish government against Americans and American interests. This week, Turkish courts sentenced a Wall Street Journal reporter to two years in prison. A NASA physicist, a pastor…according to The New York Times, dozens of Americans have been jailed by the Turkish government, some without knowing the charges or evidence against them.
In a piece today at Foreign Policy, Steven Cook explains the new US-Turkey relationship (at a Hellenic American Leadership Council event this month, Cook explained how the threat of arrest means he cannot safely travel to Turkey):
It is now clear that Turkey and the United States are less allies and partners than antagonists and strategic competitors, especially in the Middle East. […]
Cook dives into history to explain that the concept of a rosy US-Turkey relationship has always been a myth:
In the early 1990s, some in the foreign policy community thought Turkey was uniquely positioned to guide the newly independent Turkic states of Central Asia — whose citizens share cultural and linguistic affinities with Turks — in stable, democratic governance. In the middle and latter part of that decade, the foreign-policy community regarded Ankara as a driver of security and peace in the Middle East. More recently, Turkey was held out as a “model” for Arab countries seeking to build more prosperous and democratic societies.
None of these projects proved successful, because they overestimated Turkey’s capacities, underestimated the historical legacies of the Ottoman domination of the Middle East, and misread Turkish domestic politics and the worldview of the country’s current leadership. With each failure, the United States and Turkey drifted further apart.
The American foreign-policy community is slowly learning that much of what it believed about Turkey turned out not to be the case. The country’s leaders — including the military command — are neither democrats nor pro-Western. In fact, they are deeply suspicious of the West, especially the United States.
Cook is right in recasting the US-Turkey relationship as one based on antagonism. Here at HALC, we’ve used the tag “#WorstAllyEver” to explain how Turkey has continuously acted against American interests, from leaking the position of American troops in Syria, including the number of troops in some locations to resisting the arming of Kurdish troops fighting ISIS to purchasing the S-400 from Russia, then highlighting the NATO planes it can eliminate. If this is how Turkey treats its allies, one can only imagine the treatment the United States would invite if it hadn’t spent decades catering to Turkey’s whims.
Former US Ambassador to Turkey has said it’s “hell” to sell Turkey as a US ally. He’s right.