Turkey’s Foreign and Security Policy Quandary

July 16, 2019

On July 5, The Atlantic published an article by Thomas Wright, Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The title was “Trump Couldn’t Ignore the Contradictions of His Foreign Policy Any Longer”. (*)

The article provides interesting insight on the evolution of President Trump’s foreign policy. What attracted my attention more than anything else was the very first paragraph:

Vyacheslav Molotov served in senior positions in the Soviet Union for more than a quarter century, including 10 years as Stalin’s foreign minister. He was dismissed in 1949 when he fell out of favor with Stalin, but he found his way back into the Foreign Ministry after the dictator’s death in 1953. Over the next four years, he fought with the new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev. According to Molotov’s biographer, Geoffrey Roberts, Khrushchev “accused Molotov of being a dogmatist whose actions as foreign minister had united the USSR’s imperialist enemies.” The Soviet plenum passed a resolution that charged Molotov with opposing measures “to reduce international tension and strengthen world peace.” Molotov was dismissed from his post and named ambassador to Outer Mongolia (what is now independent Mongolia).” (emphasis added)

Mr. Khrushchev was referring to “uniting USSR’s imperialist enemies”.

Today, we Turks can ask “who united the world against us?”

Tensions in eastern Mediterranean are rising over hydrocarbon resources. Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have legitimate interests in the area.  Moreover, Ankara has an excellent record of successfully negotiated exclusive economic zone agreements with its Black Sea neighbors. Yet, the EU, the US and Russia are united in warning Ankara against exploration activities.

As could be expected, the EU has gone further than the other two and taken an openly hostile attitude.

“Despite our best intentions to keep good neighborly relations with Turkey, its continued escalation and challenge to the sovereignty of our Member State Cyprus will inevitably lead the EU to respond in full solidarity,” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said last week.

EU sanctions against Turkey aside, his saying that the EU wishes to maintain “good neighborly relations with Turkey” merits attention. 22 EU member states are our NATO allies. Is Turkey just a neighbor like Russia or Belarus or an ally for those 22 countries?

Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missiles has led to speculation regarding our relations with traditional allies and our commitment to NATO. Some think the choice will likely have major consequences for Turkey and its future geopolitical orientation. Others are referring to a shift of axis. President Erdoğan calling the S-400 missile deal a landmark agreement for Turkey’s national security to be followed by Turkish-Russian cooperation for S-500 missiles must have deepened such concerns.

Secretary Pompeo said the following in a telephone interview with the Washington Post: “The law requires that there be sanctions and I’m confident that we will comply with the law and President Trump will comply with the law.”

In any country claiming to be a democracy, significant foreign and security policy adjustments, let alone shift of axis, would call for an in-depth political debate. The problem is that we neither have advocates nor a forum for such debate. Questions regarding different aspects of the S-400 deal such as the underlying threat assessment are confronted by the government with intimidating accusations of unpatriotic behavior. And, the leader of the main opposition who doesn’t have a clue what is at stake keeps parroting the government.


(*) https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/07/trump-tries-to-fix-his-foreign-policy-without-bolton/593284/


About Ali Tuygan

Ali Tuygan is a graduate of the Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara University. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January 1967. Between various positions in Ankara, he served at the Turkish Embassy in Brussels, NATO International Staff, Turkish Embassies in Washington and Baghdad, and the Turkish Delegation to NATO. From 1986 to 1989 he was the Principal Private Secretary to the President of the Republic. He then served as ambassador to Ottawa, Riyadh, and Athens. In 1997 he was honored with a decoration by the Italian President. Between these assignments abroad he served twice as Deputy Undersecretary for Political Affairs. In 2004 he was appointed Undersecretary where he remained until the end of 2006 before going to his last foreign assignment as Ambassador to UNESCO. He retired in 2009. In April 2013 he published a book entitled “Gönüllü Diplomat, Dışişlerinde Kırk Yıl” (“Diplomat by Choice, Forty Years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”) in which he elaborated on the diplomatic profession and the main issues on the global agenda. He has published articles in Turkish periodicals and newspapers.
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