Nobody has any doubts that today we are in one of the most critical moments of Turkish-U.S. relations. Nobody can deny the gravity of the situation and the severity of the problems that exist between the two countries.
The Crisis of the Uyghur problem has transformed into a key element of China’s overall national politics, identity politics, international image, national security perception, and relations with the Islamic world. No effort has been undertaken toward discussion of the issue or recognition of the existence of a problem. The region and its population continue to be perceived as a threat to the Chinese State. Because of this, Uyghur communities have become alienated from the state, and tension between Uyghurs and Han Chinese has escalated. The Uyghur issue has begun to grow into a geopolitical and strategic problem for the emerging economic power and regional ambitions of China. The first step for the solution is only possible if China changes its approach to the issue and relieves its security based approach to the problem.
The transformation of Turkish foreign policy has become a closely followed subject, fueling important debates on the underlying reasons, resources, actors, outcomes, and nature of the policy progress. This change has also introduced new challenges to those who have adopted generic models to understand and explain Turkish foreign policy. This article will examine and discuss the main causes that have complicated the study of Turkish foreign policy during this period, such as simultaneous changes in the nature and conceptualization of the international system –the end of the unipolar world, the emergence of new power centers - and domestic transformations in Turkey, including active civilian control of military, the emergence of an attentive public opinion in foreign policy.
The subject of American decline and the new global order has been on the agenda of political scientists and international observers for more than two decades. Even before the end of the Cold War, in 1989 Paul Kennedy in his seminal book on The Rise and Fall of Great Powers pointed to “imperial overstretch” and the national debt caused by increasing military expenditures as the major causes of the US’s decline in the coming decade.1 The US victory in the Cold War and the fall of communism in the world somewhat postponed these concerns and Kennedy’s predictions were overshadowed by the moment of unipolarity in world politics, in which the United States enjoyed unchallengeable military and political dominance. However, starting from the late 1990s, concerns grew about the future of the United States’ dominance in world politics as the Chinese economy’s growth accelerated.
The debate on the future of the Turkish-American partnership has puzzled scholars in recent years due to its constant fluctuations. In the first year of the Obama administration, the parties tried to heal relations with high level exchanges and a new conceptual framework to define the relationship. However, in 2010 the discord between the US and Turkey on major policy issues, including Iran and relations with Israel, once again strained bilateral relations. With the Arab Spring, the pendulum swung once again. Since the eruption of the people’s movement in different parts of the Middle East, Turkey and the US have acted in coordination, and taken similar positions in debates in international forums. The Obama administration announced a new Asia-Pacific strategy, which will entail the concentration of its diplomatic, military, and economic resources to build partnerships and curb emerging threats in this region. This new doctrine may have a major impact on US relations with Turkey by opening up new opportunities for cooperation and new necessities to deepen the partnership.
In recent years, relations between Turkey and the United States have been tumultuous. This is in contrast with a half century of exemplary cordial relations between Turkey and the U.S. as close allies and strategic partners. Despite differences on the Cyprus issue and discussions on the Armenian question, relations remained friendly and cooperative. The US supported Turkey’s bid for EU membership, helped Turkey during its economic crisis, defended Turkey’s right to self-defense during its long lasting conflict with the PKK, and also designated this organization as a terrorist group. Meanwhile, Turkey backed the US foreign policy in the region, played an important role during the Cold War as a bulwark against the spread of communism, participated in the first Gulf war, allowed US bases to exist on its soil, and supported the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. However, this harmonious relationship has recently become unstable.
This article agrees that there is a transformation in Turkish foreign policy. It suggests that the changes in foreign policy are not aimed to de-Westernize Turkey; instead they are attempts to create an autonomous, self-regulating, and self-confident foreign policy agenda while normalizing the previous crisis-driven policymaking in Turkey’s foreign relations. These changes include: broadening of Turkey’s foreign policy agenda to include regions other than Europe and North America, using the expertise of new actors in shaping foreign policy (such as civil experts and NGOs) and transforming decision making mechanisms to incorporate new initiatives. In fact, this article, while not denying some recurring problems in Turkey’s foreign policy, suggests that Turkey is not turning away from the West; but striving to reconfigure and reformulate its foreign policy, reflecting the demands of an increasingly open and democratic society and adapting to the realities of a multi-polar world.