The Anatolian Tiger How the West Is Losing Turkey

A frustrated Ankara is turning away from the West and looking east toward Hamas and Iran. For decades, the Turkish people served as a strong ally of the Jewish state and pursued membership in the European Union as chief foreign policy goal. Now, Turkey is economically strong, enjoys considerable regional power and can call its own shots. Will this be the end of Ataturk's legacy?

AFP

By


At the summit of the European Union in Copenhagen in December 2002, then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac were sitting in a room with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a newcomer in Europe.

The German and the Frenchman had bad news for the man, who had just achieved a historic election victory at home. The Turkish prime minister was expecting to be given a concrete date, 15 years after Turkey submitted its first formal application, for negotiations over his country's accession to the EU to begin. This was the leverage Erdogan hoped he could use to turn his country around. But, said Schröder, the EU wasn't ready to begin those negotiations yet, and Erdogan would simply have to wait a little longer.

Erdogan sat up in his chair and said: "Hop hop!"

Chirac didn't understand the Turkish phrase, which translates into a combination of "wait a minute" and "you must be out of your mind." But he had served as mayor of Paris long enough to recognize immediately that this man had a very short fuse and didn't take disappointment well. European statesmen, he lectured his Turkish counterpart, had their differences. But they also had established ways of discussing these differences. Erdogan said nothing. It was not a good beginning.

Turning the Tables in Ankara

Now, seven years later, Erdogan has indeed turned Turkey around. He has embarrassed everyone who once treated him as a religious simpleton. He has forced Turkey's all-powerful military against a wall, demoralized the republican establishment and transformed his country on the Bosporus, once known for its coups and crises, into an Anatolian tiger. While neighboring Greece struggles with national bankruptcy, the Turkish economy is expected to grow by more than 5 percent this year.

At the same time, the country is growing into a role that modern Turkey has never played: that of a loud and arrogant regional power that is triggering international uproar as it jettisons a fundamental principal of its foreign policy.

It is a historic change of course. "The Turks have always gone in only one direction," Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic, said, "toward the West." But now, after seven years under Erdogan, Turkey is shifting its direction toward the East.

An Alliance Shattered

The most obvious indicator of this shift is its relationship with Israel. As long ago as the 1940s, Turkey was a refuge for Europe's persecuted Jews, and in 1949 it was the first primarily Islamic country to recognize the Jewish state. It is an alliance of convenience and values that the secular elites of both countries have supported and that has been in place for almost 60 years.

But that alliance came apart two weeks ago, after months of mutual provocations and the bloody incident over a flotilla off the Israeli coast. Erdogan accused Israel of "state terrorism," withdrew his ambassador and even went so far as to claim that the world "now perceives the swastika and the Star of David together." "Today is a turning point in history," he said in a speech in parliament, referring to relations with Israel. "Nothing will be same again."

The turnaround is also reflected in the relationship with Iran, a country Ankara has eyed with suspicion since the 1979 Islamic revolution. A sign that has been posted at the Turkish-Iranian border since 1979 reads: "Turkey is a secular state." It is a statement of Turkey's opposition to the theocracy in neighboring Iran.

Last Wednesday, however, the Turkish ambassador raised his hand in the United Nations Security Council and voted against the package of sanctions with which Washington, London, Paris and Berlin -- and even Moscow and Beijing -- hope to stop Iran's controversial nuclear program.

The West is shocked. A country that covered the southeastern flank of NATO for 60 years, and that stood by the side of the United States and Europe, with the second-largest army in the alliance -- from the Korean War to Afghanistan -- is suddenly a friend of the mullahs? The State Department in Washington calls it a "disappointment," while some in Israel, the United States and Germany are already predicting a new "axis of evil."

Who is to blame for Turkey's political shift? Erdogan? Israel? The Europeans? Who lost Turkey?

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msoelling 06/15/2010
1. Lost maybee - but to a more sustainable role for Turkey and the West
"A frustrated Ankara is turning away from the West and looking east toward Hamas and Iran. For decades, the Turkish people served as a strong ally of the Jewish state and pursued membership in the European Union............." The problem here is not that Turkey finds its own, more independent role and realigns its policies according to that. The problem is that Western - and in particular - EU leadership - has been very slow in recognizing the limitations of what the West can accomplish without being overstretched and even more slow in coming up with a realistic proposal to Turkey for a "preferred partner agreement". Financial events occurring right now show that our economy is built on sand and unless that is fixed chances are that EU will fall apart. Having Turkey as a full blown member would be a recipe for potential disaster sometime down the road when the next financial buble bursts MSoelling
BTraven 06/16/2010
2.
Zitat von msoelling"A frustrated Ankara is turning away from the West and looking east toward Hamas and Iran. For decades, the Turkish people served as a strong ally of the Jewish state and pursued membership in the European Union............." The problem here is not that Turkey finds its own, more independent role and realigns its policies according to that. The problem is that Western - and in particular - EU leadership - has been very slow in recognizing the limitations of what the West can accomplish without being overstretched and even more slow in coming up with a realistic proposal to Turkey for a "preferred partner agreement". Financial events occurring right now show that our economy is built on sand and unless that is fixed chances are that EU will fall apart. Having Turkey as a full blown member would be a recipe for potential disaster sometime down the road when the next financial buble bursts MSoelling
Turkey has not been affected by the crisis at all, has managed to generated a much higher growth – a rate, EU-countries can only dream o – as well as seems to have banks based on solid ground. EU would only benefit from its membership. The question is given the outstanding competitiveness of Germany whether Turkey will capable of making progress in the same speed as before. In the short time all countries had taken advantage from the participation however have lost ground because of a shift of their economies. Spain is a good example. When it entered its economy had been well balanced then, however, it has became dependant on building and finance, partly to the money Germans were able to invest thank to its export surplus.
Erwin Mahnke 06/16/2010
3. So what?
Seen from the perspective of Gates and the US, Turkey's change of direction and tone is of course a burden if not a nuisance. For the US it would, of course, be most convenient if the EU had allowed Turkey to join. But it is not the US who has to pay for the consequences of this move. For them, it is just a tactical manoeuvre as building up the Taliban or supporting a Central American dictator. This perspective cannot be our basis to judge the European reluctance! In my book, we are not losing anything that we really want. The unpronounced, underlying dogma that Turkey is good for the EU has to be proven first! I seriously doubt it. If we look at the Armenian genocide or the ritual slaughter of bishop Padovese last week and how the official Turkey is reacting or handling it and especially why it is doing so, I can only say we are worlds away from each other and this distance will hardly ever be bridged. Hopefully so. Secondly, please don't do as if there is a chance we have to take now or it will be gone forever. There is no hurry, everything happening now in Turkey can still be undone. Erdogan with his islamic agenda managed to change Turkey based on two things only: a) A firm support of the strongly growing rural population. It is not so, however, that he has the majority of the Turkish population behind him. The AKP has only about one third of the people voting for them. b) The voting system mandates that only such parties move into the parliament which get a minimum of 10% of the votes. So if AKP has roughly 35% and Ataturks CHP roughly 20%, where are all the others? The fact is that the liberal and democratic parties are fractioned very much. Due to the egoism and self-celebratedness of the many party czars of the other parties, Erdogan was able to rise and stay in power. This must change, this can change. Also Erdogan can be voted off again. I recommend to study Turkish history, at least to those reporting from Turkey. Also some critical dealing with Islam and oriental mentality could help to open some eyes so firmly shut know. The ignorance among uncritical supporters of a multiculti Europe is really hard to swallow.
jayaka 06/16/2010
4.
I find it a little bit funny to read talks about economical aspects of Turkey's EU membership. Turkey is the only country which is not member of EU but a member of Custom Union since 1995. It means Turkey is already economically fully integrated to Europe. The real problem is that Turkey's population is 70 millions and this will make it one of the major player in the EU policy and this is something Germany and France do not want at all. Whatever Turkey does, some new obstacles will be created. Regarding Turkey's facing to East. I do not think this is true. Till yesterday West Europeans didn't hesitate to say that Turkey was not a part of Europe (even geographically ) but today they say they are losing Turkey. Actually if you look at the map, you are going to see that Iran, Iraq, Syria are Turkey's neigbours as well as Greek and Bulgaria. Turkey is not changing its axis, he just tries to establish good relationships with its neighbours. Because if there is no peace in the middle east, Turkey cannot establish a stronger economy and a stable policy. Turkey is investing his army enourmously to survive in this problematic area of the world. When you don't want a war in your neighbour, it does not mean that you changed your axis, this is normal. Israel is one of the main reasons of conflict in the middle east. Because it acts against UN decisions, it has nuclear power, it does not just thread its neighbours, it attacks them. Israel also attacked to Gaza Aid Flotilla and fully armed israeli soldiers killed 9 turks peace activists and declared clearly that they were not going to ask for apoligise. I wonder what the West was expecting from Turkey. The reaction of Turkey was again "normal" and does not indicate a change of axis. In this last incident, Turkey was for international laws, human rights and peace with diplomacy. If the Western World thinks that Turkey has changed its axis, then they should question what they are for.
BTraven 06/17/2010
5.
Zitat von Erwin MahnkeSeen from the perspective of Gates and the US, Turkey's change of direction and tone is of course a burden if not a nuisance. For the US it would, of course, be most convenient if the EU had allowed Turkey to join. But it is not the US who has to pay for the consequences of this move. For them, it is just a tactical manoeuvre as building up the Taliban or supporting a Central American dictator. This perspective cannot be our basis to judge the European reluctance! In my book, we are not losing anything that we really want. The unpronounced, underlying dogma that Turkey is good for the EU has to be proven first! I seriously doubt it. If we look at the Armenian genocide or the ritual slaughter of bishop Padovese last week and how the official Turkey is reacting or handling it and especially why it is doing so, I can only say we are worlds away from each other and this distance will hardly ever be bridged. Hopefully so. Secondly, please don't do as if there is a chance we have to take now or it will be gone forever. There is no hurry, everything happening now in Turkey can still be undone. Erdogan with his islamic agenda managed to change Turkey based on two things only: a) A firm support of the strongly growing rural population. It is not so, however, that he has the majority of the Turkish population behind him. The AKP has only about one third of the people voting for them. b) The voting system mandates that only such parties move into the parliament which get a minimum of 10% of the votes. So if AKP has roughly 35% and Ataturks CHP roughly 20%, where are all the others? The fact is that the liberal and democratic parties are fractioned very much. Due to the egoism and self-celebratedness of the many party czars of the other parties, Erdogan was able to rise and stay in power. This must change, this can change. Also Erdogan can be voted off again. I recommend to study Turkish history, at least to those reporting from Turkey. Also some critical dealing with Islam and oriental mentality could help to open some eyes so firmly shut know. The ignorance among uncritical supporters of a multiculti Europe is really hard to swallow.
Regarding myself as well-informed person I was quite astonished to read that Bishop Padovese had been a victim of a ritual slaughter - no newspaper reported about his assassination in this way. According to Wiki his driver who had been treated for psychological disorders killed because of a wahy who took control of his mind and demanded him to kill Padovese. I think it can happen in every European country, too. It will be interesting to see how Turkish justices will deal with the matter. Perhaps, I am wrong with my unprofessional judgement, I am no psychologist or Islam expert after all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luigi_Padovese
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