Turkey’s New Assertive Role
DR. ABDUL RUFF
Turkey, former Ottoman Empire in Europe, recently celebratedthe 60th anniversary of the accession of Turkey to NATO or North Atlantic Treaty(rather Terrorist) Organization- the most formidable military alliance in the world.Turkey has been a member of NATO but not allowed entry into the European Union.NATO is arranging for a summit on May 20-21 in Chicago, focused on Afghanistan.
For all of its 60 years as a member of the NATO, Turkeyhas been allowed a supporting role assigned by the dictatorial USA with which Ankarahas seemingly been quite content. But now, with Ankara playing importantcivilizational role in Mideast and elsewhere and thus feeling increasinglyconfident, Turkey appears to be flexing their diplomatic and economic muscleswithin the terror Alliance for a greater role.
Turkey’s own plans for the Chicago summit includelobbying for alliance membership for neighbor Georgia and Balkan buddiesBosnia-Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro.
Ankara’s confidence in pushing back against Brusselscomes in part from Turkey's booming economy; by contrast with the EuropeanUnion’s lackluster performance of late, Turkey’s 8.5-percent growth rate in2011 ranked as the highest among members of the Organization for EconomicCooperation and Development. Economic success has enabled Ankara to step up itscontributions to such key NATO initiatives as Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Turkey'slocation, though, is probably the most decisive factor in its rising diplomaticinfluence. The country borders Syria, Iran and Iraq, and with its charismaticPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, whose influence and popularity extendsacross the Arab Spring countries, the country has become an invaluable Americanally. Turkey has gained “a sort of comparative advantage in its relationship withUSA over other countries in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and even Europe.
Turkey’s emergence of a global player and its bid forgreater heft can be seen in its objection to an invitation for two seniorEuropean Union officials to NATO’s May 20-21 summit in Chicago, while the NATOterror Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is not invited to EU summits. Turkey Foreign Ministry questioned thedecision not to invite or to consider invitations to Chicago for “otherinternational and regional organizations who are also dealing with NATO.
Since it has veto power over the guest list for themilitary alliance’s meetings, Turkey is obviously annoyed by this NATO mischiefwith Istanbul. Considering Turkey’s longstanding goal ofjoining the European Union, Ankara's objection to the attendance of two top EUofficials at the NATO summit has raised some diplomatic eyebrows. Weeks offeverish diplomatic efforts by both EU and NATO to assuage Turkish, both say,concerns finally bore “fruit” during the past few days. But details of the arrangementhave not been announced. It seems the EU officials will “definitely” attendmeetings on Afghanistan.
The omission of an invitation for Ekmeleddin Ýhsanoðlu,the Turkish secretary-general of the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference,is believed to have particularly irked the Turkish government, which iscontrolled by the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party.
The European Council is a political club of the 27 EUchiefs-of-state but without Turkey. European Council should have European Turkeyas its member, but EU leaders continue to misbehave with Turkey. There is clear indication of how muchfrustration, disillusionment, and, even antagonism has built up over Turkey'saccession process. Turkey is trying to leverage its own relationship with NATO,to put pressure on the EU.
Turkey’senthusiasm for EU membership started in 1959 with the European EconomicCommunity and has been steadily eroding in recent years as its own prominencein international affairs has increased. Turkey’spredominantly Muslim identity is the chief cause for the Christian leaders ofEurope to deny membership for Ankara to be a part of its legitimate forum EU. The ongoing euro crisis and objections withinthe Union to Turkey’s membership – reasons range from its size and to itssupport for disputed North Cyprus – also have had a dissuasive influence.
In 2004, the EU agreed to give Turkey the chance to jointhe bloc, if it could show it had adopted the required 100,000-plus pages of EU legislation and other conditions of membership.Since then, 19 of the 35 negotiating chapters that are involvedin this process have been blocked. Turkey is the only country inthe EU’s history to have its membership bid frozen in this way.
Turkey grew by 8.5 percent last year, and has a population witha median age of about 28, compared with 45 in Germany. Slowgrowing and demographically challenged as it is, the EU needsthe fresh blood and energy that Turkey has to offer. The twoeconomies are already closely tied. They have a customs unionand trade heavily. More than $11 billion of the $16 billion offoreign direct investment made in Turkey last year came from theEU.
So apart from for French jobs, the EU shouldn’t slam shut its door tothe east is geopolitical. Turkey today is very different from20, or even two, years ago. It has the kind of reach and softpower in the Middle East that the ex-colonial powers of Europe,including France, now lack. It has more troops than France andthe U.K. combined. And it has learned, after a few years ofhubris, that its anchorage in Western alliances is critical toits influence and security elsewhere.
This is why Turkey last year agreed to host the radarshield for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s plannedmissile defense system, despite incurring the anger of Iran.
Turkeyis no ordinary Muslim nation, like Pakistan, Bangladesh or Kuwait orQatar or Afghanistan for others to interfere or manipulate and Turkishleadership has demonstrated this firm resolve in the recenthumanitarian aidship march to Gaza Strip aimed at freeing thePalestinians from fascist Israel's terror blockades and regular terrorattacks.
EU leaders need to showdirection and create momentum for the bloc, in areas where theycan reaffirm its purpose and values, even as the economysputters. New French president Francois Hollande is expected to end hiscountry’s block on Turkey’s talks to join the European Union,and do it soon. Turkey’s a good place for him to start on foreign policy. Unblocking its membershipprocess would end the widespread impression that the EUdiscriminates against Muslims, at a time when xenophobia, anti-immigrant feelings and isolationism are rising within the mainlyChristian nations of Europe. Allowing talks to continue is avery different issue from Turkey, population 73 million,actually joining the EU.
Turkey'squest for a new assertive role extends beyond the Middle East. Its move toward globalstage is undoubted and hence NATO cannot simple ignore that. The power structure inherited from the ColdWar is certainly now being challenged by the rise of Turkey and hence theimpasse is seen as the underlying factor behind Ankara's decision to playdiplomatic hardball over the NATO summit. World will see a more assertive Turkeyhenceforth and USA and EU are expected to cooperate with it. a mutuallybeneficial partnership” between the US and Turkey should reflect not only Turkey'snew stature as an economically and politically successful country with a newrole to play in a changing Middle East but also common American-Turkishinterests. -------