Between the US and Russia



Turkey is a key regional player. Although what Turkey has experienced over the past six months would turn any country into a failed state, Turkey has a robust state mechanism and a military that has been carrying out a large-scale operation in Syria for a month now. It has a leader whose popularity inside the country rises despite being demonized by foreign media outlets, and this leader has come to be identified with the future of his country after the coup attempt. Even more surprisingly, perhaps, it has an economy that continued to grow by 3.5 percent in the previous quarter. Moreover, Moody’s recently announced that the shock the July 15 coup attempt created in the Turkish economy has largely disappeared. In other words, we have a public and state that is incredibly resilient and resolute in protecting stability while neighboring countries are grappling with bankruptcy or civil wars.

On the other hand, Turkey is given no support by Western states that are supposed to be its allies in its struggle. As far as Turkey’s relations with the EU go, Turkey has faced unprecedented double standards during the accession process. Even though European states allow the PKK’s demonstrations or other protests against the 1915 incidents, they behave oppressively toward anti-coup Turkish citizens and accuse them of bringing their internal affairs to Europe. Not a day goes by without a European media outlet insulting Erdoğan and humiliating Turkey through him. It is a prevailing impression that Turkey has been isolated because of the EU’s patronizing attitude and breaking of promises with respect to the refugee agreement. We are confronting some oddities like Britain’s announcement that the British embassy was closed during Qurban Bayram (Feast of the Sacrifice), also known as Eid al-Adha, which is already an official holiday in Turkey, for security reasons, even though the British ambassador was comfortably touring southeastern Turkey where clashes are continuing.

Our relations with the U.S. are going through one of the most strained periods in their history. The People’s Protection Units (YPG) constitutes one of the two main problems. After DAESH was removed from the borders, Turkey saw that another terrorist organization was being placed along its borders and it has long said that it would not allow this formation. As a result of a military operation, which has been in place for a month, the west of Euphrates has been largely purified of terrorist elements. However, it is perceived that the U.S.’s help for Turkey on the issue remains on a rhetorical level. The Manbij operation will be the moment of truth where the U.S. will have to reveal which party it takes as an ally.

The other issue is Fethullah Gülen. According to the latest public opinion survey conducted by Pollmark, Gülen is a terrorist who is considered to be behind the coup attempt by a total of 88 percent of the Turkish public. However, he is still regarded as a mere cleric by the U.S. Let alone extraditing Gülen, the U.S. has not yet detained him, although it should have at least done so in accordance with the Turkey-U.S. convention on extradition. However, because of the U.S.’s insensitivity, Gülen continues to manage his organization from Pennsylvania.

On the other hand, although it seems that Turkey and Russia will not agree on the position of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Russia, which has proven its power through its economy and army, removed Gülen’s schools many years ago and defends territorial integrity in Syria as much as Turkey. For these reasons, Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia should not be surprising for the U.S. I think Turkey does not consider Russia and the U.S. as equivalent allies. However, as a country feeling that it has been left alone in two main issues with respect to its national security, Turkey is seeking other friends in line with its foreign policy. In the latest instance, the U.S.’s attitude on Turkey will determine the course of affairs.

* Hilal Kaplan is a Turkish columnist. She writes for Daily Sabah Turkish newspaper.

(Published in Daily Sabah, on Sept. 23, 2016)