Analysis: Ignoring half-empty glass in Türkiye-U.S. relations - M5 Dergi
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Analysis: Ignoring half-empty glass in Türkiye-U.S. relations

Abone Ol 

Ankara is eager to strengthen ties with the U.S. and EU through mutual compromise and dialogue, this willingness now comes with an expectation of understanding the realities of the new Türkiye.

It is no secret that the historical love-hate relationship – described as “strategic” at times – between the two strong NATO allies has not been free of turbulences. Yet, at the same time, the positive approach taken by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Joe Biden to restore trust in Ankara-Washington ties during their meeting on the sidelines of last year’s NATO leaders’ summit in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius seems to be bearing fruit, though at a very slow pace.

The recent process of the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye is considered one of the key moments that both Ankara and Washington see as a steppingstone to rebuild trust for the re-engagement and dialogue, and to restore the strained ties. Between the two countries, dossiers of both agreements and disagreements are many. At a time when there is a willingness to restore ties both in Ankara and in Washington, the approach, however, must be realistic.

In an op-ed article published on Feb. 14, the U.S. Ambassador to Türkiye Jeff Flake positively highlighted many areas of U.S. cooperation and partnership with Türkiye, particularly in the defense industry, and how this partnership is “critical to NATO’s strength.” Moreover, Flake touches upon the importance of Türkiye’s role in international conflicts. He recognizes Ankara’s positive diplomatic contribution to mediation efforts in the Ukraine-Russia war and global food security with the achievement of the Grain Deal and with efforts to end Israel’s massacre in Gaza. Here, he accepts that “Türkiye is unique in its ability to open conversations” with the U.S.’s “adversaries” where Washington “simply cannot,” and adds that Ankara has become a viable alternative in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia.

Building sustainable partnerships

Indeed, the cooperation areas Flake highlights must be further strengthened and dialogue must be established on positive ground. At a time when multipolarity is growing with influence and the discussions are about the post-Western world or post-U.S., where Türkiye stands on its partnerships with the U.S. / West and how the U.S. / West sees Türkiye will be defined not only for Türkiye’s future and foreign policy decisions, but also for Ankara’s Western allies, be it the U.S. or the European Union. Last week, I had touched upon in my column here whether the EU would be able to see the importance of a strategic partnership with Türkiye as global dynamics are changing. The same opportunity also goes for the U.S.

Yet, this partnership must be established on a realistic, mutually beneficial equation for it to be sustainable and not shortsighted. And indeed, this condition applies to both Ankara and Washington / Brussels.

In ties with the U.S., Flake has highlighted the full half of the glass. However, the realistic approach necessitates seeing the empty half. In fact, in the case of the U.S., the disagreement area is existential for Türkiye and it cannot be simply reduced to “ignoring the empty half of the glass” for the moment.

This empty half, or disagreements on the fight against Daesh as Flake identifies, is not related to some decorative aspect of the Ankara-Washington relationship. The U.S. collaborates with PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the YPG, which Ankara lists as a terrorist group as it directly threatens the security of Turkish citizens and sovereignty of the country. In other words, seeing the full half of the glass in the Ankara-Washington dialogue effort is a positive step. Yet, the disagreement area that Flake has touched up with two sentences in his op-ed is an area that Washington must understand is not a decorative area in strengthening ties, and definitely not one that Ankara’s position would change.

As instability enrages the Middle East and the risk of a domino effect is rising each day, international alliances are also becoming more vivid. Türkiye’s position in standing against global injustices and firm stand on protecting its long-term interests in many regions, however, are also very vivid. Ankara is no longer in a position to jump on the bandwagon of the U.S. and the West in all matters. Nevertheless, while there is always willingness in Ankara to strengthen the ties and overcome challenges with the U.S. and EU through mutual compromise and dialogue, this willingness now comes with an expectation of understanding the realities of new Türkiye. For Ankara, the security of its citizens and the fight against terrorism, indeed, are nonnegotiable areas.

As the U.S. is developing strategic moves to position itself in the multipolar world from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific to Central Asia, it should be noted that taking Ankara’s security concerns south of Türkiye’s borders is a must to solidify the rebuilding trust and positive atmosphere in the new phase of ties.

Abone Ol 

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