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"Turkish Foreign Policy - A La Turc"
The Hellenic Voice of 8/28/02


Some people believe that Turkish foreign policy is a work of art. The reason for such thought is that the Turks get practically whatever they want because of their foreign policy tactic. The question is, however: "what is their tactic?". Until the militaristic Turks became all - powerful militarily - thanks to the United States, their foreign policy was not considered that "artistic." When direct and unequivocal pressure was put upon the Turks, they backed down. The track record shows this clearly.

During World War II, when Turkey was providing Nazi Germany with chromium the alloy needed to mix with iron to produce steel for bombs, the war was extended by seven to eleven months because of Germany's ability to produce weapons. When, however, the United States demanded that Turkey cease trade of chromium with the Nazis, Turkey obeyed. The same occurred in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson admonished the Turks in no uncertain terms to stay out of Cyprus, which they were imminently expected to invade. The Turks never forgot the Johnson approach and decided to apply the same tactic, when strong enough lo sustain it. Their opportunity arrived shortly.

During 1961-62, the United States was contemplating on pulling its bases from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets to pull theirs out of Cuba. Unfortunately, Nikita Khrushchev backed down a bit prematurely in front of President Kennedy's intense pressure, prior to the scheduled Vienna Summit where Kennedy was to present the proposal to the Soviet leader. Thus, the American bases remained in Turkey, rather than being transferred to Cyprus and, as the sages say: the rest is history.

With the American bases in Turkey, the American military began to equip these bases and to strengthentoday. Thus, naive American thinking believes that Turkey is the panacea to America's security. Picking up on that erroneous American thinking Turkish foreign policy changed from one of collective association to one of demanding chauvinism. Suddenly Turkey began to threaten everybody, including the United States whom they consider in their pocket.Turkey began to apply threaten­ing rhetoric in its foreign policy conduct, and continues to use it today perhaps even more intensely. The more Turkey feels that the U.S. needs Turkey, the more threatening Turkish foreign policy rhetoric becomes. It attempts to project to the world the image of a country that is trying to make its demands accepted through the use of force.

This is the very same type of approach applied by terrorists Osama bin Laden's "Al Qaida" being a perfect example.The Turks are threatening everybody. The rhetoric they use, especially in foreign policy, contains threatening words. They do project to the world the image of a country that is trying to make its demands accepted through the use of force. This is not a way to conduct policy; yet, for the Turks it is something natural. It is as if they suffer from disacousia, not hearing what they are saying nor how they say it. Even when they do hear their own words. they fail to assess the meaning of their rhetoric. In both domestic politics and foreign policy, the rhetoric Turks use is very different from the practices applied by the contemporary world and the accustomed international diplomatic standards.

If the Turks were to really pay serious attention to what they say and how they say it, eventually they might notice that they keep using threatening sentences. This may not be upset ting to them, but their approach is extremely upsetting to others.The threatening approach is a habit Turks have adopted in their daily lives, and this habit is reflected in Turkish domestic politics. In their not be a cause for distress to them.

However, in foreign relations this approach creates antipathy from other peoples causing loss of Turkish credibility. Official statements, speeches by various politicians - even when not acquainted with the issue, newspaper articles, and certain expressions used by television and radio commentators, upset many domestically and embarrass Turkey abroad. All such clearly prove that Turkey is a country that demands -to solve its problems with a militaristic approach rather than through diplomacy. The following examples of comments indicate clearly Turkish attitudes: "If the Greek Cypriots join the European Union on their own, there will be turmoil in Cyprus and we know how to get what is the 7'urkish side's due;" "If the EU admits the Greek Cypriots while leaving the Turkish side out, both Cyprus and the Aegean will be in turmoil. Turkish-EU relations will be damaged irreparably and the EU will pay a high price for its attitude;" "If the EU fails to give Turkey a date for the start of accession talks, it will lose Turkey and we will abolish the customs union;" "If the United States Congress gives the Armenian thesis (the Armenian Genocide) its support, the use of American bases will not be permitted, and there will be no participation to the intervention against Iraq:" "The establishment of a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq will be cause for war, as Turkey will intervene;" "Greek expansion of twelve miles in the Aegean Sea will mean a declaration of war and Turkey will lake action;" "Unless it changes its stand, the Armenian state will meet with a strong reaction from Turkey, Their airspace will be closed and Armenia will be strangled;" and the list goes on, and (in, and on..

Attention should be drawn to the Turkish underlying tone and to the message always is: "If you do not do this or that our way, something bad is going to happen -- to you!" Thus, the Turks keep intimidating and issuing threats. But Turkish mentality and atti­tude of long standing will answer to criticism of Turkish threatening approach lo issues with a resounding "So what? Are we not to protect our interests? Should we bow to every­body? Should we not express ourselves what will happen if foreigner; conduct the kind of policies which contradict our own?" Certainly Turkey, as any nation would and should want to protect its legitimate interests. But when these perceived interests interfere with the legitimate interests of other countries especially as they are determined by the world community or regionally by the European Union which Turkey covets to enter, then the "turmoil" to which Turks refer is a Turkish-created tumult unworthy of recognition but dangerous to social order and to positive neighborly relations. The "point" therefore is the "warped" aspect of Turkish rhetoric to which, unfortunately, the United States is the only country that gives it "credibility." The Europeans have told the Turks in no uncertain terms that unless they change their attitudes, truly "democratize" their country, and adhere to international law and to bilateral treaties of which they are signatories, they will not be admitted to the European Union they aspire, no matter what their "threats.'

In our contemporary world, nations attempt to solve their problems through the use of diplomatic means and respectful language; this is "politics." Threatening language used by the Turks is outdated, and it is the type of language used only by dictatorial and militaristic regimes. Turkey certainly falls fully in this category, as its domestic and foreign policies are dictated by the military; this is not "politics."

Turkey must learn that it cannot just blurt out what will happen to the other side if Turkish demands, particularly those not in line with international law. are not accepted. Turkey must learn to attain the international standards, especially in foreign policy. If Turkey has no intention of changing these old habits which truly diminish any credibility it might have, then the Turks should not become agitated when they are criticized by the global community and especially by their hope-to-be European "partners."

In the final analysis, if the United States were to respect its own principles and values, and explain to the Turks how they are wrong, aligning ourselves with our European "friends" in helping Turkey get out of its absurd and bloody past, then perhaps the Turks might realize that it is not that "they do not like us," but admit that "the problem stems from us!"

(Dean C. Lomis, PhD is director emeritus for the University of Delaware'sInternational Center.)



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