Is the west losing Turkey?

For almost a century Turkey tried to imitate the west and become a part of Europe. It became secular after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it is a NATO member and has for decades been trying to gain membership, or even just the path to membership, of the EU. Now however Turkey is realigning away from the west. It has fallen out with Israel and is taking an independent stance on issues such as Iran. Is the west losing Turkey? And does it matter?

Is the west losing Turkey?

Yes because... No because...

Comments from the US Defense Secretary

The US Defense Secretary made comments which suggested that Turkey is turning away from the West, however stopping short of explicitly suggesting this, the mere fact that the Defense Secretary had to comment on this issue, whilst also musing that there has been a push towards the East must suggest that there has been a turn away from the West [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/us_and_canada/10305519.stm]]

Turkey has already denied a break with the West, specifically mentioning Europe. The Turkish PM has expressly said that Turkey is still committed to European Union (EU) entry. Although the US had accussed some in the EU of pushing Turkey towards the East [[http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=175760]] Turkey have clarified that this is not the case, whilst it felt some EU countries had a secret agenda to keep it out [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/10288919.stm]] Turkey expressly suggested a move to the East is not the case.

Is the west losing Turkey?

Yes because... No because...

Turkey's condemnation of Israeli actions

The popularity of Turkey supposedly soared, according to Aljazeera, due to the condemnation and actions taken in addition to the denunciation of Israel's raid on an aid ship on its way to Gaza [[http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/06/2010618142538249463.html]]. Although US-Israeli relations are currently not as robust as they have been in the past, and have recently been said to be 'in crisis' [[http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/israel_us_relations_in_crisis_tgimITYp0QhMNulVVoiacM]] a break from, or a watering down of relations between Turkey and Israel signals a markedly different foreign policy approach.

Turkey condeming Israel does not have to mean that it is moving away from the west. Many european countries, that would be considered 'western' such as Ireland have loudly condemned Israel's actions and have often supported the palestinians over the westernised Israelis.[[http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/06/23/why_the_irish_support_palestine]] It is difficult to argue that being western just means doing what the USA does. In the case of Turkey and Israel the surprising thing is that they have managed to remain friends for so long rather than that they have now fallen out.

Is the west losing Turkey?

Yes because... No because...

The misinterpretation of Turkey's actions

A Guardian commentator feels that Turkey is calling for a jihad against Israel [[http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/08/turkey-jihad-israel-flotilla]]. However, according to another Guardian commentator (Kenes) this is ridiculous, and all Turkey did was condemn the Israeli governments actions, not to argue against Jews, nor the Israeli people. Turkey has increasingly taken on a more Western role, in terms of diplomacy in the Middle East, and according to Kenes, it is evident that Turkey stands for World peace and stability. And although Turkey enjoys good relations with its Muslim neighbours; it is also worth pointing out that Turkey enjoys equally, if not better relations with Western states and regions [[http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/09/turkey-erdogan-israel-gaza]]

Is the west losing Turkey?

Yes because... No because...

Its not about pushing US interests, its about options.

Turkey's value in the middle east has never been about the country blindly pushing US interests in the region. The US has plenty of power to do that itself and several allies who are dependent on US aid who they can prod into it when necessary. Instead Turkey as an ally to the west, both Europe and the US is about the options it brings on several fronts. First Turkey is in a very strategic position at the historic gateway from Europe to Asia. It connects Europe to the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea. It now also provides an alternative conduate of oil to Europe from Central Asia and is a potential alternative route to Europe for gas. It is in US and European interests that Turkey acts as an independent actor in the region, as a legitimate democratic government it has its own interests that will not always be exactly what the US wants. By acting in such a way Turkey can act as a bridge with the Arab governments in the region, and sometimes even the people of the region. It can provide alternative diplomatic solutions and act as a back channel to those countries that are in opposition to US interests.[[http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/06/25/turkey_still_america_s_best_ally_in_the_middle_east]]

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