From now on, the U.S. and Turkey must try to lower expectations and form realistic assessments about the future of bilateral relations. Only after taking this step will we see a normalization of U.S.-Turkey relations
The debates on Turkey-U.S. relations, regardless of whether they are in Ankara or Washington, attract attention and generate discussions. Last week, one of those debates took place at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research’s (SETA) DC Annual Conference on Turkey in Washington. Some of the highlights of these debates require specific emphasis. First of all, almost all of the scholars, observers and practitioners who joined this debate argue that Turkey-U.S. relations are important for both countries and, despite regional and international changes, the strategic nature remains intact. However, this strategic nature of the relationship does not come with a user manual and is not operational by itself. It necessitates nurturing and the forming of a working relationship between them. The relations also need to be institutionalized and stabilized through different mechanisms and bodies.Secondly, again, they almost agree on the negative trend in relations in the last two years. After the May 2013 meeting between leaders at the White House, bilateral relations took a negative turn. There were several reasons for this. First of all, the divergence in the policies on Syria of the two countries was particularly important. The issue did not only lead to a serious tactical divergence between the two countries, but also especially after the change of heart of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, the two countries started to have some serious issues in terms of mutual trust. The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons in 2013 and U.S. policy after this attack further resulted in very serious issues in terms of confidence. Turkey perceived the inaction of the U.S. as a sign of insensitivity to Turkey’s security and strategic interests. Secondly, the coup in Egypt and U.S. reluctance to call the overthrow of a democratically-elected government by the military a coup resulted in a serious problem between the two countries. Especially after the U.S.’s recognition of the junta regime in Egypt, the relations countered a serious divergence in their perspectives of the Middle East.Finally, again, most of the analysts agree on the issue that some serious steps need to be taken by the governments in order to save the relations from this turbulence. Both countries are members of NATO and the strategic nature of relations are still intact. First of all, the relations need multidimensionality in terms of having better relations in different realms. Economic relations, which have been the weakest link of bilateral relations, must be developed so that they can play the role of stabilizer in relations. Increasing the trade volume and taking more significant steps toward a possible free trade agreement can be vital for the formation of strong ties between the two counties. Secondly, the relations need to be readjusted and do an about-face so that they can resolve the problems that have been hurting them since the end of the Cold War. Most of these issues such as bureaucratic and thematic reorganization have long been overdue. Finally, there is a general consensus that one key segment of stable and sustainable relations between the two countries is reducing misperception and misunderstanding between the countries. For long years, high expectations and low returns have been one of the most serious problems of bilateral relations. From now on, the two countries and analysts must try to lower expectations and form realistic assessments about the future of bilateral relations. Only after the taking these steps will we see a normalization of U.S.-Turkey relations.
This article was originally published in Daily Sabah on May 22, 2015.