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Featured Blog: President Trump now has major role in determining U.S.-Turkey relations

It would not be wrong to say that each NATO member is a defense mechanism used by the U.S. against the Russians. In February 2016, Sputniknews, which is established and operated by the Russian government, posted an article regarding how the U.S. uses Western Europe as Washington’s vassals. So what makes Turkey different than other countries, now more than ever?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was established after World War II in response to the rising power of the Soviet Union. Twenty-eight countries are currently members of the union in which the United States and Turkey have the highest contribution military-wise, which is nearly half of the total armed forces. Turkey officially joined the alliance in 1952.

To start finding out what makes Turkey different, it is the second largest military power in NATO, after the U.S. When considering the current political unrest, economic uncertainties and military weakness, European members seem hopeless and ineffective in the fight against global terrorism and “new Soviets.”  During the mid-1800s the Ottoman Empire was labeled “Sick Man of Europe” by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, and in my humble opinion, Europe now can be described as “Sick Man of the World.” One can refer to the article named “The Sick Man of Europe is Europe” written by Joel Kotkin of Forbes for further information. However, despite the failed army coup in July 15 and massive purge right after that in Turkish army, Turkey still holds her military power and plays an active role in Syria and Iraq in the global war on terror.

Furthermore, Turkey is the only Muslim-majority country in the alliance. Through Turkey, the U.S. is able to build a bridge with the Arab and Sunni world. In response, Russia gets politically closer to Iran, whose population predominantly follows the denomination of Shia.

In this sectarian conflict, Turkey keeps an important position to hold other Sunni groups next to the U.S. One solid example can be seen in the Syrian civil war. The U.S. backs the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against Assad’s army, which is supported by Russia and Iran. However, it is also cannot be denied that the U.S. always loves to have a foot in both camps. While the American government supports Sunni rebels in Syria, conversely, it promotes Shia groups in Iraq.

Nevertheless, the relationship between NATO and Turkey is not as healthy as it was in the past. The biggest reason behind this is because of deteriorating Turkey-U.S. relations. Firstly, the American strategy in Syria highly contradicts Turkey’s interest. Since the U.S. started supporting and arming Kurdish terrorist groups, which the U.S. does not accept as terrorist groups, the Turkish government has publicly declared its annoyance several times. Secondly, nearly everyone in Turkey believes that the U.S. is somehow responsible or complicit in the abortive coup attempt. The conflict arises from Pennsylvania-based preacher Fetullah Gulen, who is accused of being the man behind the failed coup attempt. Even though the Turkish side has repeatedly demanded Gulen’s extradition, the American side refuses to meet its NATO ally`s request. Even, in August 2016, just three weeks after the coup attempt, the editorial board of New York Times published an excessively harsh article “Turkey’s New Anti-Americanism,” in which Turkey was threatened to be booted out of NATO.

At this point, Donald Trump is going to be the key factor in whether partnership between Turkey and the U.S. is going to be recovered or worsened. Before Trump was elected, Hillary Clinton seemed to have a higher chance to win the election with people who had been discussing the possibility of Turkey’s exit from NATO. Turkey-U.S. relations have never been as unstable as they became under the Obama`s administration. If Clinton was elected, the situation would become more complicated and uncertain because of her continued interest in arming Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq. On the other hand, Trump has openly stated that he respects the Turkish President and prefers to cooperate with Turkey in Syria. That is why it seems like Donald Trump is not only going to have a huge impact on American society, but also on Turkey and NATO. The following months will show whether this impact is going to be positive or negative.

About the author

Mustafa Can Camur

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