Turkey in International Relations

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 5
Words: 1204
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Bachelor

What is the Essence of Kurdish Question

The Kurds are native inhabitants of Western Asia. However, historical conflicts have prevented these people from establishing their own state. Moreover, today the Kurds are the largest people on the planet without their statehood. During the complex historical processes, its representatives formed key places of compact residence in the territory of four states: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. One of four directly interested parties, Turkey, is a state that claims to be the leader not only of the Middle East region but of the Islamic world as a whole.

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The Kurdish problem is complex and multidimensional in its very essence. Here, at one point, the contradictions of the national, as well as local, regional and international levels, have converged. It has led to the extreme complexity of the Kurdish issue and the enormous obstacles to any attempt to resolve it. One of the most crucial aspects is the division of the Kurdish people. Kurdistan is integrated into the socio-economic systems of the states that divide it, forming the socially, economically, and culturally least developed outskirts.

In the early 16th century, all of West Asia was divided between a new great power, the Ottoman Empire and Iran. Most of Kurdistan (North, West, and South) went to the Turks, the smaller (East) to the Persians. The Turkish-Iranian border, it is the same line of partition of Kurdistan, became the border of war, and all the following four centuries of Kurdish history gave the Kurds neither freedom nor independence.

Today, the specificity of the Kurdish phenomenon is that they remain the biggest nation in the world that does not have its state. At the same time, Kurdistan is an ethnic concept, and its borders are very conditional. This fact is an additional problem, since this ethnic entity, without actual boundaries, is the junction of four states. It is evident that four countries of the Middle East will control any manifestation of separatism in this territory. In the context of the current interest of the world public in the political situation in the region, the Kurdish issue takes on particular importance.

The Kurdish problem seems too visible and important geopolitical factor, so many countries want to benefit from it, both regional and not geographically located in the Middle East. There is a gradual awareness of the need to recognize the Kurds as a people, and proposals for Kurdish autonomy are increasingly being supported in the upper echelons of the Turkish authorities and Turkish society as a whole. The reasons for this are the negative aspects of the internal situation in the country, as well as the influence of international legal, parliamentary, and social organizations.

Why was Turkey a Valued Ally for the United States in the late 20th century?

By the early 1980s, two coups in the Middle East became a starting point for US-Turkish relations for decades to come. First, the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 deprived the United States of a critical ally in the region. Second, another coup in Turkey in July 1980 brought the military to power. The top army officials immediately stated that they intend to pay their attention to Turkey’s integration into the world economy and the Western community. They wanted to contrast the previous leaders who spent time on domestic political strife.

Six months before the coup, on January 23, 1980, US President Jimmy Carter officially announced the launch of a new foreign policy initiative. The “Carter Doctrine” implied the use of any means, including military force, to protect American interests in the Persian Gulf. Turkey was to play a strategic role as an outpost of the West in the Middle East in the new geopolitical game. Ronald Reagan’s Republican team, which came to power in 1981, continued to strengthen Turkey’s position in the Middle East through financial and military assistance programs. Reagan openly declared Turkey the most important ally of the United States. Radical changes in bilateral relations occurred during the Gulf War when the US received an opportunity to feel Turkey’s real benefit. Ankara opened access to its military bases for troops, left the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline blocked, and held a significant group of soldiers in the area of the Iraq-Turkey border, distracting some enemy army forces.

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The United States was interested not only in Turkey’s strategic capabilities in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean but also in maintaining the prestige and attractiveness of the Western world in ideological confrontation with the Soviet Union. Taking into account the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the United States feared increased Russian influence in the region. After the collapse of the USSR, President Bush’s administration returned to the idea of using Turkey as a “bridge” between West and East.

After only a year, the concept was revealed to American strategists in a new light. Ankara’s loyalty, coupled with its closeness to the troubled regions of the Balkans and Eurasia, has placed strategic cooperation with Turkey at the head. As a result, the US could respond to such challenges as Iran’s actively growing fundamentalism and energy transportation from Central Asia to the West through Turkish territory. Due to its geographical location, Turkey remained a key ally for the United States, through which American corporations had the opportunity to penetrate significant markets in the post-Soviet space.

The Difference between the Two Approaches in Turkish Foreign Policy

Traditionally, Turkey has focused its foreign policy on Western countries, especially the United States, and adjusted its own interests to others. This fact has hugely complicated relations with neighboring states and did not benefit the country itself. Ahmet Davutoğlu, who served as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, proposed another approach in which Turkey should establish good neighbourly relations with close countries and act on the interests of the region. The main difference between Davutoğlu’s new strategy and the traditional is the fact that Turkey is no longer considered as a state on the periphery of the European system or a front-line state firmly tied to the West. As the focus on the West loses priority in Turkey’s relations with other countries, the need to relate its foreign policy decisions to Western preferences declines. Thus, Ankara increasingly views cooperation with the Americans and the Europeans through the lens of its own aims in the region.

S-400 Air Defence Issue

One of the critical events of the last few years in the sphere of the international military-technical cooperation of the countries was the contract for the supply to Turkey, the missile system S-400 Triumph from Russia. This system is designed for destruction under conditions of intense radioresistance of modern means of air attack of various classes and types. The uniqueness of the situation is that for the first time, this Russian-designed air defense system was delivered to a NATO member country. Ankara’s decision to purchase Russia’s Triumph air defense systems drew severe criticism from Washington, which threatened to exclude Turkey from a multinational program of creation of a new-generation F-35 fighter. In fact, the United States tried to dissuade Turkey from buying S-400 systems, from the moment of signing the contract in 2017. In turn, NATO stated that integration of Ankara’s acquired air defense systems S-400 into the alliance’s air defense is impossible.