The meeting with Trump, the NATO summit in Brussels and then the EU summit are all three great occasions for Turkey to fine-tune its relations with its traditional allies
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is in the United States for a face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump. Already this meeting will not be taking place under the best auspices, so long as the U.S. administration declared its will and decision to give the (People's Protection Units) YPG sophisticated armament to combat Daesh.
When this article goes to print, we will know more about the outcome of this meeting at the highest possible level between Turkey and the U.S.. Since the Truman Doctrine of 1947, perhaps three different major crises have occurred between the two countries.
The first, in 1963, when İsmet İnönü was prime minister, a huge political crisis ensued concerning Cyprus, which forced the old Turkish premier to declare that "a new world can be established, and Turkey will find its place in this new world." The bottleneck with Lyndon B. Johnson's administration was solved over time, but İnönü lost his premiership and remained in the opposition till his death in 1973.
The second crisis came with poppy cultivation in Turkey. The U.S., under the Richard Nixon administration, wanted Turkey to stop cultivating poppy in the Afyon region for the purpose of extracting opium for the pharmaceutical industry. At the time, Turkey's total yearly production was only enough to meet New York City's drug consumption for one week.
Still, the U.S. administration insisted on putting an end to the poppy culture in allied countries to somehow prevent drug addiction in the U.S. The idea was almost surreal and the only consequence of ending the poppy culture was the reduction of revenues of farmers in Turkey. But when, under the Bülent Ecevit premiership, the coalition government of the (Republican People's Party) CHP and the (National Salvation Party) MSP decided to lift the ban on poppy cultivating, the U.S. administration imposed an arms embargo upon their NATO ally.
This embargo was consolidated following the Cyprus intervention of the Turkish Armed Forces. Most of the limited foreign currency of the Turkish Republic between 1973 and 1980 was spent on the purchase of armament that was just enough to maintain the deterrence of the Armed Forces.
The decision to arm the YPG is probably the third most serious misunderstanding between the Turkey and U.S.. The total disarray of the Western alliance in Syria has led to surreal ideas to help the YPG (initially supported by Bashar Assad to foment a misunderstanding between Turkey and its NATO allies), to overcome Daesh.
We also have an ongoing misunderstanding and mistrust with Germany concerning the political visits of German parliamentarians to the small German military force in the İncirlik Air Base. Turkish authorities only allow high ranking military visits, whereas German authorities insist upon the fact that the Bundeswehr is under the authority of the parliament, therefore as their superiors, German parliamentarians have the right to visit the soldiers.
Turkey similarly refused access to German parliamentarians late last year, although that visit eventually went ahead. Mistrust between the parties has gone too far and Angela Merkel just declared that the German government was considering "other alternatives to İncirlik" to locate some 250 soldiers who are basically there to display the country's flag.
Militarily speaking, this does not mean much. From a political viewpoint, such a move would only further envenom the already tense relations with Germany.
The functioning and the future of NATO, the only real military alliance in Europe, had been long debated before the U.S. elections. The new approach of the Republican Party to NATO has been impregnated with suspicion and disdain.
President Trump has even voiced his concerns about the "money" the U.S. was paying for European security, where Europeans were not doing enough. Similar rhetoric was used by the neo-con administration under the George W. Bush presidency. Not that it translated into any tangible implementation, but GOP leaders have acquired the habit of using NATO as a scarecrow for international relations with European countries, which remains a very bad idea indeed.
Turkey has had many tumultuous periods of misunderstanding with Germany in the past. With France, since 1974, our relations have seldom been good enough. Nonetheless, Turkey does not have the luxury of having not-so-amicable relations with the U.S., Germany, France and NATO all together at once. None of the latter has the luxury to hold Turkey at an arm's length, especially during this period of uncertainty, international terrorism and proxy wars on our periphery.
President Erdoğan will meet President Trump first, then by the end of May he will attend a summit for NATO in Brussels, which will be followed by a Turkey-EU summit; three major opportunities to fine-tune our relations with our traditional allies.
Obviously Turkey will not ease the problems by totally accepting every move asked, the armament of YPG in particular remains a huge problem, but at the end of the day, we should see the realpolitik taking over and producing an acceptable modus vivendi for all parties. This is a hugely important political juncture for Turkey and for peace in our region.