Oscillation between East and West

Published 11.08.2016 00:07

Renowned Turkish sociologist Niyazi Berkes likened Turkey's 200-year adventure of Westernization to a drowning man clutching at straws.

As a matter of fact, Turkey has always tried to set the balance by improving its relations with the West in the face of regional pressures.

Indeed, this was not a short journey. Some acquisitions were also obtained out of necessity. Thanks to these relations, Turkey conducted many democratization and demilitarization reforms. Many alliances, including NATO membership and EU candidacy, were also formed along this path. It is evident that Ankara exerted much effort to building up relations.

Internalizing the assumption that Turkey is obliged to ally with the West, the West has never considered Turkish-Western relations as between equals. The West looked down on the momentum of Turkey's transformation and resorted to double standards. It violated many agreements, including those on Cyprus, visa-free travel, firearms and trade quotas. The West also benefited from relations with Turkey in many aspects, including a limitless market and security on Europe's eastern border. Turkey also sets a model for other Muslim countries in the region with its secular and democratic regime.

After many oscillations, Turkey, as a bridge connecting East and West, has again come to the verge of making a choice between the two.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recent visit to Russia and meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has been discussed as part of this. The quick recovery of Turkey and Russia's diplomatic relations, which were cut after Turkey downed a Russian jet that violated its air space over the Syrian border, concerns some Western politicians. But as always, they express their concerns with scorn and by glossing over the reasons.

No one mentions the fact that while Turkey was tormented by the greatest terror attack in its history, the U.S. and the EU left it alone and did not even issue a proper statement of solidarity even though Ankara always issues strong messages of solidarity after such incidents.

They do not question the overt support the U.S. and some European countries provide to the outlawed PKK and its Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is responsible for terrorist assaults that killed thousands of civilians in the recent year.

Moreover, following the repelling of the July 15 coup attempt, we saw that the West left its ally alone. Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the coup plotters, still lives in the U.S. and is not being extradited to Turkey despite all legal arguments and protestations. On top of that, a European or an American politician threatens Turkey to exclude it from some alliance or other every day.

Now, can you tell me which politician can condone such double standards? How can the country's people be persuaded in the face of all these provocations? Fortunately, Turkish politics and the public still attach importance to the West. No one is willing to incline the country toward the East. However, no obligation is as binding as it used to be now in the 21st century world where economic and political paradigm shifts are at light speed.

Consequently, the colonialist mindset remaining from the previous century should not be so sure that Ankara will always turn to the West - even at desperate times and despite the West undermining Turkey. After all the difficulties, Turkey has learned to swim on its own. So, the country can swim in any direction it wants.

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