Uniting against a giant hegemon

Published 02.09.2018 20:24
Updated 02.09.2018 20:25

The partnership between Turkey and the U.S. over the last six decades as NATO allies has been turbulent. The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), Johnson's Letter (1964), opium poppy planting in Turkey, the use of the İncirlik Air Base (1974), the March 1st memorandum, the Hood event (2003) and the visa crisis (2017) were the most memorable – until now. Today, relations between the two countries have never been weaker. The reason for the current tension between Turkey and the U.S. is the trial of American pastor Andrew Brunson in İzmir, who is accused of having links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) – the bloody group that orchestrated the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. Though the crises seem straight forward on the surface, behind the scenes lurks the U.S.' desire to maintain its hegemony in the region.

Lyndon B. Johnson, who served as the 36th president of the United States from 1963 to 1969, sent a letter to late Turkish Prime Minister İsmet İnönü on June 5, 1964, stating that if Turkey starts a military operation in Cyprus, he would have to ask for an emergency meeting of the NATO Council and the U.N. Security Council. In response, İnönü replied: "A new world will be established with Turkey in it."

Exchange rate dispute

The ongoing "dollar crisis" has come about as a reaction to Turkey wanting to act independently in the new world, coupled with the unpredictable and undiplomatic manners, tweets and language of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Turkey is an important bridge between Europe and the Middle East with its 80 million citizens, geopolitical position, strategic regional affairs and growing economy. Turkey is also providing the EU's security regarding refugees by hosting around 4 million Syrian refugees within its borders.

For instance, following the U.S.' economic attack on Turkey, German Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier stated in the daily Bild am Sonntag, "Turkey stands for security and reliability in Europe, we are working together well with Ankara in terms of migration."

He added that he will visit Turkey with a large delegation in October and will represent the interests of more than 7,000 German companies operating in Turkey.

Besides this, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday, "Germany would like to see an economically prosperous Turkey. This is in our interest."

From this point of view, Germany appreciates the value of Turkey; however, it's not enough. Other European countries and the EU should take sides with Turkey in terms of its economic and political stability; otherwise, how will Turkey contribute to European security if it is struggling economically?

A possible easing in the visa restrictions between the EU and Turkey would be a perfect reaction for the U.S. and would contribute to Turkey's economy. Similarly, the possible development of economic and politic cooperation during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Germany next month will also be significant for the region.

Trump's disdain for diplomacy is not only making the world unstable for Turkey, but also the EU and the Middle East. Trump stated that the U.S. may apply 20 percent additional customs tax for products to be imported from the European Union, especially brands like Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen. As of this moment, this tax rate is 2.5 percent. He said that he will continue his trade strategy "until no Mercedes models rolled on Fifth Avenue in New York."

It is clear that Trump's aggressive attitude will continue until the congressional midterm elections in November this year. This election is seen as the year's most important political process with Trump's foreign policy pursuits seen as a means of gaining support in interior politics.

What can be done against Trump's manipulation of world politics? As Altmaier stated, he is in solidarity with Turkey and said other countries should make diplomatic and legal standpoints against Trump's undiplomatic attitude.

There are 58,594 foreign-owned companies as of 2017 operating in Turkey. A total of 22,559 of these companies are owned by the EU states, and 7,151 companies are owned by German corporations. It shows that Turkey's stability is very imperative, not only because of the war in Syria and the refugee crisis, but also for Europe's economic consistency.

Turkey does not accept the hegemony of the United States and hence, is exposed to economic pressure because of its stance. This poses a threat to the region's economy, politics and security; therefore, the EU and Turkey should stand together against Trump's impulsive political position toward countries in the region.

* Assistant researcher at TRT World Research Centre and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Vienna

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