If the late prominent American international relations theorist K. N. Waltz were alive today, he would be blessing the existence of nuclear weapons that help global actors keep relations through diplomacy, rather than fighting and punishing each other directly with a world war.
Nowadays, we have been witnessing Cold War rivals almost exchanging their positions during the current trade wars; the U.S. becoming a nationalist-communist state, like a global giant, in terms of conservative foreign policy for commercial interests, and China becoming a liberalist one – very ironic. Thanks to nuclear deterrence, the trade war stops itself from getting worse among Western allies, mainly the U.S. and EU, in the Eurasian markets.
Turkey, a strategically crucial country on the Eurasian geopolitical map, is obviously affected by this global war. Being dependent on fossil imports, Turkey is seeing problems in its domestic market with the falling value of the lira. The crisis has appeared and then surely fueled further due to Washington's Turkey strategy. The decision makers in Washington have positioned Turkey as an agricultural country, not as an industrial growing economy and started hitting its economy and the eurozone at the same time. Therefore, the deterioration of Turkish-U.S. relations is beyond the pastor Andrew Brunson case.
The geopolitical reality
In fact, the majority of the Turkish population lives in cities. What Turkey needs to do in order to keep city life alive is to increase its industrial production power. For this, it is required to import fossil energy sources without being victim to unstable charts and to attract foreign investment. In case it manages to extract fossils in its own surrounding territories or waters, it might come closer to becoming an industrial country. At this point, the eastern Mediterranean can be described as very important for Ankara's geopolitical strategy in becoming a future fossil fuel producer in the region.
Since it is a transit country in the region, it can take advantage of this and earn considerable transit commissions. The very same region is also considered as important in Washington, too, for the U.S. sees the region as significant for its security policies. Turkey-U.S. ties are at a low, and the U.S. administration under the leadership of Donald Trump is pushing Turkey into developing ties with other new allies with controversial policies.
Here, Russia and China have emerged as a new route for Turkey, but the future of possible relations with them is open to discussion. To me, the U.S. policy mechanism should not act according to the words of some short-sighted people. The United States saw Turkey's active attempts to increase its industrial growth and focus on technology production and launched an anti-Turkey campaign. Because if Turkey, as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East, increases its strength in high tech production and industry, it will become a challenging actor for the U.S.
From the 1950s to today
The U.S. is now in efforts to force Turkish people in leaving cities to move to rural areas by making city life much more expensive via the economic attack on the Turkish lira. In 1950, the U.S. helped Turkey (which was in an economic crisis at that time) recover with the dollar-based Bretton Woods system as part of the post-World War order.
Turkey was then positioned as an agricultural country, secured from threats by NATO. With the help of U.S. grants, it managed to increase welfare, socially and economically. New tractors were given to Turkish farmers to work in rural areas. One purposes of the U.S. aid was to prevent Turkish rural society from getting closer to communism.
After the Cold War ended, no one would accept Soviet socialist ideas and even Turkish people started questioning the functionality of NATO. Most of the Turkish farmers, who benefited from American aid, started migrating to big cities. At that time, Turks were moving to Western countries only for labor, but for almost two decades now, they have been going to the same countries as students, academics or traders. This transformation was experienced with the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who came into power in the early 2000s.
The walnut retaliation
The drastic change is of course related to Turkey's transition from an agricultural country to an industrial one. This is why U.S. President Trump follows an anti-Turkey policy, making the Turkish people and companies stop buying U.S.-made cellphones, computers or other tech products.
Since the Turkish market for U.S products is big, the Turkish economic crisis is thus reflected on U.S. import rates. For example, a walnut crisis has now emerged since Turkey-U.S. ties hit rock bottom. The U.S., which is the biggest exporter of walnuts, is also the biggest supplier of walnuts to Turkey. Its imports reach in millions of dollars just from California farms. After the rift in bilateral relations, the Turkish government planned to prevent U.S. walnuts from entering Turkish markets with the imposition of a tariff policy to retaliate against the U.S. administration's harsh policies on the Turkish economy. This situation will ultimately impact Californian exporters. Considering the fact that California is one of the biggest states against Trump, it will not be surprising to see his administration losing its California votes in the upcoming elections.
High tech companies will also lose their interest in Turkey; only arms and energy giants may benefit if the U.S. administration reaches its goals. This is not because they can sell more to Turkey, but rather they can prevent Turkey from being a key player by benefiting from the resources in the eastern Mediterranean. So, U.S. companies will sell electronic devices to Turkey if Ankara accepts going back to the 1950s and becoming an agricultural economy again.
The strong dollar against the lira is also a big menace to European Union countries, which have financial interactions with Turkey. The European Central Bank is alarmed the euro has lost against the dollar conspicuously. The U.S.'current strategy does not give the EU the benefit of the doubt to think that U.S. pressure on Turkey is a short-term policy. That means the Trump administration is attacking the European economy via the Middle East, first by declaring sanctions on Iran, then by attacking the Turkish lira. In both countries, France and Germany seem to be losing quite a bit at the moment.
Washington sees a Turkey that is touristic, ancient, authentic and agricultural as better for its interests in the Middle East. What it doesn't see is that 90 percent of Turks live in industrial cities. Whether Ankara will give up the eastern Mediterranean energy rivalry at its own expense for U.S. benefits is ambiguous. Who knows? It seems if Turkey accepts such pressures and turns into an agricultural economy, then the pastor crisis may come to an end.
* Researcher at the Association of Researchers on the Middle East and Africa (ORDAF)