Young people may not remember, but many of those self-appointed “Turkey analysts” surely will.
Back in the day, Turkish prime ministers would stand at the ready before all foreign dignitaries. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton's pose with former Primer Minister Bülent Ecevit, his hand on the shoulder of a man twice his age, says it all: Essentially, Ecevit was begging for money from the United States, blaming former Prime Minister and President Süleyman Demirel for making Turkey desperate for 70 cents. Years later, Demirel returned the insult by claiming that Ecevit had put the country in a bind for even one cent, adding that even if he earned a dollar from Clinton, it would be in return for promises that meant the country couldn't so much as use it.
Thirteen years have passed, and Turkey has since paid off all of its debts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2013, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government declared Ankara's financial (and therefore political) independence. Still a member of the Western world and faithful NATO member, Turkey will not, however, be pushed around by rich and powerful allies – it will not be bullied anymore.
In 1974, as a brash, cocky, young journalist who had to report on Ecevit’s Cabinet discussions on the international effects of allowing poppy production, I thought that I should embarrass those ministers, who said the ban on opium cultivation (which the military junta had declared three years before to gain the support of the U.S.) should remain in place to ensure IMF funds kept coming.
Thus, I wrote literally everything that those shameless ministers had said. However, not one single sentence appeared in the newspaper the next day. The editor scolded the bureau chief for allowing reporters to write such nonsense: What were we thinking? Opening war against the pro-IMF ministers?
Of course, it was deemed that we shouldn’t bite the hand that was feeding us, and thus, opiates should not be allowed because it would poison the American youth (Would no one dare utter that Turkey's entire yearly poppy production would not suffice for one day of heroin consumption in New York City alone?).
Yet that was not the time statistics, the realities of national agriculture and Turkey’s own need for its legitimate use. We were simply in need of money, and only international capitalistic empires were disposed to give it.
Those beggars were the grandsons of the Ottoman Empire, which lost 60% of its lands in a war that they had not even fought in, entrusting all their Aegean islands to Italy for safekeeping during the war and silently watching as Italy literally donated them to Greece. In those days, you could use sticks and carrots with Turkey (You wouldn’t even need to use carrots, in fact: Just shake the stick), and Turkish statesmen would stand at the ready before your desk.
Years have gone by since then. As I said, 13 years have passed, and Turkey has shaken off its image as the beggar and regained its dignity. Those who want to know what Turkey has accomplished since the popular revolution of 2002 should see the list of industries that have since flourished in the country. Turkey is now a power to be reckoned with.
French President Emmanuel Macron still seems to daydream that Turkey will remain a country that can be pushed aside by simply sending an aircraft carrier in its direction. First, if you have 15 aircraft carriers and only one of them is barely operational, then it bears reconsideration on how to maintain that ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Second, this is not the former Turkey that yielded its Arab provinces (and the oil therein) to the Western powers at the end of World War I.
Macron might like to see NATO disappear and a "European Army" take its place, but he should also know that Europe starts where Turkey is located – not the other way around. Europe today needs Turkey. You cannot shake a finger at Turkey through your proxies at the European Council.
In 10 days' time, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, will learn his lesson about how to address Turkey. He will be returned his stick as well as his carrots.
If the Belgian waffle doesn’t yield answers, he may consult the French onion soup who brought him to the European Council without paying attention to the opposition of many European leaders.
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