OPINION

A resolute Turkey

The tension in Turkey’s relationship with the USA over Iraq has highlighted the fact that Ankara’s political and military bureaucracy is determined to defend Turkey’s national interests as it deems best. This is what lies at the heart of the ongoing diplomatic quarrel, while talk about Turkey’s estrangement from Washington and whether Greece could take advantage of the crisis simply signify perplexity and an inability to evaluate the situation. A strong Turkey may present Greece with a serious, albeit not insurmountable, problem. But there is no greater threat to Greek security than a Turkey facing separatist threats while isolated from Europe and alienated or at odds with the USA. Apart from their humanitarian concerns, most European citizens are concerned about the repercussions of a prolonged war on the economy. For Turks, on the other hand, war entails the threat of an independent Kurdish state that could challenge Turkish sovereignty. US reassurances about preserving Iraq’s integrity are met with justified skepticism inside the Turkish establishment. Ankara does not question the sincerity of US pledges but rather America’s ability to avert the birth of an autonomous Kurdistan. Ankara is even more concerned given Washington’s failure to build state systems after the end of conflict in Serbia or Afghanistan. Furthermore, despite the pledges of the Bush administration, Iraq’s peculiarities and America’s lack of an imperial past such as those of Britain, France of Russia, means that the USA will most likely renege on promises for a lengthy reconstruction of Iraq. Not surprisingly, Ankara is driving a hard bargain with Washington and will continue to do so. A conservative country, Turkey does not entrust foreign policy or security issues to outside powers, close as their ties may be. Ankara will do everything to impose its own model of security and stability in the region.