OPINION

Turkish nightmare

Over the past few decades, Turkey has stood out for its effective foreign policy. The supervisory role of the military bureaucracy guaranteed the implementation of a firm national strategy, regardless of political changeovers. It was a guarantee of continuity and consistency. The power politics and the ensuing inflexibility of the Turkish regime were mostly successful. Ankara furthered its goals and gained ground on all fronts, despite the fact that for many years the country suffered from the military activity of a Kurdish secessionist movement. In the past few months, Turkey has been faced with unprecedented political challenges. However, caught up in its traditional stereotypes, the Turkish elite failed to meet these challenges and its intransigence appears to have been counterproductive. The manner in which the Turkish government bargained with the EU is indicative of this. Rather than seek a gradual adaptation to European standards, it tried to secure the upgrading of EU-Turkish relations by invoking political criteria, also riding on the back of Washington’s backing. This strategy seemed to yield fruit at first, but the Turks soon overstepped the mark. In 1999, in Helsinki, Turkey was grudgingly given EU-candidate status, but then, in spite of US pressure on member states, it ran into a wall of EU objections as it artlessly demanded a date for the start of membership talks. Turkish refusals to agree on a Cyprus settlement on the basis of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan highlighted Ankara’s atavistic inflexibility and prevented a cool-headed evaluation of the situation. Ankara should long ago have realized two obvious facts: First, that the road to Europe passes through a solution to the Cyprus dispute and, second, that by joining the EU, Cyprus will enhance its bargaining status. As regards Kurdish aspirations in northern Iraq, the Turks were misled into believing that Washington would accept their excessive demand to play a leading role in the region. Turks blocked the transit of US troops through Turkish territory, causing rifts in their ties with Washington. Despite their threats that they would invade, Washington’s strict warnings have obliged the Turks to merely stare at the Kurdish intrusion in Kirkuk and Mosul and potentially also the creation of an independent Kurdish state. The Turkish nightmare is turning into reality.