OPINION

New parameters

In what was a major diplomatic development last week, Washington voiced sharp criticism of Ankara’s stance during the Iraq war. US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that Turkey should admit it had made a mistake when it refused to allow US troops to deploy in the country to invade neighboring Iraq from the north. «If we are going to have a new page,» Wolfowitz said, «Turks must step up and say, ‘We made a mistake… Let’s figure out how we can be as helpful as possible to the Americans.» The following day, Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman stood by Wolfowitz’s remarks. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rebutted the criticism, saying that Turkey «never made any mistake.» But the main point is that the USA has openly displayed a new attitude. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, Turkey’s strategic role appears dramatically compromised. Now the US won’t have to ask for permission to use Turkish bases as it has conquered an oil-rich state in the heart of the Middle East that it can use to stage military campaigns in the region. Irrespective of whether the US war on Iraq was legal and regardless of whether US forces find a smoking gun in Iraq, American presence there marks a qualitative step in American policy. Diplomatically speaking, Ankara’s special relationship with Washington was one of the first casualties of this new order. This does not bar a future rapprochement, but Ankara’s room for initiative has been seriously reduced. This shapes a new context for Greek-Turkish relations. Ankara’s policy has since the mid-1950s been mostly dependent on US tolerance. A rupture in US-Turkish ties will not necessarily be to Greece’s benefit, as Turkey could grow more aggressive and unpredictable. Some benefits from the US-Turkey spat might be extracted, but that requires a more effective Greek government.