There are increasing calls in Turkey and the U.S. to end the 50 year old alliance between the two countries.
Diplomacy is also failing to prevent the downward spiral in ties. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visit in Ankara is going to be this week, but this is unlikely to alter much, given that lines have been firmly drawn.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu repeated once again a few days ago that the U.S. has to decide who its ally is, Turkey or a terrorist organization. This is a hackneyed call at this stage. Looked at superficially Washington seems to have decided already.
Ankara is also saying that Tillerson should not come to try and mollify Ankara, but to explain how the U.S. plans to meet Turkey’s long list of demands.
These include the extraditions of Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says masterminded the failed coup attempt in July 2016, and ending U.S. support for the Peoples Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Ankara considers to be a Kurdish terrorist organization. Washington is unlikely to meet these demands given the current atmosphere in ties.
Washington also has demands it wants fulfilled. These include the release of U.S. embassy and consulate employees and a U.S. pastor accused of being Gulen supporters. Many in Washington see these people as “hostages” held by Turkey on the basis of trumped-up charges.
Nevertheless, we see that the U.S. is trying to force diplomacy to the limit, because it is a global power and has interests in Turkey. Futile as it may seem Tillerson will try, therefore, to limit the damage as best he can.
With two sides, however, that cannot afford to appear to be caving into each other’s demands, we have a dangerous stand-off that seems to be heading towards an unprecedented crisis between the two countries. What is clear, though, is that both sides will lose much if matters come to a head.
Given the nationalist fervor that has overtaken the country, many Turks see a breakup with the U.S. as a good thing. Sober minds in Turkey are nevertheless asking whether the government has factored in the potential consequences of such a breakup.
Simply relying on Russia, and expecting this to be the panacea for the fallout from any breakup between Turkey and the U.S. appears a naïve policy to many. The only real panacea would be Turkey’s ability to stand up and face its problems on its own. Whether it can do this today is a very big question.
A country as divided as Turkey has become, where a large segment of the population looks on another large segment with feelings of ever deepening enmity does little to enhance Ankara’s capabilities in the international arena.
For a country to be able to project the kind of influence in the world that Turkey desires, it first has to be united at home as far as elemental issues are concerned. It is also apparent that this kind of unity cannot be secured by a stick.