CFR argues that Turkey is a ”frenemy” and Hellas could partly fill the vacuum: The favor to Erdogan

US President Donald J. Trump (L) and First Lady Melania Trump (R) to the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 12 February 2020. EPA, JIM LO SCALZO


On October the 15, one of the best-selling authors on international relations issues, Max Boot, wrote an article about Turkey’s invasion in Syria. He argues and implies that US-Turkish relations are surrounded by problems and Donald Trump is responsible for this disturbing situation. In that article, Max Boot stresses that Turkey isn’t a reliable ally for the USA and underlines the reasons why.

The Council on Foreign Relations is the most important think tank in the USA and it is not only Steve Cook that stands against Trump’s special relation with Erdogan. The important issue that makes Boot’s article significant is that he poses arguments that are based on a strategic vision that the USA should follow towards Turkey. Turkey’s invasion in Syria was just another case-study that proves the Turkish disregard for American interests. Why this view is important for Hellas and Cyprus and why we should take advantage of the ongoing American-Turkish crisis?

Trump’s policy towards Turkey’s invasion in Syria, was invalid (according to Max Boot) and it started as a ”favor” of Trump to Erdogan and definitely, proved that the American-Turkish relations are in a deeper crisis than we could ever imagine. The vocabulary that Max Boot uses to describe the relations between Washington and Ankara, could be described as tough. He claims that ”Turkey is no longer a reliable ally” and also, that ‘Erdogan is a supporter of Muslim Brotherhood”.

  • Moreover, he mentions the vulgar actions that Turks made against Kurds and shows a depressive situation regarding Turkish internal politics. It is true that Erdogan purged pro-Western military officials and he tried to fully transform the secular internal regime of Turkey, into an Islamic democracy. Max Boot raises questions that are seeking answers on whether Turkey is a NATO ally and whether is not.

The strategic vision that uses as the appropriate methodology to project his ideas, Boot makes a historic narration to unfold the American-Turkish relations via NATO. It is well known that Turkey had a secular and military-dominated regime. Erdogan’s party  (AKP) has drawn closer to totalitarianism and authoritarianism. If there is a connection with internal authoritarianism and foreign policy as liberals argue, then, it is completely natural for Turkey to strengthen its ties with Russia and Iran. Max Boot nonetheless, accuses Turkey that follows the Jihadists in Syria.

The CFR’s expert goes beyond these facts and underlines the military ties between Turkey and Russia that have as their milestone, the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system and its neglect of NATO’s and American rules which prohibit military transactions between a NATO member and Russia. Turkey dropped down the American offer (Patriot missile system and F-35 jets). To sum up, Turkey’s membership in NATO is anything but harmonious. The incongruous role of Turkey concerns top American experts who make proposals in searching for the appropriate treatment towards Turkey.

Max Boot reminds American officials that in Turkish soil (and under NATO’s authority) there are at least 50 nuclear weapons, 2,5 thousand American military personnel (at Incirlik base). Other exceptional American thinkers have already stressed that Erdogan strongly believes that the USA needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the USA.

  • The Turkish foreign policy that belongs to the type of unilateralism directly implies that Ankara could blackmail the USA and NATO, whenever it thinks that its interests can’t abide by the NATO rules. Furthermore, CFR’s expert claims that Turkey does not meet NATO’s criteria today.

The most important criteria that Turkey neglects are many (a stable democratic system, peaceful settlement of territorial and ethnic disputes and good relations with other states in the neighbor, respect to human rights, democratic and civilian control of armed forces and a market-based economy. Putting aside the market-based economy, Turkey isn’t in accordance with the other criteria which also comprise the EU’s criteria (the well-known Copenhagen Criteria that one candidate member should comply with). He also mentions the lack of a mechanism in NATO to expel members due to their disregard for the alliance’s rules and stipulations.

Boot’s concludes with significant methods to treat Turkey. Firstly he thinks that the best word which a western state could use for Turkey is ”frenemy”. ”Frenemy” is a part of new jargon that could describe states that can be useful to solve several problems but at the same time, undermine the vital interests of their allies. The core of the multipolar international system is used to have ”frenemies” (e.g the role of Italy in WWI and WWII). Max Boot also proposes to treat Turkey (both as USA and NATO) in the same manner as America treats Pakistan.

  • Moreover, Max Boot wheels President of CFR Richard Haass out for his opinion to reduce American reliance on Incirlik base and to control the arms sales to Turkey. Finally, two significant experts of CFR are on the same page regarding the issue of a new American treatment towards Turkey, underlining that Turkey is no longer the country that used to be during the Cold War era. The USA should diversify its policy concerning the exploitation of its foreign military bases, by making Turkey less important for the American plans.

Having these top American expert’s opinions on the mind, as Hellenism we should coerce the USA to calculate Greece and Cyprus as their alternatives in the region. Max Boot warmly supports the idea that the USA should relocate nuclear weapons from Turkey. Undoubtedly, it is a big conversation that had already been taken place in Greece during the Cold War era. However, times are changing and the needs of Hellenism are harmoniously synchronized with the vital interests of the superpower.

We should take advantage of the great momentum that Hellenic-American relations enjoy and start conversations within the Hellenic-American Strategic Dialogue. If we desire to actively participate in the great game of our region, there are only difficult decisions ahead to make.

  • (*) Alexander Drivas: Research Fellow – HALC, Ph.D. Cand. (Hellenic-American Relations after the Cold War Era)

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