By: Yasin Aktay*
To be realistic, 2017 overtook numerous unresolved world-scale problems from 2016 that have deepened. The international system lacking the instruments required to find a just global-scale solution to these problems is sad but true. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated at every opportunity that in cases the EU’s structure, global peace and security are under danger, it makes it difficult to intervene in humanitarian crises and establish peace and also that the distribution of the members on the U.N. Security Council is not just.
Beyond being a simple and utopian slogan, the “World is bigger than five” statement is a reality that reflects the truths and feelings of the majority unhappy with the balance and principles of the system within the future years and that will eventually find its place.
Looking at the current problems in international relations, it is easily seen that the EU is not going to be able to overcome these problems with the current state of the system. We saw through experience that a solution could not be found to the Syrian crisis which is in its sixth year within the EU order and that it is impossible to find a solution.
What’s more is the ongoing crises in problem areas such as Libya and Yemen which are thought to be solved within the EU order clearly show that the solutions produced by the system to solve the problems are neither compatible with the capacities nor are they permanent.
One of the headlining topics of 2017 could be expected to be the division talks in the EU.
With the Brexit vote in the U.K. being dependent on the decision process of the parliament, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump requesting that the defense costs in NATO be shared fairly, telling off his European allies, it appears that in addition to concerns of the increased significance of Germany-France in Europe due to the Brexit, the discussion on how physical security is going to be provided in Europe will also be ignited. On another note, the far-right parties on a rise in European countries and coalitions which expressly state their demand to retake their own nation states may bring with them an atmosphere in which the EU’s future is discussed loudly.
Afghanistan and Iraq are going to continue to be topics of discussion in the new year too. Of course, it should not be forgotten that quite a fragile situation has emerged in Ukraine as well. How will Turkey’s foreign policy be shaped in a world of deep faylt lines and sharp discussions?
Let’s first start from EU relations. Turkey and EU relations have quite an old past. As stated by many researchers, just like it is impossible to write Europe’s history without Turkey, it is impossible to write Turkey’s history without Europe. But a common ground that would institutionalize these relations was not built historically. The opportunity to achieve a certain stability in Turkey-EU ties, which have a fluctuating record, was in question for the first time during the Justice and Development Party (AK Party)rule. As a result of the determined steps taken by the AK Party government in accordance with EU membership, in 2004 the EU decided to create a calendar for Turkey’s full membership.
However, the calendar given was constantly updated personally by the EU. Conditions never put forth in any other full membership negotiations were put forward against Turkey. Just like the EU was not loyal to its “pacta sunt servanda,” which is one of the most fundamental principles of international relations, matters that were decided on through negotiations were changed while the process was ongoing. In other words, the set rules were constantly changed in favor of one party even before the game started.
EU leaders, otherizing Turkey in their election campaigns, called out to the crumbs of the medieval mentality in Europe and they were quite successful at it too. In this state, the attitude to make Turkey the negative subject of a political discourse became widespread by including center and left parties. Despite this, Turkey continued its relations with the EU as an indication of good will. However, it seems this is the home stretch in relations with the EU. 2017 might be the breaking year in this aspect.
It is certain that Turkey has a trust crisis with the U.S., another important actor in Turkey’s transatlantic relations. U.S. authorities failed to make a satisfactory statement regarding the U.S. and NATO’s role in the July 15 coup attempt. Their constantly making up excuses regarding the extradition of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen and weakening the process saw reaction from the Turkish public. What’s more important was Turkey’s ally, the U.S.’s policies concerning increasing terrorism in Turkey in 2016 that were not in line with the rules of alliance. Supporting the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its armed wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in every way possible deepened the trust crisis in bilateral relations.
Trump’s taking office and the launch of policies that will treat this trust crisis might create new cooperation opportunities between Turkey and the U.S. 2017 will be a test year in this aspect. If the information circulating in lobbies is true, the Trump administration’s priority policy on Turkey is to convince Turkey with consideration for its concerns on the PYD-YPG. Frankly, it is difficult to say such an approach would be a new policy. If Trump, who overtook ruins from the Obama administration in relation to the Middle East, continues the policy of backing one terrorist organization to fight another terrorist organization, he will take his place among notorious U.S. presidents even before 2017 is over.
However, if Trump joins the regional cooperation developed by Turkey and Russia and adopts a perspective that takes into consideration the territorial integrity of the countries in the region and that fights against all terrorist organizations, he might go into history as the U.S. president that contributed to solving the Syrian crisis. Even if what he said on the Palestine-Israel issue before sitting in the presidentialis concerning and dangerous.
*Yasin Aktay is the vice chair of the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) in Turkey.