Looking at the position of Turkish Foreign Policy in the last year, one could claim that Turkey tried to follow a balance policy between the United States and Russia. However, one thing was striking: Turkey has now no allies except Azerbaijan, Qatar, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and some other Turkic and Muslim states. Turkey’s traditional allies such as the United States (US) and European countries give clear support to Kurdish PYD/YPG groups in Syria, terrorist groups that have links with the PKK according to Ankara. This shows the hypocrisy of Turkey’s allies. On the other hand, it is highly interesting why a country that hosts more than 4 million refugees and acts as the most helpful country to other states does not get enough credit from other states and the United Nations (UN). It seems like Ankara has a problem of expressing itself correctly in the global stage and there are strong prejudices against Turkish State and Turkish people.
Problems concerning Turkey’s relations with the US is caused by Turkey’s recent purchase of S-400 air missile defense system from Russia. As a response, Washington blocked the delivery of F-35 new generation warrior jets to Ankara. Experts in Washington claim that via the S-400 system, Russia could get NATO’s secrets. On the other hand, Turkey claims that the system will work on its own and will not be part of Turkey’s classical security architecture. US President Donald Trump prevented CAATSA sanctions against Turkey and tried to find a middle ground between anti-Turkish groups and Turkey defenders. But Turkey, which has been establishing closer ties with Russia in recent years, refused to bow to pressure from Washington, calling this as a matter of national sovereignty. President Trump also gave a green light to Turkey’s limited military operation into Syria last year, Operation Peace Spring (Barış Pınarı), although he first threatened Ankara with devastating its economy if it will try to destroy all Kurds. President Trump is not a fanatical anti-Turkey figure; but he could not convince hawkish names within the US Congress who do not see Turkey’s humanitarian efforts in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the other hand defended the operation by saying that his goal is to “neutralize terror threats, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone.”
Turkey’s relations with Russia is also somehow problematic. Although two countries seem to cooperate in Syria, they have many problems and different stances in many issues including who will rule Syria (Russia wants Assad in power whereas Ankara claims that a President who made chemical attacks on his own people could not be a legitimate ruler), Nagorno-Karabakh Dispute (Ankara supports Azerbaijan in accordance with the UN decisions whereas Moscow ignores international law), Ukraine crisis (Turkey does not accept the annexation of Crimea by Russia and defends Kiev’s territorial integrity), and also Libyan crisis (Turkey defends UN backed government whereas Russia supports General Khalifa Haftar). Most recently, Russian backed Syrian forces killed almost 40 Turkish soldiers in Syrian city Idlib.
Turkey also have problematic relations with the European Union (EU). Turkey’s bid for full membership does not have any progress in recent years; moreover, Ankara’s deal with Brussels about Syrian refugees also collapsed as the EU did not send the money it had promised and Ankara opened its borders for migrant who want to go to Europe. EU is also in chaos after Brexit as European leaders could not provide a plan or an utopia for the future of their own people and the Union is losing its ability to use democratization and soft power instruments for causing change in neighboring countries.
To put it shortly, Turkey has few allies, but the nation is absolutely proud of itself. This is caused by Turkish people’s economic sacrifices in Syria and elsewhere (Somali, Palestine, Iran, Iraq etc.) unlike many other nations.
Dr. Eren Alper YILMAZ