The Republic of Turkey is heading towards its 100th anniversary. According to normal schedule, Turkey’s 100th anniversary will coincide with the country’s next presidential election. Before the election, both the government coalition (AK Parti + MHP + BBP) and the opposition bloc (CHP + İYİ Parti + DEVA Partisi + Gelecek Partisi + Saadet Partisi) seem not enough ready for this very important turning point in Turkish political history. Here is a list of tips for both the government and the opposition bloc to get back to normal in Turkey’s democratization process as well as classical Western-oriented Turkish foreign policy.
Solve the S-400 crisis: Turkey is a member of NATO and a traditional U.S. ally. However, Turkey’s strange choice of buying its air missile defense system from Russia recently created serious disturbance and harsh reactions in the U.S. as well as in other NATO allies. Turkey was even removed from the F-35 program due to its S-400 purchase. It is true that in the past the U.S. acted very reluctantly to sell its Patriot system to Ankara. Even the 45th President of the U.S. Donald Trump confessed this reality. However, at the same time, this problem creates further problems and complications in Turkish-American relations. Thus, it is better for Ankara to sell the S-400 system to a third country or to convince Washington in implementing a formula (Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar already offered the “Crete model”) to prevent additional problems to arise between two countries.
Get back to EU reforms: Turkey’s golden years in terms of economic growth and democratization took place between 1999 and 2013. It was not a coincidence; Turkey’s aim to become a full member to the European Union and its reformist governments were the main reasons of the country’s gradual success. Thus, it is very essential to revitalize Turkey’s EU membership process although it might take long years for Ankara to become a full member of the Union. Since the new U.S. President Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken are also known as pro-EU statesmen who care much more about Transatlantic ties compared to Trump administration, Turkish-EU normalization could be realized at the same time with the Turkish-American normalization. Providing French support to Turkey’s EU process would be crucial in doing this.
Support diplomacy instead of military moves: Turkey has been recently criticized in the Western press and academia as a country whose foreign policy is largely militarized. Thus, Ankara might begin to prefer diplomatic methods over warfare and militaristic methods in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean dispute, in Libya, and in Syria from now on. In addition, instead of two states solution, Ankara could prefer a thesis based on confederation or federation in Cyprus in order not to destroy UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ sincere efforts. This will be welcomed by all sides including the U.S., the EU, and the Russian Federation.
Normalization with Armenia: Since Turkey’s number one ally Azerbaijan got back its territories in Nagorno Karabakh with the recent war, Turkey could try to normalize its relations with Armenia as well. Azerbaijan and Georgia could also join these two countries to establish a regional framework of cooperation. Of course, Armenian contribution to peace is also expected in this scenario.
More freedoms for the press and the academia: Although Turkey is not living its best days as a democracy, it is also a fact that Turkey is still much more developed and democratic compared to other Muslim countries (with the exception of Tunisian democracy). In order to develop Turkish democracy further, the government might allow more freedoms for the press and the academia in the following months. This will change the mood in the country and reduce Western criticism against the Turkish regime.
Political solution to Syrian crisis: In order to establish a normal democratic regime in Turkey, the war in Syria must end. Turkey, together with Russia, Iran, and the U.S., should work on how to arrange the transition period in Syria and to create a unified country once again. This should be followed by Turkey-Syria normalization process which would help Turkey to get normalized within its borders as well.
Normalization with the Arab world and Israel: Turkey should also normalize its relations with Arab countries and Israel. Turkey does not have an ambassador now in Syria, Egypt, and Israel. Turkey’s relations with the Gulf States -with the exception of Qatar- have also become very problematic in recent years. Thus, Ankara should try to improve its diplomatic relations in the Middle East in the new term to have a better political positioning.
These tips could be used as a basic recipe for Turkish government to improve Turkish foreign policy. Turkey deserves a good reputation and image in its 100th anniversary since Turkish people are very friendly towards other nations.
Assoc. Prof. Ozan ÖRMECİ