U.S. must not fly the coop on Turkey

The European Union is wrong to alienate Turkey, a vital country for the emerging post-Cold War world. They have rejected Turkey’s applications to be a part of European-dominated political and economic organizations. In contrast, President Clinton has correctly indicated that the United States must continue to have close relations with Turkey. As Turkey reels from European rejection, it is important for Americans to appreciate its vital importance.
Turkey’s efforts to maintain regional stability overlap with U.S. strategic interests. The critical venues of Caspian Basin energy reserves, Middle East balance of power, and Balkan instability demand a positive relationship between the United States and Turkey.
Even more critical is the role Turkey plays as a bridge between the Christian and Islamic civilizations. The secular tradition of Turkey’s government, as established by Kemal Ataturk after World War I, made it a central player in the Cold War. Soviet aggression in the Balkans, Italy and northern Iran created considerable regional instability after World War II. Turkey joined NATO in 1952 and then emerged as a key Western foothold against the Soviets. Europeans in particular catered to Turkey during the Cold War because they felt their security threatened in common cause by the Soviets.
Turkey was, and still is, not an ideally governed country. Considering that the regions Turkey straddles are places where Western liberal practices (democracy, human rights, secularism, etc.) are sorely missing, Turkey’s continued desire to be close to the West is admirable. Its commitment to secularism and its stabilizing efforts in the region are needed to counter the other regional cultural realities that encourage anti-Western impulses.
The Gulf War quickly followed the Cold War. Turkey stood strong against Iraq by cutting off Iraq’s oil lines and opening its NATO airbases to action against Iraq. This is important for two reasons. First, Turkey went against a tide of Arab frustration and Islamic fundamentalism in the wake of Iraq’s defeat. Turkey also expanded relations with Israel — not a popular move in the Arab/Islamic worlds. Second, Turkey suffered an economic drain from the cut-off of Iraqi oil, which still hurts today as sanctions continue against Iraq. While most of the rest of the world has outlets for plenty of revenue outside of Iraqi resources, Turkey is left neglected and suffering. Little is being done to encourage oil producers benefiting from the Iraqi sanctions to compensate Turkey.
These considerations are being ignored by the Europeans for unfair and unwise reasons. While turning away Turkey, a NATO partner, they have accepted closer union with the Greek half of Cyprus and five other European countries liberated from communism. Germany is leading the Europeans against Turkey. While claiming a whole host of human rights issues, their principal motive is fear of Turkish immigrants bringing foreign Islamic influence.
The more complex matters of Cyprus and the Kurds are blown out of proportion by the Europeans by focusing blame on Turkey. In the case of Cyprus, it is ignored that the Greeks have played provocative roles in trying to annex Cyprus to Greece. The Greeks on Cyprus and the Greek government have brought on much of the current trouble this way.
The treatment of Kurds in eastern Turkey is intolerable. However, it is often overlooked that Turkey’s neighbors — Iran, Iraq and Syria — encourage Kurdish factional radicalism against each other. Additionally, it is overlooked that the Kurdish leaders are tyrannical men who are not fighting for Western-style liberal governments.
The largest Kurdish population concentrations exist in large cities in the west of Turkey and they do not share their eastern cousins’ rebellion. In fact, the Kurds in the west participate in Turkish government functions as peaceful citizens.
One must recognize the central role of Turkey in strategic situations that outweigh these concerns. It is a bridge between the Christian and Islamic civilizations; it is a friend of Israel; it is a NATO member; it is close to the United States; and it wants closer ties to the West via Europe. Such attitudes were pronounced boldly last year in Iran at the Islamic summit when the Turkish president walked out on a resolution condemning Muslim nations’ ties to Israel. Certainly this is good for U.S. strategic interests.
As weapons of mass destruction proliferate in the Middle East, it will become increasingly vital to have Turkey on the side of moderation and stability. If it comes to conflict, the Turkish NATO airbase of Incirlik is within 1000 miles of much of the world’s energy resources. This is a critical consideration as the Caspian Basin opens to export because Turkey is at the crossroads of transit to the West in competition with Russia and Iran.
Turkey is also a battle ground between Islamic fundamentalists and moderates. If Turkey falls into the grip of Algerian-like chaos, it will cause a crisis in the Middle East, the Balkans and Europe. Therefore, President Clinton is right to seek to foster ties with elements in Turkey that are committed to Western relations and thus help strengthen them against fundamentalism. In the Caspian Basin, the Middle East and the Balkans, Turkey complements U.S. strategic interests. This is true for the Europeans as well, but they prefer to risk burning this vital bridge to the Islamic world.
The United States must not follow the actions of Europe. Instead the United States must adopt the lead laid out by President Clinton. Senior U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke says that Turkey is as important to the new era as West Germany was during the Cold War. Any country that responds to Middle Eastern and European intolerance by turning to Israel and the United States should be given strong support.

Jane Brooker is a CLA junior and Joe Roche is a CLA senior. They are both majoring in history.