At the bilateral level, Turkey is finding it extremely difficult to secure anything or any American position that would demonstrate that the two countries’ old alliance is still in good shape. In fact, it is even finding it difficult to secure arms and spare parts as required by U.S./Turkish military agreements, especially for its F-16 fighter aircraft. In this manner, the disagreements between Washington and Ankara are worsening with each passing day and accumulating with the passage of months and years, so much so that we seem to be on the verge of an open-ended crisis that threatens a strategic divorce.
The fact that Turkish/U.S. relations have reached such a point of tension stems from Turkey’s realization that it is no longer strategically linked to the West, whether to its American or European part, and that it has strategic interests that link it to Russia and Iran for political, economic, and security reasons. This is why its foreign policies have become more daring. And, since it feels that it has a spectrum of strategic options, it now believes that the U.S. has adopted a hostile position, akin to an enemy lying in wait for it.
This is particularly acute when it sees the U.S. backing the PYD (Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party), that is the PKK’s (Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s) ally. It also senses this when the U.S. refrains from handing over Gulen against whose supporters the Turkish authorities are waging a ferocious campaign. In fact, anyone scrutinizing the Turkish media these days would sense the extent of Turkish hostility towards the former American ally.
It is clear that despite their strategic and vital role for both sides, Turkish/U.S. relations are no longer determined by the same rules that governed them during the Cold War. Washington no longer behaves as if it is leading an alliance or an axis, as much as it seems to be motivated by its own narrow interests and agenda, even if they may conflict with those of its allies. Moreover, Turkey today is no longer what was in the past, a mere frontline policeman or police station for the U.S. and NATO. Erdogan has his own aspirations and ambitions that go beyond the U.S.’s vision.
Amidst the changes on both sides, the old system of relations is breaking down, but without it being clear whether this will bring this historic relationship to an end. But what is certain, is that it has moved on to a new phase as far both parties’ roles and functions are concerned.