June 2000 Prepared for FOREIGN POLICY REVIEW, CALIFORNIA
The Turkish-U.S. Strategic Partnership: Broadening and Deepening in the 21st Century
Turkey and the United States are engaged in a strategic partnership whose agenda encompasses such critical issues as energy, trade, finance, investment, defence, regional issues and democracy. Yet, speculating on the future course of this ever diversifying relationship is not easy because most forward-looking assessments, particularly those pertaining to Turkey, might turn into a thing of the past due to the often unexpected and swiftly changing events. This article is an attempt to take stock of the Turkish-American relations that have evolved into a “strategic partnership” over the past century, elaborate five major tenets of this relationship, and finally visualize how a mutually serving balance of political, economic and security interests could be achieved between these two allies in the first decades of this century.
Looking Back The Turkish-U.S. relations date back to early 19th century. There was a trade agreement of 1830 between the Ottoman Empire and the United States, but relations in the 19th century and even in the early 20th century remained largely confined to the activities of American religious missionaries as well as to limited trade. Even with the onset of the First World War, the Balkans and the Middle East were not considered as the traditional areas of American national interest2. A ten-year (1917 to 1927) rupture in diplomatic relations between the two countries witnessed the U.S. Senate’s refusal to ratify a bilateral “Treaty of Amity and Commerce”, which was concluded in Lausanne in 1923. Diplomatic relations could be resumed only in 1927.
The broad outline of the ensuing history of Turkish-U.S. relations are well-known: Stalin's threats; the Truman Doctrine; the Korean War; NATO membership; close relations throughout the 1950s; and then disaffection and deterioration resulting from the withdrawal of Jupiter missiles in 1962, the Johnson letter warning Turkey against intervention in Cyprus in 1964, and, most dramatically, the arms embargo that followed Turkey's military intervention in Cyprus in 1974. The arms embargo was lifted in 1978, but the chill remained, and it wasn't until the mid-1980s that Turkish officials would begin again to speak of Turkish-American "friendship."
The Turkish-American relations during the entire Cold War period were mainly based on military co-operation, although there was a fairly strong economic assistance component as
1 Mr. Ögütçü is presently a principal administrator at the OECD Secretariat in Paris in charge of co-operation and policy dialogue with Asia-Pacific economies. He is the author of the “Does Our Future Lay with Asia? China and Turkey” (Milliyet: January 1999), a major strategy report “A New Economic and Trade Diplomacy Strategy for Turkey” (TUSIAD: October 1998), and “2023 Turkey Vision: Dreams and Realities” (2000, forthcoming), among other publications. The views expressed in this paper are his own personal and do not necessarily reflect those of any Organisation he is associated with. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
2 See for further details “Ataturk, the Turkish Nationalists and the United States: A Neglected Prospect for Peace in 1919, Howard A. Reed, p.99-111, Journal of the American Institute for the Study of Middle Eastern Civilizations, Autumn-Winter 1980-1981, Vol.1, No: 3&4.