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June 2000 Prepared for FOREIGN POLICY REVIEW, CALIFORNIA - page 17 / 17

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The reasons for Turkey's greater assertiveness in recent years are various and overlapping: more prosperity; a better-equipped and more experienced military; the decline of neighboring states; greater regional opportunity; and a greater sense of policy independence marked by the ending of restraints imposed by the Cold War23. This increased independence is also influenced by the loosening of politically dependent ties and allegiance to Western Europe, and, to some extent, by the declining reliability of the U.S. as a source of sophisticated armaments. The notion of increased Turkish foreign policy activism is not new. This activism represents a trend resulting from structural factors in Turkey's domestic, regional, and international environment and, as such, that this trend is likely to grow in the years ahead.

Though no doubt gratified to see Turkey shaking off decades of chronic economic problems and political instability, American policy-makers are probably ambivalent about the prospect of Turkey's emergence as a genuine regional power. The U.S. might show little interest in building Turkey into a strong regional power capable of enforcing common bilateral interests24. On the other hand, one should not forget that the possibilities for cooperation with a stronger ally are far greater than with a weaker one. Plus, the EU is waiting in the wings to increase its leverage on Turkey. Whatever U.S. attitudes on these questions, a stronger, more activist Turkey is emerging. Doubts Washington harbors about the reliability of a powerful Turkish ally may be assuaged by Turkey's track record of support for most major U.S. policy initiatives since late 1940s. It would therefore be in the best interests of Turkey and the U.S. to broaden and deepen the existing relations on a clearly defined path and with an eye to the future architecture of the world geopolitics and economy.

Then it will be a truly “win-win” situation for both sides.

23 Throughout the Cold War, Turkish foreign policy was believed to be passive. Turkey focused its energy on internal development and sought to avoid foreign tensions that could divert it from that goal. Traditionally, Turkey viewed itself as an underdeveloped state, its military ill-equipped and focused strictly on protecting borders and maintaining internal order, not projecting power.

24 This reflects constraints on U.S. resources; domestic political considerations, particularly with regard to U.S. supporters of Greece and Armenia; skepticism regarding Turkey's regional image, which is still colored by age-old rivalries and an imperial past; concerns about Turkey's human rights shortcomings; and a certain wariness among some officials as to whether a strong Turkey able to act as an independent regional force would necessarily regularly behave in ways that enhance U.S. interests.

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