well. During the Cold War, Turkey defended the southern flank of NATO, hosted the American military at its jointly operated bases, and served as a valuable listening post for monitoring Soviet activities. In turn, the U.S. provided about $16 billion in military and economic aid into Turkey. U.S. influence remains high in Ankara, which counts on Washington as its primary supporter in the international arena. It is still the U.S., almost alone in the Western world, which has backed Turkey's efforts to host Caspian Sea energy pipelines, its effort to gain EU membership, its contention that the PKK is a terrorist group, its right to send troops and aircraft into northern Iraq to fight the PKK, and its capture of PKK leader Ocalan in Kenya. Traditionally, the executive branch of the U.S. government, which tends to take a realpolitik approach to international affairs, has strongly supported close ties with Turkey, with the U.S. Congress sometimes applying the brakes. But this is not to say that the bilateral ties are tension-free.
The New Context for the Turkish-U.S. Relationship Relations have entered a new stage after the bipolar world ended and the Soviet Union dissipated. Many political observers thought that Turkey's security value for the Western countries had been considerably diminished; but, as a world power, the U.S. saw the facts earlier than most European countries that on the contrary the geopolitical importance of Turkey have increased more in international politics and economics3, and Ankara has continued to play a central ally and partner of the US in the region.
Clinton’s “Turkey Vision” The high point of Turkish-U.S. relations was no doubt President Clinton's five-day visit to Turkey in November 1999. It is worth recalling a few of the things he said in his November 15 speech to the Turkish Parliament because his messages contained strong indications for the future path of Turkish-American partnership.
The first is Turkey's importance to the U.S., but also, Turkey's importance to the region and to the world as a whole, and his conviction that this importance is growing, has grown and will grow as Turkey's natural advantages in terms of location and in terms of demographics and in terms of strategic importance play out. He believes that whatever happens in Turkey will “affect not only Americans, but also citizens of the entire world in the 21st Century”. Turkey's ability to play a positive role will be maximized to the extent that it is fully integrated within Europe. And the U.S. is solidly behind that objective: that was clearly a recurrent theme whenever President Clinton spoke, that “Turkey's destiny is as part of Europe, as a member of the European Union”.
President Clinton pointed to the “strategic partnership”, as reflected in Turkey's contribution to NATO's victory in Kosovo, its ongoing use of Incirlik airbase, and the common efforts to build an East-West Energy Transportation Corridor. Bilateral relationship is called “strategic”, because it involves such a wide range of overlapping interests between the two countries. He noted that the bilateral trade has increased 50 percent in the last five years. He expressed confidence that Turkey's macro-economic reforms since summer 1999 have set the stage for a major influx of foreign investment and sustained growth in the years ahead. “Our task on the eve of the new millennium”, he said, “is to forge a relationship for the 21st century that will be as relevant to our respective interests as the one we have built over 50 years”. And he made clear that Turkey would remain every bit as important to the U.S. in the years ahead as it has in the past.
3 “The End of the Cold War and Changes in Turkish Foreign Policy Behavior”, Kemal Kirisci, Foreign Policy, p.1-44, 1993, Vol.18 No.34.