James Traub writes about Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu’s vision in today’s New York Times (here). An excerpt:
…On a flight to Ankara from Brussels, where he had just attended a NATO meeting, Davutoglu pushed away his half-eaten dinner and recited to me what he told his fellow foreign ministers: “If today there is an E.U., that emerged under the security umbrella of NATO. And who contributed most during those Cold War years? Turkey. Therefore when someone says, ‘Who lost Turkey?’ — there was such a question, because people said Turkey was turning to the East — this is an insult to Turkey. Why? Because it means he does not see Turkey as part of ‘we.’ It means Turkey is object, not subject. We don’t want to be on the agenda of international community as one item of crisis. We want to be in the international community to solve the crisis.”
To be part of the global “we” — this was the very definition of Erdogan’s, and Davutoglu’s, ambitions. This is why the Turks received the European rebuff as such a deep insult. And it is true, as Gates suggested, that in the aftermath, Turkey sought to raise its status in the immediate neighborhood. One of Davutoglu’s greatest diplomatic achievements was the creation of a visa-free zone linking Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, thus reconstituting part of the old Ottoman space. The four countries have agreed to move toward free trade, as well as free passage, among themselves. As part of the zero-problems policy, Turkey moved to resolve longstanding tensions with Cyprus and Armenia and, more successfully, with Greece and Syria. Turkey’s decades of suppression of Kurdish demands for autonomy put it at odds with the new government of Iraqi Kurdistan, which sheltered Kurdish resistance fighters. But the Erdogan government reached out to Kurdistan, America’s strongest ally in the region. Relations with the Bush administration had been rocky since 2003, when Turkey’s Parliament voted against permitting U.S. forces to enter Iraq through southeastern Turkey. But by now the U.S. was eager to use Turkey as a force for regional stability. The rapprochement with Kurdistan thus smoothed relations with Washington and made Turkey a major player in Iraqi affairs. Turkish firms gained a dominant position not only in Kurdistan but also, increasingly, throughout Iraq. And Iraqi Kurdish leaders had cracked down on the rebels. It was a diplomatic trifecta.
But Davutoglu’s vision extended far beyond securing the neighborhood for Turkish commerce. One of his pet theories is that the United States needs Turkey as a sensitive instrument in remote places…