Abstract

This article studies developments in Turkish-American relations over the last decade. It starts with an analysis of the three parameters of the bilateral relationship that took shape at the height of the Cold War: Turkey’s geo-strategic and geo-political importance; cooperation in return for external assistance; and pursuit of a pro-US political-ideological role at the regional level. While the alliance relationship underwent transformations in following years, the learned behavioral habits from this era continued to impact Turkey’s foreign policy practices. The article argues thatTurkey’s policies over the last decade can be viewed as attempts to break those established behavioral patterns. In particular, it analyzes how the drive for autonomous action became a defining feature of Turkish foreign policy throughout the 2000s, as a result of which relations with the United States entered a new era, characterized by a growing number of frictions. Consequently, both cooperation and competition have become routine features of the bilateral ties, which is examined in various issue areas and regions.

Key Words

Turkish-American relations, strategic partnership, model partnership, geopolitical position, anti-Americanism, regional power.

Introduction

Relations with the United States occupy a major place in Turkey’s foreign policy agenda. Not only is the bilateral relationship undergirded by powerful systemic dynamics, it also cross-cuts Turkey’s other foreign policy issues, which makes US-Turkish relations unique in many ways. Any analysis of Turkey’s regional policies in the Balkans and Middle East, its problems with neighbors such as Greece and Syria, or its membership process into the European Union would be incomplete without taking into account the United States. At the same time, an analysis of US policies in the regions surrounding Turkey would remain incomplete without bringing Turkey into the equation. Turkish-American relations, thus, can be explained by reference to two interrelated dynamics: the place Turkey occupies in the US global and regional strategies, and Turkey’s expectations of assistance from the US in order to reach its foreign policy objectives.