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Panelists Examine U.S.-Turkey Relations, Expose Myth of Turkey as Reliable Ally
May 5, 2010—No. 31 (202) 785-8430

Panelists Examine U.S.-Turkey Relations, Expose Myth of Turkey as Reliable Ally

AHIF Policy Forum Scrutinizes Relationship’s Impact on Greece, Cyprus

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) examined United States relations with Turkey and scrutinized all of its angles, including the effect on Greece and Cyprus, by hosting a policy forum that featured a panel of experts on April 14, 2010 at the Capital Hilton, Washington, DC.

“AHI’s Policy Statements have consistently called for a critical review of U.S. policy toward Turkey,” Executive Director Nick Larigakis said. “We have long contended that Turkey is an unreliable ally of the United States, which is clearly evident in Turkey’s actions throughout the Twentieth Century until present day. We assembled a panel of experts to examine why the U.S. continues to pursue policies with a purported ally that only lead to disappointment and disloyalty and that are not in the best interests of the United States.”

The panelists for “U.S. Relations with Turkey and Its Impact on Greece and Cyprus” included:

  • Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute;
  • Dr. Van Coufoudakis, dean emeritus, School of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne;
  • Dr. Theodore C. Kariotis, professor of Economics, University of Maryland, University College;
  • Gregory R. Copley, president, The International Strategic Studies Association; editor-in-chief, Defense & Foreign Affairs publications; and president, Global Information System (GIS), Inc.; and
  • Eugene Rossides, founder, American Hellenic Institute and president, American Hellenic Institute Foundation.

Ambassador Patrick Theros, former American ambassador to Qatar and president, U.S.-Qatar Business Council, moderated the panel.

Each of the panelists brought their expertise to address a specific aspect of the multifaceted topic of the policy forum.

Dr. Carpenter’s presentation “Loose Cannon: Washington’s Turkish ‘Ally’ in the 21st Century” offered an overview of U.S.-Turkey relations through the lens of the United States. The U.S. has viewed Turkey as an “essential ally” all through the 20th century serving as a bridge between Europe and Middle East and a secular influence in central Asia. However, Dr. Carpenter cited Washington’s Iraq policy as the primary catalyst of the “storm clouds” that have formed around U.S.-Turkey relations. He said tensions deepened during the presidency of George W. Bush as the U.S. sought to open a northern front to invade Iraq from Turkish territory. Dr. Carpenter describes Turkey’s request for $32 billion from the U.S. to open the northern front as “extortion.” He cited as further examples of the deviation between the U.S. and Turkey:

  • Turkey’s increasing Islamic political forces,
  • Turkish threats of invasion in Kurdish Iraq,
  • A more pronounced change in tune of Turkish media toward inflammatory stories about the West and U.S.,
  • Turkish policies that strengthen ties with Russia, are soft on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and are turning away from Israel, and
  • The pro-Israel lobby has not been as supportive of Turkey

“Turkish reorientation in its foreign policy and its growing pro-Islamist sentiment domestically is creating a very pronounced chill in relations with the United States, and I don’t anticipate that changing,” said Dr. Carpenter. He contends Washington will be dealing with a Turkish government going forward that is decidedly less friendly than previous Turkish governments and U.S. policymakers are not happy about that prospect.

The growing deviation between the United States and Turkey does not translate into a more even-handed U.S. policy toward Cyprus, cautioned Dr. Carpenter. And under the Obama Administration, he added the only chance to see a different U.S. policy toward Turkey is if the breach with Turkey becomes more “open and pronounced” leading to a change in perception of Turkey as becoming a more problematic state, or in the worst case scenario, an adversary.

“The Turkish leadership is smart enough not to make Turkey an open, avowed adversary of the United States,” Dr. Carpenter said.

He does not see U.S. policymakers realizing and understanding that Turkey will always pursue its own agenda; an agenda that deviates from the United States in that part of world.

Dr. Coufoudakis presented on the topic “The U.S. and Turkey Relationship: The Continuity of Past Policies.” He described the U.S.-Turkey relationship as “symbiotic” and based on alleged common issues of Islam, terrorism, and energy, and that nothing has changed despite Turkey’s disputes with Israel and pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian stances. Turkey maintains its arrogant behavior, an overinflated ego, and blames everyone else but itself for its internal and international problems, he said.

Turkey’s foreign policy is able to remain consistent in a changing environment with the assistance of an effective lobby in the United States, said Dr. Coufoudakis. He cited examples of how the Obama Administration has remained consistent on policy toward Turkey, thanks in part to reports issued by several think-tanks, including:

  • President Obama’s first stop on first overseas trip was to Turkey where not a word about Turkish threats against the Ecumenical Patriarchate or its misconduct in Cyprus was mentioned,
  • President Obama remains silent on Turkey’s airspace violations in the Aegean and the dangers they present, including their intended use as part of a domestic power play in Turkey,
  • Arms sales to Turkey with sophisticated U.S. military equipment, and
  • Cyprus being viewed as an inter-communal problem that is not on the White House radar screen.

With regard to the Aegean, Dr. Coufoudakis asserted that the Obama Administration maintains the policy of its predecessors which undermines Greek sovereignty and regional stability. He acknowledged a change in tactics with respect to Cyprus policy, but there is no change in the substance of the policy and cited American Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey’s unacceptable statements about Cyprus in February 2010. Dr. Coufoudakis also noted a “quiet upgrading” of the so-called ‘TRNC” that has not been discouraged by the administration.

“The bottom line is these cynical policies have contributed to the consolidation of the partition of Cyprus rather than a reunification under a viable and functional system,” Dr. Coufoudakis said. “The Obama Administration, by promoting Turkey as a resolute ally and as a responsible partner in the transatlantic and European matters has failed to fulfill the rule of law and transparency pledges promoted during the 2008 campaign. By pampering Turkey for years, our government has contributed to Turkey’s arrogance and that’s why Turkey today blames everyone else except herself for her problems.”

“The Greek-Turkish Dispute in the Aegean Sea and the Role of the U.S.” was the topic presented by Dr. Kariotis. He contended that the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which is provided by the Law of the Sea, provides Greece (as a signatory to the Law of the Sea) with a strong legal position in its dispute with Turkey in the Aegean Sea because the main reason for the dispute is oil. In the EEZ, a coastal state has sovereign rights to explore and exploit, conserve and manage, the natural resources of the waters, including energy exploration for oil. The EEZ extends out 200 nautical miles from the coastal baseline. Dr. Kariotis stated that although Greece is entitled to an exclusive economic zone it has not claimed it nor is it present in Greece’s negotiations with Turkey.

In addition, Dr. Kariotis makes the point that Turkey has not ratified the Law of the Sea, which allows countries to expand its territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles yet Turkey accepts this concept by expanding its own territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Black Sea. Therefore, Dr. Kariotis argues, Turkey cannot make a convincing argument against Greece in the Aegean Sea by choosing only to accept parts of the Law of the Sea that benefits it when convenient.

Mr. Copley examined the growing Turkish-Russian axis and its effect on the United States with his presentation titled “How Turkey’s New Alliance with Russia Affects U.S. Interests in the Southeastern Mediterranean.” Russia is taking the key initiatives in this region while the West, namely the United States, is not, said Copley. U.S. policy is based on the premise of a Russian threat that no longer exists and takes an anachronistic approach that has resulted in a declining U.S. influence in the region, he contends. Copley cites poorly-handled missile defense deployment in Poland and Bulgaria and U.S. interference in Kosovo, Ukraine, and Georgia as examples of the U.S. still taking a Cold War approach toward Russia.

“These ancient views of Russia as the perpetual enemy and Turkey as the inevitable counterweight to Russia have shaped British and American strategic sentiments in the region,” said Copley. “Russia is far more persuasive than the West with regard to Turkey because Turkey is to an extent, strategically enthralled to Moscow.” He added that it is “business as usual” for U.S., Britain, and EU policy when it comes to Turkey. “The West fails to understand Turkey’s internal pressures,” Copley said, whereas Russia does. Moreover, the European dependence on energy from Russia or through the greater Black Sea basin including Turkey drives EU policy toward Russia and Turkey.“ To a great extent, it is Turkey’s potential role as an energy conduit that has enabled Ankara to escalate its importance to Europe,” he said. In addition, Turkey’s acceptance of Russian dominance reflects the West’s declining strength. For example, Copley cites that Russia is Turkey’s biggest trading partner. Finally, Copley believes that the U.S. would be “powerless” to intervene if a Turkish-Greek-Cypriot conflict would ever emerge.

The forum concluded with AHI Founder and AHIF President Eugene Rossides presenting on the topic “How Should the U.S. Deal with an Ally Like Turkey?” Rossides stated, “Turkey is not a vital ally and is not a reliable ally. Turkey’s values and policies differ sharply from the United States.” He asserted that the U.S. must stop applying a double-standard in Turkey’s favor with respect to the rule of law. “The U.S. must apply a policy based on realism and the facts.”

Rossides examined the history of the Executive Branch’s policies toward Turkey, dispelling the notion that Turkey is a vital and reliable ally. He cited Turkey’s minor role to help the U.S. in the Cold War, its $32 billion “extortion in the name of alliance” in 2003 when the U.S. looked to open-up a northern front in the Iraq War as examples. He cited several examples of Turkey’s active assistance to the Soviet military during the Cold War.

Rossides also presented examples of how Turkish values differ from the U.S. and the EU citing how watchdog organizations like Freedom House call Turkey a “partial democracy.” In addition, he listed as examples:

  • The AKP party as one that is anti-religious freedom, anti-freedom of press and speech;
  • Turkey’s public support of the Iranian dictatorship and its lack of support for additional Iranian sanctions;
  • Turkey’s support for the president of Sudan, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Court and is being investigated for the genocide occurring in Darfur; and
  • Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s attacks on Israel.

In conclusion, Rossides called for Turkey to be prosecuted for war crimes in Cyprus and for the U.S. to recognize the genocides Turkey committed against the Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Assyrian Christian communities and that appropriate reparations be paid to the victims.

Click here to view photos of this policy forum.

The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt Greek American think-tank, educational and research organization. The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is a non-profit and public policy organization that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.


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