Throughout the centuries the Old World saw the use of royal minions to change the course of political events in royal courts and throughout European politics. However, the position of a royal minion was extremely insecure, since kings were inclined to change mistresses often. This peculiar position usually forced royal minions to confront their contenders, while constantly seeking ways to strengthen the influence they had upon the absolute ruler.
The United States who has been trying on the imperial mantle for decades, has finally learned the lesson that members of royal families knew all along –those who use royal minions in an attempt to pursue the “divide and rule” policy, while delegating certain responsibilities to their sweethearts, will ultimately face a decline of their authority.
For example, Israel has been the American sweetheart in the Middle East for nearly 70 years, trying to expand its influence over other countries of the region “in the name of US prosperity.” However, times have changed and this “union” has been going down in flames. But it is not alone, since a similar fate awaited yet another favorite of Washington – Saudi Arabia who in exchange for certain “services”, like control over international oil markets, the creation of Al-Qaeda, and the implanting of the seeds of religious discord in certain states is now repaid by the total disregard and the future disintegration of the kingdom, in accordance to Ralph Peters’ map.
That is why, while Washington has been busy redrawing the Middle East for it to better serve its own best interests, America decided to choose a new favorite – Turkey, that should replace the old ones which are of little use for the White House anymore.
This choice, of course, was not random. The Unites States has been developing the plan that would allow it to approach Turkey, while containing its influence at the same time, for quite a while. In order to achieve this, American think tanks decided to exploit a number of regional problems and contradictions. In some ways Washington is actively using its influence to block Turkey’s expansion, but leaving its ambitions intact, in hopes that this would result in clashes with major regional powers, including Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and others.
These US actions are largely explained by the fact that in the modern world the Middle East remains the major source of hydrocarbons while the Eastern Mediterranean would remain pivotal in the supply of the most developed economies of the world. This makes Western countries largely dependent on the state of affairs in these regions of the world. At the same time the White House has been supplying them with massive amounts of all types of weapons, while deliberately supporting dangerous hotbeds of international tensions: the Turkish-Syrian face-off, the Greek-Turkish conflict, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This allows Washington to take the position of the ultimate arbiter, while using cloak-and-dagger policies and deception to remain uncontested.
The preconditions for rapprochement between the US and Turkey were established immediately after the Second World War. In 1947 Turkey received American aid under the Marshall Plan, which was followed in 1952 by Ankara’s decision to enter NATO. From that moment on Turkey has always been of paramount importance for Washington in its foreign policies. In its turn Turkish politicians have been trying to coordinate their actions with Washington on the international stage, while developing bilateral political, military and economic ties. American think tanks understand the importance of Turkey’s geopolitical position and its unique political model that combines moderate Islamism and secularism perfectly clear. That is why Washington perceives Turkey as a somewhat special partner that is able to play an important role in Middle Eastern affairs. In fact, Turkey can play a multitude of roles at the same time, by influencing the Black Sea region, controlling routes from the Mediterranean, counterbalancing Russia in the Caucasus and the Balkans, limiting the spread of Muslim fundamentalism, while remaining the southern outpost of NATO. However, if Iran who is also considered by the White House as a potential minion can play a key role in the new reorganization of the Greater Middle East, should it suddenly become a partner of the West, Turkey is compelled to play the role of a watchdog that must suppress Shia sentiments in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and a number of other countries in the region, including Iran.
That is why the US policy in Turkey is marked by a combination of military and non-military advancements, with a strong emphasis on the former aspect. Close bilateral military cooperation was perfectly complemented by the fact that Turkey did join the North Atlantic Alliance, which allowed Washington to install a number of bases on Turkish territory along with providing training to Turkish army units by using NATO’s capabilities.
Today Turkish armed forces are a force to be reckoned with, with a total of 630,000 soldiers who are well trained and provided with modern weapons and naval ships. In fact, the Turkish army is the second largest in NATO, which can be explained by the fact that army is a key element of the Turkish traditional society. According to the constitution, Turkish generals have the right to interfere in the political activities of the state, which they have exercised rather often over the last fifty years, while defending the secular nature of the Turkish Republic. A number of military coups in 1960, 1971, 1980, 1997 integrated military officials in the political life of the state, therefore by controlling Turkish generals, Washington is able to control Turkey itself.
Once the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq began, the importance of the role Turkey played in the United States political games greatly increased. The Republic of Turkey is also pivotal in the diversification of exports of hydrocarbons on the Eurasian continent. This goal is facilitated by the fact that Turkey has the largest oil port – Iskenderun, which is strategically important for the economies of the West, as well as the armies and navies of NATO countries.
Turkey’s special status in American foreign policy was underlined by the visit of Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, General John Allen to Ankara in early July. John Allen has not simply negotiated the use of the Incirlik Air Base for American military operations in the region, he has also talked Turkish generals into taking part in them. This time it’s the Kurds who must take the beating, despite the fact that Washington has repeatedly used them for its own purposes only to turn its back on them later on, but Turks are willing to allow their territory to be used against Iran, Russia and China as well.
How this “love duet” of US and Turkey plays out – only time will tell, but for some reason the sight of former American minions implies that Turkey is compelled to join their ranks in the near future, once it has fulfilled the role that has been assigned to it by Washington.
Vladimir Odintsov, political commentator, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.