International Spectator

The International Spectator

Volume XXXIV No. 1 (January-March 1999)


The West and Turkey: Varying Roles, Common Interests 1
By John Roper


During the Cold War, the United States, Western Europe and Turkey had a common foreign and security policy. All three gave the overwhelming priority to responding to the perceived threat of the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War there is much greater variation in the assessment of priorities in external relations, and a diminution, at least in the case of the United States and Western Europe, of the relative priority given to defence and security issues within government. Not only is there less homogeneity of assessment between the three partners, but there is less homogeneity within each of them. Different groups within governments and more widely within societies have different external policy agendas with different rankings of priorities. The countries of the European Union have perhaps found this most acutely when the avowed intention to create a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has coincided with a period in which there is in fact less commonality among member states about priorities in external relations. More generally, the end of the Cold War has lead to a tendency to “renationalise” foreign and security policies.

In looking at the convergence and divergence of Western European and United States approaches to Turkey and the opportunities for cooperation or conflict in the light of our common interests and varying roles, it must first be recognised that within the European Union there are only common approaches on some aspects of relations with Turkey, and that within the United States there are sometimes differences in different parts of the administration on aspects of policies towards Turkey and the European Union, with Congress also sometimes having different views from the executive branch.

In the same way, within Turkey, security concerns have widened with the end of the Cold War. There are now a wider group of actors playing a part in the internal foreign policy debate in Turkey. And with the end of the Cold War, “Turkish national interests are being promoted more assertively, and sovereignty concerns are at the forefront of key relationships, not least with the US.” 2 While the European reluctance to give Turkey any clear prospect of integration in its institutions has contributed to changes in Turkey’s attitudes, there are also independent internal developments which affect its foreign policy stance.

The essential difference between the United States and Europe in the analysis of post-Cold War security challenges is that the United States shares with Turkey a view that security must be increasingly seen on a trans-regional basis while the countries of the European Union still concentrate, primarily if not exclusively, on problems of European security. This, as will be seen, has implications not only for the scope of the CFSP and the European security and defence identity (ESDI) but also for NATO and for the future cooperation among Western Europe, Turkey and the United States within that structure.


Turkey’s geopolitical relationship with Western Europe and the US

As Lesser has argued “at the broadest level, Turkey, Europe and the United States have a shared stake in regional stability, and share a status quo rather than revolutionary outlook in international affairs”. 3 But the extent to which interests are shared and the extent to which they differ in approach in a number of more specific areas deserves examination.


Turkey as part of the European security system

During the Cold War, Turkey played a critical role as part of the barrier protecting the West from Soviet advance on the southeastern flank of the alliance, but even then the culture of NATO tended to “central frontism”. This concentration on the problems of the Central Front failed to credit Turkey with the role it played in “locking up” 24 Soviet divisions which would otherwise have made an addition to the direct threat to Western Europe. On 27 September 1989, only weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the then Turkish Prime Minister, Turgut Özal, addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe could appeal for a fundamental change of attitude to Turkish membership of the European Union, claiming that as Turkey had shared for forty years the burden of the defence of Europe against communism, it should share the benefits of European economic growth. In fact, everything that has happened since then has widened the gap between Western Europe and Turkey and reduced the perception in both Turkey and Western Europe that they are in the same security system.

Whoever else has enjoyed a European “peace dividend” since 1989, it has not been Turkey. Indeed the post-Cold War developments have distanced Turkey from Western Europe in two different ways. The proposed enlargement of the Union to include the Central and Eastern European countries is argued for in part as a means of strengthening European security by including these countries in the Deutschian “security community” 4 which has been established among the members of the European Union. The ten candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe have taken priority over Turkey in the queue for European Union membership, and that has inevitably distanced Turkey from Western Europe. It is not correct to blame European reticence concerning Turkish membership of the European Union on Greece, although the long running Greco-Turkish conflicts have meant that Turkey has not been perceived as part of the existing “security community” in Western Europe and this has been one factor leading Europeans to include Turkish problems in the “too difficult” basket.

The second factor of divergence has been that, with the end of the Cold War, there has been a difference in appreciation between Western Europeans and Turks as to the nature of developments in Russia and the future of relations with it. This is in part a question of geopolitics: the end of the Cold War meant that the Red Army withdrew some thousand kilometres on the Central Front, and although with the break-up of the Soviet Union Russian armed forces are no longer on the physical borders of Turkey, they are still a good deal closer to Turkey than to Western Europe. In addition, Turkey’s possible partners in Central Asia are still much more part of Russia’s “near abroad” than are the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Even the Baltic states have made a cleaner break with Russia than the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Europeans, and indeed Americans, are more inclined to be optimistic about developments in Russia than Turkey is.

This can be seen rather directly in the negotiations taking place to adapt the European conventional arms control treaty, the 1990 CFE agreement. Turkey feels that the withdrawal of Russian forces from Central Europe has increased the pressures on the northern and southern flanks. Russia, facing complex problems inside its own borders in the Caucasus and in neighbouring CIS countries where it has forces deployed, wants to maintain the maximum flexibility in force deployment. Western European members of NATO and the United States, both of whose primary priorities lie in trying to find adaptations to the Treaty to take into account NATO enlargement to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, are frequently felt by Turkey to be not sufficiently sympathetic to its position. In practice, Turkey has found more support in dealing with flank issues from the “GUAM” countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova), which share many of Turkey’s misgivings about Russian deployments.

The development of the ESDI within both NATO and WEU has been carried out by Western Europeans in ways which they feel have attempted to meet Turkish sensitivities. Following the signature of the Treaty of European Union (the Maastricht Treaty) in 1991, which for the first time enunciated the defence vocation of the European Union and the role of WEU in implementing this as “an integral part of the development of the Union”, an invitation was extended to Greece, as a member of the European Union, to join WEU, although the accession agreement, to the disappointment of many Greeks, made it clear that Greece could not make use of the security guarantees included in Article V of WEU’s Brussels Treaty in any conflict with a NATO partner (i.e. Turkey). Turkey, along with Norway and Iceland, as members of NATO but not of the European Union, were invited to become Associate Members of WEU and have since then attended all the weekly meetings of the WEU Permanent Council. 5 It has been recommended by Stephen Larrabee that Turkey should become a full member of WEU, 6 but this is considered by the existing WEU members to be incompatible with the vocation of integrating WEU into the European Union. Meanwhile the three Associate Members, including Turkey, participate fully in the military planning of WEU and their officers, along with those of the full members but not of the Observers or Associate Partners, make up the staff of WEU’s Planning Cell. 7 The WEU Erfurt Ministerial Declarations of November 1997, which followed negotiations on WEU-led Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTFs) with NATO, made it clear that Turkey would have the right to a full role of participation and decision-making in any WEU-led operation using NATO assets and capabilities (this covers a much wider range of operations than WEU-led CJTFs). This, in fact, goes a long way to achieving the objective of integrating “Turkey more fully into the mainstream of European security planning”. 8 On the other hand the extension of EUROFOR (European Rapid Deployment Force), at present made up of France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, and EUROMARFOR (European Maritime Force) with similar participation — both forces answerable to WEU (FAWEU) — to Greece but not to Turkey, as has recently been suggested, would be very badly received by the Turkish Defence Staff. The issues of Turkey’s long-term relations with the European Union must influence the security relationship.


Turkey as a partner in the problems of southeast European security

Turkey has of course had a central historic role throughout the Balkan peninsula, the area which divides its geographically from Western Europe. There have, throughout much of the Cold War period, been disputes between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean and over Cyprus. NATO and Western allies have played a part in managing because the cost of a dispute would have had strategic implications. The end of the Cold War has, if anything, intensified these disputes and the continuing stresses are reflected in the perpetuation of the militarily inefficient arrangements for NATO’s command structure in southeast Europe, where two Joint Sub-Regional Commands, one South-Centre based in Larissa, Greece, and the other South-East based in Izmir, Turkey, have been maintained for purely political reasons. The conflict over the uninhabited Kardak-Imai islands in the southern Aegean in 1996 was resolved thanks to direct intervention by Ambassador Holbrooke. The problems unfortunately continue as seen by the events in 1997. Following the US-brokered agreement of May 1997 whereby Cyprus agreed not to invite Greek military aircraft to overfly the island during a joint Cypriot-Greek military exercise, Turkey committed itself not to overfly Cyprus as long as Greece did not do so. However within less than six months, in October 1997, Greece and Greek Cypriots held the Nikiforos exercise and in November Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots responded with the Toros manoeuvres. Thus both parties violated the moratorium on overflights of Cyprus they had signed only six months previously.

Many attempts at mediation of the Cyprus dispute have been made in recent years without success, but the relatively stable division is now under challenge for two reasons. Under pressure from Greece, the European Union has agreed to begin negotiations for Cyprus’ entry to the European Union along with the five Central and Eastern European countries 9 that are on the “fast-track”. There are many existing EU members which feel Cyprus cannot be admitted to the Union while it is divided, but the prospect of negotiations for admission which were initially seen, perhaps naively, 10 as a catalyst for change are now seen to be complicating rather than helping the resolution of the problems between Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the island. In addition, in January 1997 the Cypriot government ordered some S-300 (S-10 Grumble) 11 air defence missiles from the Russian Federation which were originally planned to be delivered in August 1998 but were diverted to Crete by the Cypriot government in December 1998.

Both Western Europeans and the United States have tried to resolve these disputes. If the United States has been able to do so more directly and apparently energetically, it is because Greek membership of the European Union does inhibit the operation of the CFSP in this area. This should not however be taken to mean that Greece has gained the support of its EU partners in these disputes. In most cases both parties are considered equally responsible, and Greece frequently manages to irritate its European partners with its attitudes.

Turkey has earned respect for its restrained but generally helpful part in sharing in Western efforts to settle the conflicts that have arisen since the end of the Cold War in former Yugoslavia and Albania. There have been significant Turkish contributions to UNPROFOR from the end of 1993 (1,469 Turks out of a total of 19,000 troops in 1995), NATO’s Operation Deny Flight (18 F-16s), IFOR and SFOR (1,300 troops), as well as the Italian-led Operation Alba in Albania in 1997 (700 troops). 12

Turkey’s relatively low profile in southeast Europe in the first half of the nineties may have arisen because it was too busy developing a new post-Cold War strategy towards the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East, regions which had more strategic priority for it than the Balkans. In spite of a strong internal emotional reaction both on grounds of religious solidarity and because many Turks saw in Bosnia another secular Muslim society, 13 there was relatively little public pressure from Turkey on Western negotiators. 14 Turkey played a helpful role in the meetings of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) dealing with Balkan affairs. 15 There was a limited amount of Turkish food and medical aid to Bosnia, but this was rather less than Turgut Özal had promised at the outset of the war and the Bosniaks anticipated. Initially Western European governments felt the Turkish participation in UNPROFOR would have been unhelpful, but in practice the Turkish infantry battalion deployed in UNPROFOR in Bosnia at the end of 1993, which it had been anticipated would have produced very negative Serb reactions, had very few problems.

Where there was a difference between European and American approaches were in the Turkish preparedness to assist in arming the Bosniaks. It is not clear how far Turkey was involved in the supply of arms to Bosnia-Herzegovina in contravention of the UN embargo prior to 1995 although some suggestions have been made that the Bosnian government moved much of its arms purchasing to Turkey in 1993-94. 16 A more serious difference between Western Europeans and the United States involving Turkey arose over the US inducement to Bosnia-Herzegovina to agree to the Dayton agreement by promising a programme to “Train and Equip” the Federation army. The Western Europeans disliked this proposal and in general refused to participate in it. A conference was held in Turkey in March 1996 of those willing to cooperate on this without Western European participation. Turkey has since played a significant part alongside the United States in this programme, and this is seen by the United States as a way of replacing any alternative Iranian influence on military developments in Bosnia. However there is still a friction here with Europeans and this could increase if, under domestic pressure, the US presence in the Balkans were to be withdrawn and that were to lead Turkey from its role in “Train and Equip” to take on “an independent political role as protector of the Balkan Muslims”. 17 It is important not to exaggerate this risk, but there is a potential for friction if this is not treated with considerable care.

In the southern Balkans, the post-Cold War situation has seen a considerable improvement in relations between Bulgaria and Turkey primarily due to wise policies by Bulgaria. 18 Turkey played a useful role in Albania during the Italian-led Operation Alba in 1997 providing about 10 percent of the total force. It has subsequently at the invitation of the Albanian government sent a military contingent advisers to help rebuild the Albanian armed forces. However as an experienced Albanian military commentator has noted, Greece and Italy have also accepted such invitations and “only time will tell whether these countries’ representatives will be able to set aside their own disputes and participate in a joint effort together with the Albanians, to re-establish a military capable of external defence”. 19 In the situation in Kosovo, Turkey has fully shared in the position of its NATO partners in terms of military threats to Serbia and in supporting the political opposition to Kosovan independence. Whatever its sympathy with the largely Muslim Kosovar Albanians, Turkey is worried that an independent Kosovo might be seen as a precedent by Kurds. A similar reticence is seen in relation to Macedonia: despite the position of the Albanian community there, Turkey recognised the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under the name Macedonia. 20

Possibly in the long term one of the most important developments would be the construction of the proposed Highway 8, linking Durrës, Tirana, Skopje, Sofia and Istanbul. Although it is not clear when, if ever, the economic resources will be found for this important infrastructural development, it would also certainly have an important geopolitical impact on the south Balkans. It would presumably become the main trade route between Western Europe and Turkey.


Turkish Kemalism as a model for the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia

During the Cold War but perhaps more importantly immediately after the Cold War, the Kemalist secular model for a Muslim country was widely seen as one that could be transposed to other states in the Middle East and North Africa as a form of governance which would be significantly easier for the West to deal with than the alternative fundamentalist models which were developing. This view could be found both in Western Europe and the United States and provided an argument for maintaining and developing good relations with Turkey and in particular persuading the European Parliament to ratify the EU-Turkey Customs Union in 1995. Since then this argument has become less effective, both because of a realisation that it is not so easy to transfer models of governance, and because the Kemalist model has begun to look less attractive to outside observers. Domestic developments in Turkey have raised questions about the Kemalist model, and the dominant role of the military in Turkey, a long-standing NATO member, has proved perhaps more worrying at a time when NATO has been trying to give lessons in political military relations to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that are candidates or would-be candidates to join the Alliance.

One important dimension of the problem is seen in the rise of Refah, the Islamist Welfare Party which received 21 percent of the votes in the December 1996 general election, and whose leader Necmettin Erbakan formed a coalition government with Tansu Çiller’s True Path Party in June 1996 only to be eased out of office by military pressure in June 1997 and the party closed by the Constitutional Court in January 1998. There is an ambiguity in Western attitudes to the obligation within the Kemalist state model for the army to act as a guarantee of the Constitution. The role of the army is seen as having contributed in important ways to modernising and westernising Turkish society, and the armed forces have been the strongest point of contact for NATO and the United States in particular, but Western Europeans now find the role of the armed forces in the Turkish state system, 21 and their interventions in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997, quite out of keeping with Western practice. There was during the Cold War a greater tolerance for the internal policies of allies, as seen by the acceptance of Caetano’s Portugal as a member of NATO from 1949, or the position of Greece from 1967 to 1974 under the colonels, but this tolerance has been much reduced in Western European parliaments and the US Congress by the end of the Cold War.


The Kurdish issue

The failure of the Kemalist structure to provide an inclusive framework for Islamist politics is parallelled by its failure to find a satisfactory place in Turkish politics for the Kurds. The continuing problem of the 13 million Kurds in Turkey, some 20 percent of the Turkish population and more than half of the total Kurdish population, is, like some of the problems of southeastern Europe, inherited from the break-up of the Ottoman empire in the first decades of this century. The Kurds, who existed as a people within the Ottoman Empire, were divided principally between Turkey, Iraq and Syria after the First World War. The question of what status they should have within the three countries or in their own entity presents a problem for each of the three countries and for relations between them. Since the Gulf War of 1990-91, the problem has been linked to the use by the United States and United Kingdom of the Turkish base at Incirlik to provide assistance to Iraqi Kurds through Operation Provide Comfort and to maintain the “no-fly zone” over northern Iraqi airspace.

There is no consensus among the Kurds as to how their national objectives should be obtained and Turkey has had to respond to the violent policies of the militant left-wing Kurdish faction the PKK which has maintained an armed struggle since 1984 against what it considers to be Turkish oppression. Although the bulk of the Kurdish population are in southeastern Turkey, a significant minority have now moved into the expanding urban centres of western Turkey and particularly Istanbul, which may now have over two million Kurds.

Western Europeans can understand the need to respond to PKK acts of violence, although there was less support in Western Europe than in the United States for the various Turkish army incursions in hot pursuit into Iraq. There is much more difficulty in understanding Turkish resistance to finding a political solution to the problem. There is therefore a risk of significant political differences between Western Europe and Turkey on this, General Bir in his March 1998 speech said that “Europe is practising double standards, whereas America is aware of the situation.”22 Among the possible continuing grounds of friction are the judgements on the outstanding backlog of some several hundred Turkish-Kurdish cases before the European Court of Human Rights,23 Turkish anger at the Kurdish language television programmes broadcast via satellite from London and Brussels by Med TV,24 attempts to hold sessions of the Kurdish National Assembly in Western European cities, and problems arising since November 1998 from the arrival of the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in Rome.


Turkey as a partner in Middle Eastern problems

The differences between Western Europe and the United States may appear to be greatest in terms of their different approaches to the potential role of Turkey in the Middle East. The Turkish view of this difference is very clearly described by General Bir in his speech, “After all, there is a big difference between the United States and Europe, Europe approaches the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Eurasia not with political goals but with short-term economic interests. The approach of the United States, however, is in line with the importance of the region, and its policy is in accord with Turkey.” 25

In fact, while the degree of accord between United States and Turkey on policies towards a number of individual countries is not necessarily so clear, what is the case is that the United States has persuaded the Turkish authorities, and particularly the Turkish armed forces, that in the post-Cold War situation the United States considers Turkey as still important because of its potential as a partner in the region. This Europe has failed to do.

The Turkish-Israeli relationship, which survived the period of Refah participation in government, is seen in part by Turkey as providing an alternative source of armaments given the restrictions placed by the US Congress on US sales to Turkey. It is assumed by Turkey to be a way of gaining support from the friends of Israel in the United States, but it is not clear whether it has had this effect. However regrettably limited the European Union’s participation in the Middle East peace process has been, it is by no means clear that Turkey’s has been greater.

Turkish-Syrian relations have been bad as have European-Syrian and United States-Syrian relations, but for three different sets of reasons. There is very little congruence here. A deterioration of relations between Turkey and Syria, which for a period looked likely in the autumn of 1998 and the possibility of military conflict in which Turkey might wish to rely on NATO’s Article V to require Allied support would, as Ian Lesser has pointed out, “be a major test of post-Cold War security relations between Turkey and the West”. 26

Similarly in relations with Iraq, for purely economic reasons, Turkey would like to see an end to sanctions and a resumption of the full flow of Iraqi oil through its pipeline. Turkey has not been happy with United States and British policies which might lead to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as these might, by increasing autonomy for the Kurdish population in northern Iraq, have an undesirable impact on the Kurdish population in Turkey. It is therefore difficult to see any closer relation between US and Turkish policies on Iraq; Turkish policy has more in common with that of some Western European countries.

There has been little sympathy in Ankara for Washington’s hard line policy to Tehran, particularly since the election of Khatami, and here Turkey has a position very close to that of the European Union. The only exception would be on the question of the choice of oil pipelines where, for reasons of national interest, Turkey shares the United States’ strong preference for a Turkish rather than an Iranian route.


Turkey and the geopolitics of energy

It is, therefore, perhaps here as much as anywhere where there is a very strong correlation, at least at the declaratory level, between United States and Turkish positions. The problem is that decisions over pipelines are by no means exclusively in the hands of governments driven by geopolitical considerations. In the United States and Western Europe, oil companies are relatively long term in their thinking, but their ultimate responsibility is to maximise returns for their shareholders. Thus decisions on the choice of pipelines will not necessarily follow the political preferences of governments, unless the latter are prepared to back their political preferences with significant amounts of their taxpayers’ money. It is not clear how far the taxpayer should be involved in the subsidising of supply routes for oil companies.

There have, in any case, been very wide variations in the estimates for Caspian and Central Asian oil and gas reserves. Recent analysis suggests a more cautious approach to oil resources in the region than some of the earlier estimates of the US State Department. 27 The IISS in its 1997/98 Strategic Survey suggest that, “instead of the 16 percent of world reserves the US State Department implies, the true figure for the Caspian is likely to be closer to 3 percent”. 28 The combination of this, the relatively low price of oil and the prospects in the medium term of a resumption of Iraqi production, and the defeat of Senator d’Amato in the November 1998 senatorial election in New York which could determine a softening of US economic sanctions against Iran, may mean that Iranian pipelines will become more attractive than pipelines through Turkey.


Turkey and weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile defences

Turkey’s geographical position makes it more sensitive than the Western European members of NATO to the threats of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While this does not seem to have led it to a very forward position on Iraq and UNSCOM, Turkey certainly has been among those countries taking an active interest in US initiatives within NATO on counter-proliferation policy and ballistic missile defences (BMD). This is another area in which it may, outside the Alliance, see scope for common developments with Israel. Although there is a difference in priorities here with Western European members of NATO which may lead to bilateral cooperation between Turkey and the United States, if it does not prove possible to develop joint programmes among a wider group of NATO members, this does not seem one of the areas where there is likely to be any significant stress between the United States and Western Europe because of Turkey’s particular position.


Turkey and new transnational risks

Apart from the possible spillover risk of Kurdish PKK violence to Western Europe, which until present has been relatively limited, and the more substantial flow of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers from Kurdish Turks, the more serious way in which Turkey affects Western European security in terms of the new transnational risks is through the flow of drugs. It is generally accepted that the principal supply of heroin into Western Europe comes through Turkey and that the vast majority of opium/morphine that transits Turkey from Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle is processed into heroin in Turkey. This is not a problem which directly affects the United States, but unless more effective patterns of cooperation can be developed between the Western Europeans and Turkey it could lead to considerable friction and provide another argument against Turkish candidacy for the European Union. The alternative argument that Turkish membership of the European Union is the only way to deal satisfactorily with this problem does not seem to have much credibility.


Developing common approaches

In trying on the basis of this survey to see where the future strains on relations between Western Europe and the United States and Turkey might be and how these might effect relations between the United States and Western Europe, there would seem to be three key areas:

On the first, the difference has been well summarised by Kramer and Müller: “Concerning Turkey’s domestic situation, the US government is mainly interested in a ‘stable and democratic’ Turkey, whereas the driving European interest seems to aim at a ‘democratic and stable’ Turkey.” 29 This European priority for democracy over stability is not only because of the possibility of Turkey’s candidature for the European Union, but also in the light of its membership of the Council of Europe where the democratic credentials of members are necessarily more central than they are within NATO.

The Greco-Turkish-Cypriot issues were of greater direct security concern during the Cold War as an explicit dispute would have had serious implications for the Alliance, now they are more important in terms of their implications for the European Union and its enlargement.

Finally, the last discrepancy reflects the relative lack of interest of the members of the European Union on trans-regional security issues and their concentration on the problems of integrating the post-communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. This is linked to the substantive difficulties in developing a common foreign and security policy for a group of fifteen states which have often found the centrifugal pulls of national interests more powerful than the centripetal effect of integration and solidarity in the disorienting period of the post-Cold War world.

Western Europeans and the United States have a common interest in working at getting solutions to the nexus of problems linking Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. In spite of the depressing results of attempts at mediation in recent years, there is a case for a major exercise involving the most senior figures from our countries. The European Union is not best placed to lead, given Greek membership. The Contact Group, given Russian participation, is not right either, but an ad hoc arrangement perhaps between the country holding the presidency of the European Union and the United States might be one approach. The present Greek government might welcome a deus ex machina to resolve the issue. At present Greece spends 4.6 percent of its GNP on defence which is more than twice the NATO average and a serious obstacle to Greece meeting the Maastricht criteria, a precondition to it joining Economic and Monetary Union.

How can the European Union build on the slight détente in relations with Turkey, following the November 1998 European Commission report on Turkey as a potential applicant? 30 Would Turkey now participate in the European Conference between existing members and all candidates which it rejected in the first half of 1998 when it was proposed by the British Presidency?

Do the proposals of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to re-examine the relationships between WEU and EU provide the possibility of developing a mechanism whereby, if the functions of WEU were subsumed under a restructured second pillar, Turkey’s Associate Membership of WEU could be “grandfathered” into some associate relationship with CFSP? There seems to be something of a precedent in the way that Norway and Iceland have been through the Nordic Passport Union “grandfathered” into the Schengen Agreement and thus indirectly into the Third Pillar of the European Union.

NATO has proved the case for maintaining itself as an excellent instrument of military cooperation. It has been far less effective since the end of the Cold War as an instrument for the development of policy among its members. The NATO instrument does give us considerable leverage with a key group in Turkish society — the Turkish military. Are we using it as effectively as we could? As Lesser has argued, the new NATO Strategic Concept is very likely to define a number of new functional missions — counter-proliferation, peace support operations and possibly counter-terrorism — which are “far more likely to be performed on or near Turkey’s borders than elsewhere in the European security space”. 31

The central instrument of developing policy for the Balkans since 1993 has been the Contact Group, which was enlarged to include Italy in 1995. It may be too complicated to make a formal further enlargement to include Turkey, but given the constructive and responsible role Turkey has played in the Balkans, ways could be sought to give Turkey an informal association with its work. Larrabee has argued that Turkey should participate in the transatlantic dialogue between the United States and the EU. 32 Such a development of the dialogue into a trialogue would not be appropriate for the totality of the areas considered, but an arrangement should be explored to see how a triangular element could be introduced when topics such as the Middle East or Central Asia were being discussed. A regular triangular discussion between the US Secretary of State, the Foreign Minister of Turkey and the Foreign Minister of the country holding the Presidency of the European Union together with the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for external policy might be one approach.



Many of the problems of the last decade have arisen from our failure to recognise how much was changed with the end of Cold War. Nowhere is that more true than in the case of relations between the West, the United States and Western Europe, and Turkey. The future pattern of developments will turn more than anything else on the evolution of Turkey itself. Predicting that goes beyond the scope of this article. It is in the interest of the West to maintain a security partnership with Turkey, although both the substance and precise institutional framework of that partnership could take a variety of forms. Certainly one of the principal tasks of transatlantic relations between the European Union and its members and the United States will be to ensure that the security trialogue with Turkey is strengthened wherever possible.


John Roper is Professor at the College of Europe, Bruges.




Note 1. This is a revised version of a paper presented to the IAI conference on “US-European Common Approaches to Turkey”, held at Palazzo Rondinini, Rome, on 20-21 November 1998 and funded by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Back

Note 2. I. Lesser, “Bridge or Barrier Revisited: Turkish Security Relations with the West”, publication by Washington Institute for Near East Policy, edited by A. Markovsky and S. Sayari, forthcoming. Back

Note 3. Ibid. Back

Note 4. K. W. Deutsch et al., Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957) p. 5. The term “security community” refers not to an institutionalised community of states, but to a region in which military force is no longer contemplated as a possible way of resolving inter-state disputes. Back

Note 5. The ten full members only meet in practice on their own to deal with institutional and personnel matters. Back

Note 6. F. S. Larrabee, “US and European Policy Toward Turkey and the Caspian Basin”, in R. D. Blackwill and M. Stürmer (eds) Allies Divided: Transatlantic Policies for the Greater Middle East (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997) p. 169. Back

Note 7. The WEU Observers are the four members of the European Union that are not members of NATO plus Denmark; the Associate Partners are the ten Central and Eastern European countries which are candidates for entry to the EU (excluding Cyprus). The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland will become Associate Members in 1999 when they join NATO.Back

Note 8. Larrabee, “US and European Policy”, p. 169. Back

Note 9. The five are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. Five other countries, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia, are also recognised as candidates for admission but on a longer time horizon. Back

Note 10. In To End a War (New York: Random House, 1998, p. 61), Richard Holbrooke claims that this was done by the European Union “under American pressure”. Back

Note 11. These missiles have a range of 90 miles, which is significantly less than the distance from Cyprus to the Turkish coast. Back

Note 12. All figures for Turkish forces from IISS Military Balance, 1995-6, 1996-7, and 1997-8. Back

Note 13. This view was not entirely reciprocated. President Izetbegovic refused to visit the tomb of Kemal Atatürk on his visit to Ankara on the ground that Atatürk had undermined the Islamic character of the Turkish state. Back

Note 14. D. Owen, Balkan Odyssey (London: Victor Gollancz, 1995) p. 113. Back

Note 15. Holbrooke, To End a War p. 121. Back

Note 16. J. Pettifer, The Turkish Labyrinth, Atatürk and the New Islam (London: Penguin Books, 1998) p.178. Back

17. Ibid., p.179. Back

Note 18. The final points of dispute were settled in November 1998 when the Bulgarian prime minister on an official visit to Ankara agreed to pay pensions to former Turkish-Bulgarian employees of Bulgarian state enterprises who were expelled from Bulgaria by the Zhivkov government in the 1980s. Back

Note 19. H. Daci, Albanian Army and Regime changes, Harmonie paper No. 3 (Groningen: Centre for European Security Studies, 1998) p. 78. Back

Note 20. And insists on footnoting this fact in NATO communiques! Back

Note 21. This is symbolised by the fact that the Chief of Defence Staff of the Turkish armed forces cannot accompany the minister of defence to NATO ministerial meetings, as an advisor, as in Turkish domestic protocol he is senior to the minister! Back

Note 22. Cevik Bir, speech on “New Security Architecture for Turkey and Europe in the 21st Century”, reported in Istanbul Sabah (Internet version) in Turkish, 29 March 1998, and in English in FBIS Daily Report, 26 June 1998, FBIS-WEU-98-177. Back

Note 23. There are in addition up to a thousand other Turkish cases before the Court.Back

Note 24. These broadcasts are reported to be frequently jammed by the Turks. Back

Note 25. Bir, “New Security Architecture”. Back

Note 26. Lesser,”Bridge or Barrier Revisited”. Back

Note 27. H. Kramer and F. Müller, “Relations with Turkey and the Caspian Basin Countries” in Blackwill and Stürmer, Allies Divided, pp.192-4. Back

Note 28. International Institute for Strategic Studies, Strategic Survey 1997-98 (London: Oxford University Press, 1998) p. 24. Back

Note 29. Kramer and Müller, “Relations with Turkey”, p. 183. Back

Note 30. It may have been overtaken by Turkish irritation over the Öcalan case. Back

Note 31. Lesser, “Bridge or Barrier Revisited”. Back

Note 32. Larrabee, “US and European Policy”, p.170. Back