Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2006

Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkey Relations

Stephen Cook, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall

June 2006

Council on Foreign Relations


Success for American foreign policy depends in large measure on the ability of the United States to persuade others to support (or at least not work against) its policy goals. Over the last half century, the United States has been able to rely upon a network of ties with close allies around the world to achieve its objectives. Turkey has played an important role in advancing U.S. interests in Europe and beyond. But over the last three years, the U.S.-Turkish relationship has deteriorated markedly, and it is no longer a foregone conclusion that Turkey will support U.S. policies. The consequences of a rupture in ties between Washington and Ankara—or, more darkly, a Turkey that becomes strategically disoriented—would be great, but have received little attention in policy circles.

This Council Special Report makes the case that Turkey’s strategic importance is greater than ever, and that a major effort needs to be undertaken to renew and revitalize the relationship. Steven A. Cook and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall argue that despite significant sources of friction, both countries have a wide range of common interests that begin in Turkey’s immediate neighborhood, such as the Balkans, the Caucasus, Iran, and Iraq, but also extend farther afield to include Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the Middle East. The report recommends a two-track diplomatic approach that will simultaneously help to manage current policy differences and lay the groundwork for future cooperation on a broader agenda.