Until recently, the relationship between the United States and Turkey has been stable. Lately however, Turkey has been taking actions contrary to those that would uphold strong relations with the US. This recent unnerving trend has increased tensions between the two countries and tightened Turkish ties to Russia.
Turkey entered World War 2 on the side of the allies and since then has had a positive attitude towards the US. Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952 and has been the recipient of both military and economic aid from the United States. Turkey holds geographic importance to the United States as well with regards to its interests in the Middle East and due to its close proximity to Russia. Strong relations between the two countries have long been bilateral and mutually beneficial.
During the first decade and a half of the 21st century, the two countries enjoyed mostly positive relations. However, it was during this time that the relations between the two countries began to deteriorate. In 2003 Turkey refused to allow the US to use Incirlik Air Base for the invasion of Iraq. This was the first of many signs to come of changes in Turkey’s attitude towards the US. It is important to note that even in the face of this and future events, the leaders of both countries have been willing to visit and speak often with each other. President Barack Obama visited Turkey in 2009. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan reciprocated with trips of his own in 2009 and 2013.
Tensions with Turkey grew dramatically following the attempted coup in 2016. Turkey accused US military personnel of playing critical roles in the attempt and demanded extradition of a Turkish national from the United States on the claim that he played an integral role in the attempted coup. The US first demanded Turkey to prove his involvement, drawing irritation from the Turkish government. As a result of the coup, foreign policy in Turkey further changed. These changes included Turkey attempting to seek partnerships with Russia.
Two US consulate workers were arrested in Turkey in 2017, prompting further deteriorations in the relationship between the two countries. One of the individuals was arrested under “terror charges” by an Istanbul court. In response, the US suspended all non-immigrant visas from the country “indefinitely.” Turkey responded with the suspension of all US visas shortly after.
To date, Turkey is acquiring Russian S-400 missile systems, a course of action the United States has taken issue with given Turkey’s status as a NATO member. It is important to note that the only NATO nation that the US has placed sanctions upon is Turkey. Turkey has no plans to halt the flow of Russian missile systems entering the country. The strategic partnership of Turkey and NATO is currently on thin ice, with the relationship continually deteriorating.
With the current trend in US-Turkish relations, it is not difficult to foresee a future in which Turkey is closely aligned with Russia and disregards its partnership with the US. Turkey has found no end to the grievances it sees with US foreign policy, even going so far as to retaliate by arresting US consulate workers, imposing tariffs, and boycotting US products. The recent shift in the foreign policy of Turkey is one which places Turkey on a path out of NATO and into an alliance with Russia.
Tisdall, Simon. “Turkey’s Ever-closer Ties with Russia Leave US Lacking Key Ally on Syria.” The Guardian. April 11, 2018. Accessed July 12, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/11/turkey-ever-closer-ties-with-russia-leave-us-lacking-key-ally-on-syria.
Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “From Rep. of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed July 12, 2019. http://www.mfa.gov.tr/relations-between-turkey-and-the-united-states-of-america.en.mfa.
Stein, Aaron. “Why Turkey Turned Its Back on the United States and Embraced Russia.” Foreign Affairs. July 11, 2019. Accessed July 12, 2019. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/turkey/2019-07-09/why-turkey-turned-its-back-united-states-and-embraced-russia.
Coskun, Orhan. “Turkey Preparing for Possible U.S. Sanctions over S-400s: Minister.” Reuters. May 22, 2019. Accessed July 12, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-usa/turkey-preparing-for-possible-us-sanctions-over-s-400s-minister-idUSKCN1SS0HS.