IMPLICATIONS: The Eurasianists are concerned that if Turkey becomes a member of the EU it would lose its ability to pursue its national interests in the region independently. Describing Turkey as a \"regional power\" they locate Turkey not in the European but Eurasian setting where Turkey can project its power over the region. Such a self-placement in the region is likely to lead to tension between Turkey and regional countries requiring both a strong military power and a political regime that is ruled by security concerns. Yet this is not considered a problem for the Eurasianists who call for a new strategic alliance with the USA, which has taken some roots in recent months since Premier Ecevit\'s January 2002 visit to Washington. Added to the attempt at accumulating military strength is the evolving strategic partnership with Israel, whom the Turkish government after an apparent demand from the Turkish General Staff recently granted a $675 million tank modernization project in the midst of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. A Eurasianist Turkey would certainly be more assertive in its policies towards the Caucasus and Central Asia as well as its southern belt. The key to its Eurasian strategy is the construction of Baku-Ceyhan oil-pipeline, through which Turkey would emerge as an important player in the distribution of Caspian energy sources adding both to its strategic significance and regional influence. Realization of Baku-Ceyhan with U.S. support would be regarded as an indication that Turkey has emerged as an indispensable regional power. Among the Eurasianists, the Kemalists may try not to confront the Russians in dealing with the states in the Caucasus and Central Asia, while the nationalists would press hard to establish a zone of influence in the region in competition with Russia. Both, however, would search for cooperation with the U.S.. Therefore the tune of Russian-American relations, improved after September 11 and during the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, are also likely to influence Russian-Turkish relations that have been swinging from competition to cooperation since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Against this stand, the Europeanists are concerned that the U.S. is encouraging and supporting the Eurasianist in the domestic power struggle. Given the troublesome state of Transatlantic relations and the seeming American determination to invade Iraq and check Iran’s movement in the region (both neighbors of Turkey), and Washington’s new military engagement in the Caucasus and Central Asia, it is not hard to see why the Bush administration would be encouraging the Eurasianists in Turkey at the expense of Europeanists. Being at the crossroads of the Eurasian and Middle Eastern strategic mass, Turkey is indispensable to American policies in the region, which locates Turkey mainly in its Eurasian, not its Transatlantic strategy. Turkey\'s entry into the EU may mean the loss of a reliable U.S. partner, since once a full member of the EU or at the stage of negotiating accession, Turkey would not be an independent actor, but be dependent on Brussels. Given the discrepancy between American and European perspectives on Iraq, Turkey may be forced to make a choice between the European and American lines should the U.S. decide to attack. At the moment, despite security and political risks involved in an operation against Iraq, Turkey feels bound to support a possible operation by the U.S.. But if Turkey moves closer to full membership in the EU, it is likely to move closer to the European line on Iraq – something that would not suit U.S. interests in the region.
CONCLUSION: The deadlock over Turkey\'s strategic choices is likely to break soon. If Turkey does not reach to the point of starting off the accession negotiations with the EU by the end of 2002, and meanwhile if the EU welcomes, which is almost certain, the membership of Cyprus without the Turkish side, the USA/Israel axis put forward by the Eurasianists as an alternative to the EU may well defeat the Europeanists in the domestic political struggle. In case, on the other hand, the EU develops by the end of 2002 a formula that keeps Turkey on the EU truck without provoking nationalist backlashes, the Europeanists would have the upper-hand. Even then, one should not expect that the Eurasianists would abandon putting a fierce resistance to EU membership and political reforms requested. Their power in the state apparatus, ability to stir the country with nationalistic fever, and their foreign alignment should not be underestimated.
AUTHOR BIO: Dr. Ihsan Dagi is a visiting Fulbright Fellow in the Department of Government at Georgetown University.
Copyright 2001 The Analyst. All rights reserved