I have tried to represent, in a linear and concise way, the current situation of Turkey to the rest of the world :
China – Turkey : More than half a month after the attempted Turkish military coup in mid-July, China sent Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming to Turkey.
Zhang’s visit attracted considerable attention in China because he was the first senior Chinese representative to visit Turkey since the attempted military coup in Turkey, which almost ousted the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
China-Turkey relations can be traced back centuries to when the Ottoman Empire supported and mobilized the Muslim revolt in western China under the Qing Dynasty.
China and Turkey established diplomatic relations in 1971, but the bilateral relationship between China and Turkey stagnated until the 1990s because of both the political tensions of the Cold War and limited economic exchanges.
The main factor that stimulated Sino-Turkish relations in the 1990s was simple: arms sales. The United States and European countries limited arms sales to Turkey because of the Kurdish issue.
In their stead, China became a reliable arms provider and helped Turkey to develop artillery and ballistic missile technology.
During the two decades after the Cold War, China-Turkey bilateral trade grew significantly along with China’s fast economic development and high-speed GDP growth.
Political trust between China and Turkey is limited.
China suspects Turkey’s role in the “Uyghur issue.”
Many in Turkey sympathize with the Uyghur minority group in China’s Xinjiang Province, thanks to their shared Muslim faith and Turkish heritage (Uyghurs are viewed by many Turkish as “Eastern Turks”).
As a result, Turkey has criticized China’s policy in Xinjiang.
In July 2009, when 189 people (most of them from the Han ethnic group) were killed in Xinjiang, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the event as “a kind of genocide.”
Erdogan’s remarks were viewed as interference in China’s internal affairs and China demanded Turkey retract the comments.
Many Uyghur separatists have found a haven inside Turkey, and China believes many Turkish NGOs, most of which have close connections with the AKP government, support and aid Uyghur separatists.
China is also very concerned about terrorism, particularly in view of indications that many Uyghur extremists have left China to join Islamic State or other terrorism groups, traveling by way of Turkey.
Many Uyghur extremists have been known to hold Turkish passports offered by Turkish embassies in China and other Southeast Asian states.
China fears that these extremists will return to China to escalate the struggle in Xinjiang against Chinese government.
After Ahmet Davutoğlu resigned and Binali Yıldırım became Turkish prime minister in May, Turkish foreign policy has been significantly transforming.
Numerous challenges — the increasing Syrian refugee burden, growing terrorist threats posed by both Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and Islamic State, and economic deadlock — forced the AKP government to adopt a more pragmatic diplomacy while abandoning, at least to some extent, its “neo-Ottomanism” ideology.
Turkey has started to re-establish its diplomatic relations with Israel and Russia, and to restrict the operations of Islamic extremist organizations inside Turkey.
After the failed military coup in mid-July, Turkey may distance itself from Western states because of the “capital punishment” crisis between Turkey and European human rights groups, and from the United States in particular because of the discussions about extraditing Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan’s government says was behind the coup attempt.
For both China and Turkey, this may be a valuable chance to further bilateral political ties. Turkey has already adopted measurements to restrict illegal Uyghur immigration from China to Turkey.
In May 2016, the Turkish police announced the arrest in Istanbul Airport of approximately 100 Chinese Uyghurs with forged passports on their way to Saudi Arabia.
The failed military coup in mid-July could accelerate this process as Turkey re-establishes its foreign policy priorities.
Frustration with the West and even the basic hostility to what is sometimes perceived as neo-imperialism are to a large degree shared by China and Turkey.
Furthermore, the Turkish need for Chinese technology and foreign investments, and the Chinese desire to move its “One Belt, One Road” initiative forward, provide potential for a connection between the countries.
Israel – Turkey : Relations between Israel and Turkey will remain strained.
In the short term, the reconciliation agreement signed between Jerusalem and Ankara will be honored by Erdogan’s government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government wisely issued a statement effectively backing Erdogan by voicing support for the democratic process in Turkey.
Israel’s most senior diplomat in Ankara, Amira Oron, attended an extraordinary session of the Turkish parliament called by Erdogan’s government.
It is in Israel’s interest to ensure that the coup attempt does not lead to the unraveling of the reconciliation agreement with Turkey announced by Netanyahu on June 27, and approved two days later by the security cabinet.
In the short-term this is unlikely to happen, predicted Efraim Inbar, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.
The Turkish parliament will likely move ahead with passing a law that protects IDF troops from criminal and civil claims, though passage might be delayed as the Turkish nation focuses on the coup attempt.
However, in the long-term the failed coup attempt and the crackdown and consolidation of power by Erdogan’s Islamist government do not bode well for relations between Israel and Turkey, Inbar said.
When Erdogan and his AKP party first rose to power in 2002, many welcomed it as having the potential for becoming a model of moderate Islamic political leadership that could integrate itself into a robust democracy.
Russia – Turkey : 6 reasons Russia and Turkey will struggle to become strategic partners
The Russian-Turkish rapprochement obtained during the Aug. 9 summit in St. Petersburg must not engender unrealistic expectations and excessive illusions.
There are still many problems and serious contradictions in relations between Moscow and Ankara for there to be, as some commentators are already saying, a “strategic alliance” between Russia and Turkey.
The primary problem is the diametrically opposed position of the sides on the Syrian conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin is supporting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to have him overthrown. In this sense nothing has changed.
Ankara also has not stopped backing Syrian opposition units, those who are now advancing on Aleppo and who are being bombed by Russia’s air force. We should not forget that it was the contradiction on Syria that had led to an unprecedented crisis in bilateral relations after the downing of the Russian bomber in November 2015. These contradictions persist.
2. The Kurds
The second problem is also related to the Syrian civil war – the Kurds. For Ankara the Kurdish units in Syria who are fighting with the Islamist radicals are opponents, separatists and accomplices of the “terrorists” from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, against which Erdogan is waging a war. For Moscow the Syrian Kurds are potential allies. Moscow has also traditionally had special relations with the Turkish Kurds, whom it does not consider enemies.
The third problem is related to the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, now in its third decade. With all its measured statements and equidistance, Moscow is perceived in the world as Armenia’s potential ally, since they are both members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. As for Turkey, it does not even try to show objectivity and impartiality. Ankara is unequivocally on Baku’s side.
4. Competition in the CIS
The fourth problem concerns the post-Soviet space. Ankara has good relations with the Turkic republics of the former USSR (besides Azerbaijan, there is Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan) and for Moscow is thus a geopolitical competitor. A special and painful issue is Turkey’s penetration into the “brotherly” Turkish-language republics of the Russian Federation.
5. Anti-Kremlin elements in Turkey
The fifth problem regards the fact that organizations that are openly hostile to Moscow (Crimean Tatars and those from the North Caucasus) are active on Turkish territory without any restrictions. They are supported by many influential diasporas. Therefore, even if he wanted to remove this irritant in relations with Russia, Erdogan would encounter serious opposition inside his country.
6. Lack of trust
The sixth problem is the crisis in trust. Moscow no longer publicly speaks about the incident with the downed Russian plane. But it has not been forgotten. Just like the hostile statements made by Turkish officials, including Erdogan, immediately after the incident have also not been forgotten. It would have been strange if after the destruction of the Su-24 Moscow had not come to certain conclusions about the Turkish government’s reliability and predictability.
That is why we should not speak about a strategic partnership between Moscow and Ankara yet.
It would be better to speak of its imitation.
However, in comparison to the state of an imminent armed conflict that we saw half a year ago, the current reconciliation is great progress.
It gives hope that the sides are trying to solve at least some of the above-mentioned problems.
U.S.A. – Turkey : Implications for U.S./NATO Cooperation The July 2016 failed coup and Turkey’s trajectory in its aftermath could significantly impact U.S.-Turkey relations given Turkey’s regional importance and membership in NATO.
Among NATO allies, only the U.S. military has more active duty personnel than Turkey’s.
Post-Plot Tensions and Gulen’s Status In the wake of the failed coup, some tensions have arisen between the United States and Turkey.
Secretary of State John Kerry warned on July 16 that a wide-ranging purge “would be a great challenge to [Erdogan’s] relationship to Europe, to NATO and to all of us.”
As mentioned above, an apparent disconnect between many Turks and Western observers regarding Turkey’s post-coup response may be one factor complicating U.S.-Turkey relations.
Some Turkish officials and media have accused the U.S. of prior knowledge of or involvement in the coup attempt.
President Obama dismissed such accusations on July 22 as “unequivocally false” and threatening to U.S.-Turkey ties.
The claims may partly stem from popular Turkish sensitivities about historical U.S. closeness to Turkey’s military.
General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, and James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, both have raised concerns about how post-plot military personnel changes might affect U.S.-Turkey cooperation, prompting criticism from Erdogan that has further fed speculation in Turkey about alleged U.S. connections with the plot.
Further complicating U.S.-Turkey relations, in the plot’s aftermath the Turkish government has intensified its calls (which date back to 2014) for the United States to extradite Gulen.
According to polls, calls for Gulen’s extradition have widespread public support in Turkey.
In a July 19 phone call with Erdogan, President Obama said that the United States is “willing to provide appropriate assistance to Turkish authorities investigating the attempted coup” while urging that Turkish authorities conduct their investigation “in ways that reinforce public confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law.”
In a late July interview, Erdogan alleged that a “mastermind” was behind Fethullah Gulen’s coming to the United States.
For more information on U.S.-Turkey dynamics regarding the extradition issue, see CRS In Focus IF10444, Fethullah Gulen, Turkey, and the United States: A Reference, by Jim Zanotti.
For more information on the U.S. extradition process in general, see CRS Report RS22702, An Abridged Sketch of Extradition To and From the United States, by Charles Doyle.
Some Turkish officials have sought to portray U.S. extradition of Gulen as critical for positive U.S.-Turkey relations, though the potential consequences if he is not extradited remain unclear.
In early August 2016, during a visit to Turkey by General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, top Turkish officials reassured Dunford that the United States would continue to enjoy access to Incirlik and other bases in Turkey.Specific Issues for U.S. Policy
Specific issues of concern with implications for U.S. policy going forward include:
- Arms Sales and Bilateral Military Cooperation. U.S. arms sales or potential sales to Turkey include F-35 next-generation fighter aircraft.61 The United States provides annual security-related aid to Turkey of approximately $3-5 million.
- Turkey’s NATO Role. S./NATO basing and operations in Turkey, joint exercises and expeditionary missions, and NATO assistance (including air defense batteries and AWACS aircraft60) to address Turkey’s external threats.
- Syria and Iraq Issues and Anti-IS Coalition. Including U.S.-Turkey dynamics involving the Islamic State, Kurds within and outside Turkey, other state and non-state actors, and contested territory in northern
- Domestic Stability, Human Rights, and Kurdish Issues. Including the government’s approach to rule of law, civil liberties, terrorist threats, Kurds and other minorities, and nearly three million refugees and migrants from Syria and
Border Concerns. Turkey’s ability and willingness, in concert with other international actors, to control cross-border flows of refugees, migrants, and possible foreign fighters and terrorists.
Figure 2. Recent Terrorist Attacks in Turkey
Source: Deutsche Welle, July 2016
Notes: All figures are approximate.
Strategic and Political Assessment
U.S. civilian and military installations and personnel in Turkey were unharmed during the July 2016 attempted putsch.
However, concerns surrounding plot-related events that transpired at Incirlik air base (see textbox above) have fueled discussion among analysts about the advisability of continued U.S./NATO use of Turkish bases, including the reported storage of aircraft- deliverable nuclear weapons at Incirlik (for more information, see CRS Insight IN10542, U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey, by Amy F. Woolf).
Turkey’s location near several global hotspots makes the continuing availability of its territory for the stationing and transport of arms, cargo, and personnel valuable for the United States and NATO.
Turkey also controls access to and from the Black Sea through its straits pursuant to the Montreux Convention of 1936. Turkey’s embrace of the United States and NATO during the Cold War came largely as a reaction to post-World War II actions by the Soviet Union seemingly aimed at moving Turkey and its strategic control of maritime access points into a Soviet sphere of influence.
Sources: Department of Defense, NATO, and various media outlets; adapted by CRS.
Notes: All locations are approximate. All bases are under Turkish sovereignty, with portions of them used for limited purposes by the U.S. military and NATO. The U.S. and German Patriot missile batteries are scheduled to be withdrawn by October 2015 and January 2016, respectively.
On a number of occasions throughout the history of the U.S.-Turkey alliance, events or developments have led to the withdrawal of U.S. military assets from Turkey or restrictions on
- use of its territory and/or airspace. Calculations regarding the costs and benefits to the
United States of a U.S./NATO presence in Turkey, and how changes or potential changes in U.S./NATO posture might influence Turkish calculations and policies, revolve to a significant extent around the following two questions:
- To what extent does the United States rely on the use of Turkish territory or airspace to secure and protect U.S. interests?
- To what extent does Turkey rely on U.S./NATO support, both in principle and in functional terms, for its security and its ability to exercise influence in the surrounding region?
The cost to the United States of finding a temporary or permanent replacement for Incirlik air base would likely depend on a number of variables, including the functionality and location of alternatives, the location of future U.S. military engagements, and the political and economic difficulty involved in moving or expanding U.S. military operations elsewhere.
Any reevaluation of the U.S./NATO presence in and relationship with Turkey would take a number of political considerations into account alongside strategic and operational ones. Certain differences between Turkey and its NATO allies, including some related to Syria in recent years, may persist irrespective of who leads these countries given their varying (1) geographical positions, (2) threat perceptions, and (3) roles in regional and global political and security architectures.
Turkey’s historically and geopolitically driven efforts to avoid domination by outside powers—sometimes called the “Sèvres syndrome”—resonate in its ongoing attempts to achieve greater military, economic, and political self-sufficiency and to influence its surrounding environment.
The potential for the United States to use its political relationship with Turkey to boost U.S. influence in the greater Middle East remains inconclusive. Regardless of some difficulties with the United States and other NATO countries, Turkey remains a key regional power that shares linkages and characteristics with the West, which may distinguish Turkey from other Muslim- majority regional powers such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
Therefore, cooperation with Turkey, along with other actors, is likely to remain relevant for the advancement of U.S. interests in the volatile area.
However, recent foreign and domestic policy developments may have constrained Turkey’s role as a shaper of regional outcomes, a model for neighboring countries, and a facilitator of U.S. interests.
Additionally, as Turkey’s energy consumption grows along with its economy, its dependence on Russia and Iran for significant portions of its energy may contribute to constraints on some aspects of its security cooperation with the United States and NATO.
Turkey engages with a wide range of non-NATO actors as part of its efforts to cultivate military and defense industrial links and to exercise greater regional and global influence politically and economically.84 Still, for the time being, Turkey lacks comparable alternatives to its security and economic ties with the West, with which it shares a more than 60-year legacy of institutionalized cooperation.
Two independent sources told EurActiv.com that the US has started transferring nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania, against the background of worsening relations between Washington and Ankara.
According to one of the sources, the transfer has been very challenging in technical and political terms.
“It’s not easy to move 20+ nukes,” said the source, on conditions of anonymity.
According to a recent report by the Simson Center, since the Cold War, some 50 US tactical nuclear weapons have been stationed at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, approximately 100 kilometres from the Syrian border.
During the failed coup in Turkey in July, Incirlik’s power was cut, and the Turkish government prohibited US aircraft from flying in or out. Eventually, the base commander was arrested and implicated in the coup. Whether the US could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question, the report says.
Another source told EurActiv.com that the US-Turkey relations had deteriorated so much following the coup that Washington no longer trusted Ankara to host the weapons. The American weapons are being moved to the Deveselu air base in Romania, the source said.
Deveselu, near the city of Caracal, is the new home of the US missile shield, which has infuriated Russia.
Romania was an ally of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but it never hosted nuclear weapons during that period. Stationing tactical US nuclear weapons close to Russia’s borders is likely to infuriate Russia and lead to an escalation. The stationing of Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962 was the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war.
EurActiv has asked the US State Department, and the Turkish and the Romanian foreign ministries, to comment. American and Turkish officials both promised to answer. After several hours, the State Department said the issue should be referred to the Department of Defense. EurActiv will publish the DoD reaction as soon as it is received.
In the meantime, NATO sent EurActiv a diplomatically worded comment which implies that allies must make sure that US nuclear weapons deployed in Europe remain “safe”.
“On your question, please check the Communiqué of the NATO Warsaw Summit (published on 9 July 2016), paragraph 53: “NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture also relies, in part, on United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and on capabilities and infrastructure provided by Allies concerned. These Allies will ensure that all components of NATO’s nuclear deterrent remain safe, secure, and effective,” a NATO spokesperson wrote to EurActiv.
The NATO summit took place a few days before the failed coup in Turkey. At that time, the risks for the US nukes in Incirlik were related to the proximity of the war in Syria and the multiple terrorist attacks that have taken place in Turkey in recent months. For some of the attacks, Ankara blamed Islamic State, and for others the PKK, the Kurdish military organisation that appears on the EU and US terrorist lists.
Strong denial by Romania
The Romanian foreign ministry strongly denied the information that the country has become home of US nukes. “In response to your request, Romanian MFA firmly dismisses the information you referred to,” a spokesperson wrote.
According to practice dating from the Cold War, leaked information regarding the presence of US nuclear weapons on European soil has never been officially confirmed. It is, however, public knowledge that Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy host US nuclear weapons.
After the failed putsch, relations between Washington and Ankara are at their worst since Turkey joined NATO in 1952. Ankara believes the US government supports the Turkish US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom it accuses of having masterminded the failed coup. Turkey is demanding Gülen’s extradition, and the issue is expected to take center stage when US Vice President Joe Biden visits Turkey on 24 August.
Arthur H. Hughes, a retired US ambassador, wrote in EurActiv yesterday (17 August) that Gülen has indeed received considerable assistance from the CIA.