Sunday, May 3, 2009

Upgrading U.S.-Turkish relations and winning Greek-American votes

Looking back over U.S. President Obama's first 100 days, Dr George Friedman, Chief Executive of well known global geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor, notes that the only substantive change in U.S foreign policy has been U.S.-Turkish relations. The full report can be accessed here. Along with the symbolic importance of President Obama's visit to Constantinople and Ankara - which included a speech in the Turkish parliament and the obligatory visit to Ataturk's mausoleum - the U.S. has significantly upgraded Turkey as a strategic partner.

The report states that the U.S. thinks that it needs Turkey to balance Iran, protect American interests in the Caucasus, provide assistance in stabilizing Iraq, can be potentially useful in Afghanistan and may serve as a diplomatic bridge to Syria. Friedman notes that the upgrading of U.S.-Turkish relations did not even appear as a minor issue in the recent U.S. election campaign. However, Friedman states that this change in policy:

"emerged after the election because of changes in the configuration of the international system. Shifts in Russian policy, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and shifts within Turkey that allowed the country to begin its return to the international arena all came together to make this necessary"

We believe that Friedman is basing his assertion on wrong data because Russian policy has hardly changed and the U.S. knew it was withdrawing from Iraq before the election campaign. Also, the shifts within Turkey have been going on for many years. Not surprisingly, a key U.S. think-tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, published a report which can be accessed here, soon after President Obama's inauguration. President Obama's foreign policy is closely aligned with the recommendations contained within this report which was formulated prior to his inauguration and perhaps before his election victory. It appears that President Obama kept the upgrading of American-Turkish relations close to his chest during the election campaign; perhaps even in consultation with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, whilst simultaneously making overtures to Greek-American and Armenian-American voters.

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