“You’re protecting Iran.”
“You are a lawyer for Israel and you are protecting Israel.”
This is a dialogue that has been circulated among the Turkish people. The tit-for-tat parties are Turkish President Erdogan and US President Obama.
From 2003 to the present, Erdogan has firmly held the highest position in Turkey.
For him, power is almost to the point where he can get whatever he wants.
On the international stage, Erdogan has shown his iron-blooded qualities and has repeatedly said “no” to the United States forcefully.
As early as 2003, Erdogan refused to lend the air base. He did not want to be an accomplice of the US attack on Iraq;
In 2014, the United States once again raised the idea of the Turkish Air Force Base and sent the Secretary of State to lobby, but Erdogan claimed that he could not afford it and repeatedly pushed back…
In the end, Erdogan, who saw clearly the hypocrisy of the United States, extended his arms enthusiastically to the Eastern powers, and under the pressure of the Western world, he made a wonderful move to save himself from a desperate situation.
So, who is Erdogan? What kind of situation has the relationship between the United States and Turkey experienced? In front of the eastern powers, what is Erdogan doing?
1. From intimacy to drifting away, the “Middle East madman” came to the world
Located on the key road linking Europe and Asia, Turkey has taken advantage of its geographical advantages since the 20th century to occupy a place in the Middle East strategy of the United States, and has entered the stage of history by virtue of “security cooperation”.
With the beginning of the Cold War and the implementation of the United States’ global foreign policy, Turkey and the United States maintained a “special relationship”-Turkey provided its own territory, and the Americans supported it.
Throughout the Cold War, Washington became the bastion of Turkey’s foreign policy and security, and it was Turkey’s uncompromising supporter in the Middle East.
American General Arnold once said firmly in front of reporters:
“Turkey has become one of the cornerstones of the Atlantic alliance, and in exchange for every dollar spent in Turkey, the United States saves the equivalent of three dollars in security guarantees.”
Ambassador George C. McKee also proudly declared:
“Turkey is our most reliable ally.”
(The relationship between Turkey and the United States was once good)
It is precisely because of the special domestic and foreign environment during the Cold War that the relationship between the United States and Turkey has completely changed from “none” to friendly, and at the same time it has opened the door to friendly exchanges between the Western world and Middle Eastern countries.
From this perspective, Turkey can be regarded as an old ally of the United States, and the relationship between the two countries has become stronger over time.
Even at the end of the Cold War, Paris, the then US ambassador to Turkey, did not hesitate to praise him, praising “the importance of Turkey is unquestionable.”
However, Turkey is not reconciled to being a younger brother following behind the United States. It also has its own “big country dream”.
Such an ideal was eventually led by the “Middle East madman” Erdogan to move forward bravely.
In August 2014, Erdogan became a key figure at a turning point in Turkey’s history – he witnessed the first direct presidential election and successfully became the 12th president of Turkey.
In the first two decades of the 21st century, Turkey’s political arena can be named “the era of madman Erdogan”:
Some Western observers began to talk about the “Second Turkish Republic”, comparing Erdogan’s influence on Turkey in the new century to Charles de Gaulle’s reshaping of the French state and the establishment of the “French Fifth Republic”.
Why did Erdogan get such a high evaluation?
This is because Erdogan has always retained a strong Muslim identity.
Erdogan’s father was a devout Muslim, so he was deeply influenced by the Islamic way of life since he was a child.
The 1970s was a period of political Islamic revival in Turkey. Erdogan once attended the Imam Khatib School, which aimed to train Islamic clerics.
Erdogan later recalled:
“The Imam-Khatib school period meant everything to me today. I got the framework, the direction and everything… In the Imam-Khatib school, I learned how to recite poetry, especially religious and nationalist poetry. “
As Erdogan has consolidated his power over the years, his strong Islamic complex has become the biggest driving force for his external toughness.
After taking office, the “zero problem” good-neighborly policy became his first step in leading Turkey back to the Middle East.
Erdogan emphasized more than once:
“Turkey will put aside the influence of Western countries’ policies and make friends with its neighbors independently.”
Therefore, Turkey is trying to shape the image of a great power and try to play a mediating role in the Arab-Israeli peace talks.
Especially in the negotiation process of the Syrian issue, Turkey is trying to act as the “arbiter” of Saudi Arabia and the Syrian issue.
Regarding this issue, the United States has always turned a blind eye to this issue, as if it wants to see what kind of waves this “Middle East madman” can make.
Soon, Erdogan’s strength showed its effectiveness in the Iraq war-the Turkish parliament voted by a majority to reject the US military’s use of the Incirlik Air Force Base to invade Iraq.
(Ingelik Air Force Base)
The so-called Incirlik Air Force Base is the largest base built by the US military in Turkey, stocking a large amount of supplies and the most advanced fourth-generation fighters at the time.
Erdogan’s “changing face” obviously annoyed the United States, although he was only exercising his own rights.
Unsurprisingly, this move opened the prelude to the “turmoil” in US-Turkey relations.
In this fight, the American trick is obviously better.
The United States did not directly attack Turkey, but adopted economic sanctions or military “strikes” against Middle Eastern countries that have good relations with Turkey.
Such means undoubtedly weaken Turkey’s leadership prestige in the region. After all, “big countries” should protect their neighbors.
However, due to the weakening of the national strength, Erdogan, who was full of resentment, could only swallow his broken teeth into his stomach, forced a smile, and maintained a superficial friendship with the United States.
Such is the tragedy of a small country.
For quite a long time thereafter, the United States deliberately played against Turkey on the Palestine-Israel issue and the Iranian nuclear issue, involving the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf.
This almost swollen Erdogan’s face-what about equal diplomacy? What about good allies first? This is too petty, too hypocritical, right?
What Turkey wants is to “return to the Middle East” and obtain an independent and equal status, and the most important thing is to be able to have an equal dialogue with the United States.
But what Erdogan overlooked is that the United States is the driving force behind the game of great powers in the Middle East. Behind almost any incident is the so-called “American discourse”, and all countries have the spokesperson of the United States.
In 2010, at the UN Security Council, Turkey opposed the US proposed sanctions against Iran and tried to support the statement from Tehran, Iran.
Not surprisingly, this move made the United States extremely disappointed, making it question whether Turkey is still a “reliable” ally.
In May of the same year, under the mediation of China and other parties, Erdogan and Iran signed a tripartite agreement on the Tehran Research Reactor, requiring Iran to transfer its low-purity enriched uranium to Turkey for exchange.
The move has once again raised questions about President Barack Obama’s commitment to Turkey’s alliance with the West.
(Erdogan and Obama)
For this reason, the U.S. Congress has postponed a cooperation order with the Turkish military to seek arms sales. The United States and Turkey are completely drifting away.
2. Seeing the hypocrisy of the United States, Erdogan learned from the painful experience
In 2010, the revolutionary wave “Arab Spring” swept across the Middle East, which triggered the “trigger” of political turmoil in the region, and also made Erdogan completely see the hypocrisy of the United States.
Thanks to Erdogan’s response, Turkey was once hailed as a “model in the Middle East” during the outbreak of the “Arab Spring”.
On the premise of insisting on realizing the original national strategic goals such as “2023 Centennial Vision”, “2035 Vision”, and even “Millennium Goals”, the Erdogan government has changed its original diplomatic attitude.
On the stage of foreign exchanges, President Erdogan often shows a tough stance and even high-pressure policies when facing related issues.
In the process, Turkey faces three major problems, namely, the Kurdish ethnic issue, neighboring countries, and foreign powers.
The resolution of these problems is inseparable from the participation of the United States, and the relationship between the United States and Turkey makes the process of solving them more complicated.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s slogan of making “America great again” has further strained U.S.-Turkish relations.
Due to Turkey’s difficulty in entering the European Union, civil wars broke out in neighboring countries one after another, which directly led to the tense security situation on the Turkish border. Coupled with the intensified Kurdish national crisis, the “smoke” on the Turkish border was rekindled.
But for Turkey, the “Arab Spring” is a window of opportunity to expand its international influence. This opportunity cannot be met but cannot be obtained.
Therefore, under the strong intervention of the United States, Erdogan still implemented reforms, and the ties between the two countries became deeper and deeper.
In response to the Kurdish issue, Erdogan gave up his previous “gentleness” and turned to severely attack Kurdish with a tough diplomatic stance.
As expected, it launched a series of military operations and suffered the “betrayal” of the United States-the United States has close ties with Kurds.
I said earlier that I was an ally with myself, but turned around and hooked up with my enemy. Isn’t this hypocrisy?
This move is regarded by the Erdogan government as an act of shaking its ruling foundation and subverting its state power.
In 2016, the “July 15 military coup” occurred in Turkey. The coup d’etat attempted to overthrow Erdogan’s government, which made Erdogan more convinced of the hostility from the United States.
Afterwards, the United States imposed multiple restrictions on the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the leader suspected by Turkey of planning and directing a military coup. Immediately, the United States and Turkey staged a “proclaiming” and “confrontation” across the air.
Since then, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has dropped to the lowest point in history, and the security partnership system between the two countries is on the verge of collapse.
In order to ease the pressure, Erdogan decided to improve relations with Russia as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States.
At the same time, Russia has been subject to Western sanctions due to the Crimean crisis, and urgently needs to improve its relations with neighboring countries to ease the impact of Western sanctions.
In November 2017, the Turkish Defense Minister announced that in order to enhance national defense capabilities and strengthen border security, the S-400 missile defense system will be purchased from Russia. The total amount of the order is as high as 2 billion to 2.5 billion US dollars.
This undoubtedly touched a nerve in the United States.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis exaggeratedly stated:
“We can’t incorporate these things into a NATO country. Turkey’s move makes us feel threatened. This is a huge threat!”
As a result, Erdogan played a deaf ear to it.
(US and Turkey)
The United States, which had already been furious, immediately announced that it would impose sanctions on Turkey in terms of arms sales.
In 2018, the United States suspended the delivery of scheduled F35 fighter jets to Turkey and imposed sanctions on two Turkish cabinet ministers.
Erdogan gave the United States a firm response, saying that “the United States must choose between Turkey and terrorists” with a firm attitude.
The military firmness obviously gave Erdogan more confidence. After seeing the ugly face of the West, he chose to embrace the East.
Not long after, in response to the development of the “Belt and Road”, Erdogan signed a relevant agreement with China, and the trade volume between China and Turkey will strive to reach 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2023.
At the same time, the projects developed between the two parties also include nuclear power plants and high-speed rail.
Since then, Chinese companies have made many contributions to Turkey’s infrastructure construction, including the 158-kilometer Ankara-Istanbul high-speed railway project, which is one of the important projects undertaken by Chinese companies abroad.
In addition, Turkey also intends to use China’s accession to the “Shanghai Cooperation Organization” to increase its regional influence and influence on Central Asian countries; and wants to increase its international influence through China’s status as a permanent member of the United Nations.
(Friendship between China and Earth)
It can be seen from this that after the missile incident, Erdogan completely abandoned the West and began to fully embrace the East.
So, how did Erdogan, known as the “Middle East strongman”, embrace the East?
3. Erdogan embraces the East
For the world, the “Silk Road Economic Belt” initiative is essentially to provide infrastructure construction assistance to countries along the route, and to contribute to a better expansion of international economic and cultural exchanges, and to contribute to China’s strength.
After falling ill with the United States, the Turkish government launched the “Central Corridor” national plan in due course, with the aim of connecting East Asia and Central Asia, taking advantage of Turkey’s geographical advantages, and making it a transit point for the Eurasian continent.
The implementation of this plan will make Turkey the core area of the Eurasian continent, which will help promote economic and trade development, and coordinate the development of various cultural exchanges in the Eurasian region, thereby forming a Eurasian community centered on Turkey.
Under the framework of the “Silk Road Economic Belt”, the cooperation between China and Turkey focuses on traditional trade, infrastructure construction, direct investment and other fields, but the financial direction has gradually developed into a key field.
In May 2015, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China spent US$325 million to acquire the Turkish Textile Bank, holding 78% of the shares.
The acquisition of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is by far the largest acquisition by a Chinese company in the financial sector.
After this merger and acquisition, all businesses and upstream and downstream supply chains of Turkish Textile Bank are controlled by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, including more than 50 Turkish outlets and thousands of Turkish employees.
In 1977, Turkish Textile Bank was established in Istanbul, with more than 50 branches under its jurisdiction. Its main business is commercial loans and capital flow business in international import and export.
One year after the acquisition of Turkish Textile Bank, the total capital of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Turkey) Co., Ltd. increased by 120% year-on-year to US$2.519 billion; the external turnover increased by 80% year-on-year, and the profit margin increased significantly.
As China’s first financial enterprise in Turkey, ICBC Turkey Branch is a successful case in the financial fields of China and Turkey.
In addition, Chinese companies have invested in many fields in Turkey.
Among them, infrastructure construction contracting occupies a large proportion.
In July 2014, the Iraqi-Ann Line of the Turkish high-speed railway was officially opened to traffic, and the project was entirely undertaken by Chinese companies.
Erdogan and Minister of Transport Erwan attended the inaugural ceremony and jointly carried the high-speed rail for the first time.
In 2006, a temporary bidding company jointly established by China Railway Construction Corporation and China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation won the bid for the second phase of the Ian high-speed railway project with its unique price and technical advantages.
The bid for this project is 1.48 billion US dollars, the required speed is 300 kilometers per hour, and the total length of the project is 162 kilometers.
The planned passenger flow of the project is 6 times higher than that of the original railway, from 4,000 passengers per day to 25,000 passengers per day, and the opening time is one-third of the original time, from the original 10 hours to 3 hours.
As the first foreign high-speed rail project undertaken by a Chinese company, the Yi’an high-speed rail project is of great significance to the “going global” of China’s high-speed rail and will become a new name card of China’s high-speed rail.
Moreover, considering the actual conditions that Turkey is applying to join the European Union, the quality of the project should conform to the European high-speed rail regulations. The technical difficulty and high quality requirements have put forward strict requirements for Chinese companies. It opened up the bridgehead to enter Europe, played a guiding role in China’s high-speed rail going to the world, and also became the starting point for Chinese enterprises to undertake construction projects in soil.
It can be seen that while Erdogan embraced the East, China also benefited a lot from it, and the relationship between the two sides is thriving.
In fact, it is not only the United States that is hypocritical, but also Europe. In other words, the whole western world is cheating Turkey.
In January 2018, at a press conference in Paris, Turkish President Erdogan complained:
“We have waited for years to join the European Union, and we are exhausted as a nation and myself, and this situation may force us to make a final choice.”
The frustration of entering Europe is undoubtedly an important reason for Turkey’s embrace of the East.
Leaders of major European countries, especially France and Germany, have continued to increase their anti-Turkish rhetoric, openly referring to Turkey’s cultural identity as a Muslim-majority, and Western countries’ alienation of Turkey’s identity has led to a gradual estrangement of Turkey-Europe relations.
The EU rejected Turkey on the grounds of geography, history, religion and other factors. While strengthening its own European identity, it alienated Turkey’s own identity – Turkey is a non-European country.
Turks are often proud of this metaphor of themselves as a bridge between East and West, Asia and Europe, and in the eyes of Turkish leaders, it is a reason for the European Union to accept Turkey.
However, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, this is exactly one reason not to allow Turkey to become a full member of the European Union:
“A bridge … should never be exclusively owned by one party. Turkey can better fulfill its role as a bridge between Asia and Europe if it does not become a full member of the EU.”
Samuel Huntington once asked the question, “Where should Turkey look after rejecting Mecca and being rejected by Brussels?”
Turn to Middle Eastern Muslims or return to the Turkic world, or Pan-Eurasianism? It is certain that it is no longer a “one-sided” westward strategy.
Therefore, the alienation and alienation of Western countries has indirectly become a driving force for Turkey’s diplomatic transformation, and embracing the East has become one of Erdogan’s few choices.
In the future, the development of China-Turkey will surely be smooth.
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