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With the national economy developing independently with no acute reactions to outside pressure, Ankara is realizing its price, role and possibilities to defend national interests. Once a country lacking in self-confidence, Turkey now takes control of its borders and chooses its potential allies, the founder of a U.S.-based think-tank said Wednesday
Participating in a tech summit in Istanbul, the head of Geopolitical Futures George Friedman said: “Ten years ago… I wrote something absurd, which is that Turkey is emerging as a great power. And people told me this is not possible, especially Turks. But it is possible and it is happening,” Friedman said, underlining that although Turkey still did not trust itself, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was trying to instil confidence in the nation.
“What I learned as I watching Turkey for 10 years is that Turkey doesn’t trust itself, that at root, President Erdogan it trying to instil self-confidence into Turkey,” he added.
“Ten years ago the idea that Turkey would sit at the same table with Russia, with the United States, with all of these countries, and speak as an equal… this was not likely,” he added.
Arguing that this shift in Turkey’s policy was healthy one for growth and for the region, he said with ongoing chaos in the Middle East, Turkey demanded the U.S. leave its border with Syria, and the U.S. complied. He stressed that this was an important development in terms of Turkish-American relations, and noted that the U.S. has realized that war could not be a constant activity.
Despite its strength, the U.S. should not be present everywhere and must choose right destinations, he said. Asserting that an ongoing row between Ankara and Washington surrounding Turkey’s recent purchases of Russian-made defense hardware was “temporary”, Friedman said joint cooperation could be conducted in many areas between the two countries.
He underlined that in order for Turkey to be a reliable partner of the U.S., it must be self-sufficient in its digital capability. In April 2017, when its protracted efforts to buy an air defense system from the U.S. proved fruitless, Turkey signed a contract with Russia to acquire an S-400 anti-missile shield.
Opposing deployment of the Russian system, U.S. officials argue that they would be incompatible with NATO systems and would expose its fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets – of which Turkey is a development partner – to possible Russian subterfuge.
Turkey, however, stresses that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems, and posed no threat to the alliance or its armaments. The S-400 is seen as one of the most advanced missile systems in the world, capable of tracking several targets simultaneously.
Turkey not depending on foreign customers, Friedman noted one of the things he admires the most about Turkey is that it has an internal economy. Noting that it does not rely solely on foreign customers, as does China, he said that this was a form of national security. Freidman underlined that national security is not merely having fighter planes but also not being hostage to your customers.
Ankara blocks NATO military plans
Turkey has refused a NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland after some alliance members, including the United States, blocked another defense document at which the YPG was mentioned as a threat to Turkey, diplomatic sources told Turkish media.
The North Atlantic Council (NAC), the principal political decision-making body within NATO, prepared a document on possible threats posed to the south of the Alliance at a meeting of the body in Ankara. The document noted the YPG as a security threat to Turkey. However, the release of the defense document was rejected by some NATO members, including the U.S.
If the plan was released, the YPG would be worded as a security threat for the first time in NATO documents. Turkey, in retaliation, refused the release a NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland until the alliance paves the way for the prior document, a senior Turkish diplomat said.
“If the plan involving Turkey was not released, we will not allow any others. Those who asked us at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting for publishing the plan for the Baltics should show the same sensitivity for this document, too,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is trying to solve the problem before the alliance’s summit in December.
Stoltenberg is making efforts for a text to be accepted by all parties, the diplomatic source said. “The secretary-general is trying to find a common language. We say that we are ready for proposals,” the diplomat said, elaborating on the defense plan on Turkey’s security concerns.
If the document mentions the YPG, Washington would have to carry legal responsibility to fight against the group, therefore the U.S. objected to the plan, according to the source.
The dispute, before NATO holds its 70th-anniversary summit in London next week, is a sign of divisions between Ankara and Washington over Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria against the YPG. NATO envoys are seeking formal approval by all 29 member states for the military plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack.