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Turkey: Europe's sober second voice

By Michael Leverone
web posted November 18, 2002

In 1946 Winston Churchill called for "a kind of United States in Europe," which he saw as essential for preventing a repeat of World War II. Since then many versions of the European Federalist Union have come and gone, but I wonder if Churchill could have anticipated the corrupt cartel of spineless bureaucrats that has arisen since.

This is of course my somewhat slanted viewpoint as an American. The nature of the European Union (EU), being a congregation of leftist leaning nations, is bound to run against the political grain in America, and most of our disputes center on the typical political mudslinging. This will always be a factor in relations, but as EU size and influence continues to grow we'll need some change, something to leverage against the corrupted elements of Europe's old world.

Basically, we need Turkey in the EU. Our long time friends are becoming more strategically, economically, and politically vital in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. If they join they will control a majority of votes along with Germany, and so we would have a much better chance of dealing with reasonable European voices. Even the recently elected Turkish government - which gave the rest of the world a few sleepless nights because of their Islamist leanings - has shown that it still wishes to join the EU and will support a military incursion into Iraq. There's our reasonable ally in the EU (Sorry Blair, but no one is listening anymore).

The foremost issue that would sway in our favor is the Mideast, and all the implications that come along. The EU's spineless policies towards the Arab world have caused numerous setbacks in EU-US relations, and (from my American point of view) have contributed to our lasting security concerns in the area. The task will be formidable; as it's a complicated consortium of problems and misguided policies. Former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing illustrated the emotional undertones of Turkey's admission when he boldly stated that anyone supporting Turkey's bid was an "enemy of the EU." 1 Their prospects for admittance have particularly sensitive implications for Arab hard-liners, who view Turkey as a dangerous experiment of secular Muslim democracy, and so long as the EU will cadre to those insecurities the Turks are going to get knocked around.

The EU needs Turkey to bolster a more cohesive Mideast approach, someone to shake up the don't-rock-the-boat mob. The EU has chosen to justify Palestinian terror, funded the brutal regime of Yasser Arafat, and buried itself in questionable alliances with (suspected) terrorist supporters, perhaps because they are terrified of their imperial past. Case in point: Recently the EU declared that the crisis in Palestine must be resolved before any military strike on Iraq commences; nothing new, but frightfully late in the game for that caliber of nonsense. The position is devoid of any logic, but illustrates clearly that the EU is petrified of any change in Mideast power structures, clearly necessitating a fresh voice in the sea of cowards. Should the United States allow Arafat's thugs and Ariel Sharon's militant tenacity to dictate the prerogatives of national security? Thank you, next please.

A large Turkish vote in the EU can vastly changed the attitude from Europe, principally because of that one crucial interest; oil. Turkey is becoming one of the most crucial nations in the most rapidly developing alternative to Mideast dependency; Central Asian/Caspian/Russian Oil. The new Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline gives the Turks the most advantageous geopolitical-economic status in the world: control of an entire market of oil. The new pipeline, in conjunction with the tankers that already come though the Bosporus (administered by the Turks), brings every drop of oil that comes from the Caspian Basin, Central Asian republics, and Russia through Turkish administered areas. That gives them the kind of influence it needs to offset the influence of Mideast oil politics, and one day might just unhinge their virtual stranglehold on EU-US security cooperation. Once the new reserves in Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and the entire Caspian Basin start finding their way into Western markets - through Turkey - the Mideast might just lose sway over the timid hands in Europe.

Turkey's EU admission would also give us a far less tainted contact in the increasingly corrupt European establishment. Open Society Institute's EU Accession Monitoring Program recently released a report indicating that "it was increasingly likely that countries with persistent and serious corruption would be admitted to a European Union unable to combat such problems even among its current members." 2 Which is especially troubling considering the security implications of the soon-to-be EU nations.

Eastern Europe in particular is riddled with corruption, poverty, and flourishing black markets, among them Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Baltic states. International terrorism watchers have found multiple incidents in which terrorist groups of all stripes utilize poor conditions and corruption in Eastern Europe for their material and logistical needs. The US State Department, recognizing the problem, initiated a joint law enforcement effort with Poland, which will seek to weed out internal corruption that might donate to terrorist ambitions. Any contribution to stability would be a welcome sign that terrorist influence will wane, but we'll need to press the EU to take those interests into consideration, which, given precedent, they are not always apt to do.

The EU is principally concerned with tapping Eastern European markets, consumers, and the underdeveloped industries. They've shown themselves far less willing to take US warnings seriously, even though those concerns concern them as well. Turkey, on the other hand, is no stranger to the problem, and subsequently shares many of the threats we face. Turkey's status as a secular Islamic state makes it an official target of all terrorist groups with their cross-hairs on the US. They're also well aware of the transport threats, as recent figures released by Turkish law enforcement cite 183 incidents, just this year, in which criminals were caught attempting to smuggle radioactive materials through Turkey. They're listening, and if they manage to wiggle into the EU, our contrary friends of Western Europe may just have to listen too.

This is of course my officially biased opinion of Europe's tendencies, and my rosy predictions of what Turkey could offer may be long shots at very best. But if we're to have any lasting effect on the developments in Eastern Europe and the Middle East we need to assemble a sensible majority in Europe. Turkey, together with the less contrary members like Britain, and one day Germany, could give us the strategic influence we'll need to constructively cooperate with the EU on global security issues. Without some kind of foothold, we'll continue to be at the mercy of European whims and quips, which have notoriously served as obstacles to our various strategic goals. Something's got to give, and I just hope it won't take a September 11th or two to shake things up enough to make the changes.

Footnotes:

[1] Guardian Unlimited, November 9, 2002 http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,836575,00.html

[2] Newsday.com November 7, 2002 http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-eu-eastern-europe-corruption1107nov07.story

This is Michael Leverone's first contribution to Enter Stage Right. He can be reached at mike@mikeleverone.com.

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • America's mysterious ally by Steven Martinovich (October 8, 2001)
    Stephen Kinzer's Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds tells the story of a nation which represents the struggle between East and West, writes Steven Martinovich

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