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What is left for Turkiye to be in the western camp? The Armenian tragedy and the last fig leaf

May 3, 2022 at 4:09 pm

People join in the Resist Genocide Denial Now protest on the 107th anniversary of the mass murder of Armenians, outside the Turkish consulate on April 24, 2022 in Los Angeles, California [David McNew/Getty Images]

The US – and most of the western governments – stance on the issue of the Armenian tragedy of 1915 was the last in a series of western positions that harmed their relations with Turkiye. Over the past decades, despite being a sincere and indispensable ally – as many western leaders occasionally said – Turkiye has received many setbacks from the western camp which shook their alliance and endangered the country’s national security. A situation that eventually and logically put forward the question for the Turkish decision-makers and international relations experts, as well: “What is left for Turkiye to be in the western camp?”

Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, Turkiye was not hesitant to join the western camp, comprised of the United States and most of the west Europe countries. In that period, Turkiye felt threatened by the Soviet Union, which sought to have control over the Turkish Straits which connect the Black Sea with the Mediterranean, an essential waterway route for Russian exports, as well as claims to cede Turkish lands to the Soviet Union.

Since that time, Turkiye defined itself as a western ally and stood with the western camp in the face of the Eastern Soviet camp. Turkiye made great contributions to the western camp, starting from the Korean War 1950 –1953, then joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1952 and allowing for military and intelligence bases to be stationed across the Turkish territories to tackle any Soviet threat.

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Despite the many contributions by Turkiye to the western camp during the post-WW2 period – acknowledged by many of the US and European leaders – yet, Turkiye was not met with the gratitude that equals its contributions and role for the success of the western camp. During the Cold War and post-Cold War periods, there were many setbacks from the western world towards Turkiye.

The Cyprus issue was an example of the western position against Turkiye. The US, and many of the European governments, sided the Greek narrative in the Cyprus case and imposed sanctions on Turkiye, including a military embargo, following its military operation in 1974 in Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriots from the crackdown of the Greek Cypriot terrorist groups that systematically sought to force the Turkish Cypriots to leave their lands. However, Turkiye remained a sincere ally to the western camp and stayed bound to its commitments under the alliance.

In another disregard for Turkiye’s security threats, the US denied the importation of defence capabilities to Turkiye, which was in dire need of these capabilities in the course of its fight against the terrorist PKK group, a group responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of Turkish people in the past four decades.

A US-made AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter on July 16, 2020 [SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images]

A US-made AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter on July 16, 2020 [SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images]

In 1996, the US blocked the sale of the US-made Cobra attack helicopters to Turkiye; in 2012, the US also rejected a request from Turkiye to purchase armed Predator drones. Furthermore, the US rejected the provision to Turkiye of an air defence system following which it then moved to Russia to purchase its state-of-art S-400 air defence system and was eventually removed by the US from the joint production program of the US F-35 jet fighter.

Moreover, the US administration, including France, failed to understand Turkiye’s security concerns in northern Syria, where the former Donald Trump administration threatened to crush the Turkish economy if it continued its military operations in northern Syria.

The US did not stop at this point. Two groups considered by Turkiye as terrorist groups – the YPG/YPJ group and the FETO entity – are not considered by the US as terrorist groups. Instead, the US provides its support and backing to them. The US provided the YPG/YPJ groups – the Syrian branch of the PKK – with hundreds of millions of dollars in arms, despite Turkiye’s warning against such support, and the US is still hosting Fetullah Gulen – head of the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO) – a terrorist entity accused of being the mastermind of the 2016 defeated coup in Turkiye.

The Armenia case: the last fig leaf

Consecutive US presidents were cautious to avoid the use of the word “genocide” to describe what happened to the Armenian community living in eastern Anatolia under the Ottoman Empire in 1915, which witnessed the horrors of the First World War. In that period, the Armenian people, the Muslims and the Kurds of the Ottoman Empire, suffered the hardships and tragedy of that war, and hundreds of thousands were killed from all these groups of people.

The Armenian communities abroad insisted on denying the tragedies that happened to others and lobbied for their own narrative of genocide, in order to let the governments adopt their narrative. Previous US administrations, under their strategic ties with Turkiye, resisted the attempts by the Armenian pressure groups, along with attempts by pro-Armenian Congressmen, to recognise what happened to the Armenians as genocide.

In October 2019, the US Congress passed a resolution on the “Armenian Genocide”, making the recognition of it as part of the policy of the United States. Moreover, President Joe Biden, at an event to remember the Armenian tragedy on 24 April, 2021, referred to the Armenian tragedy as “genocide” in a statement released by the White House and, recently, on 24 April, 2022 at the same event, President Biden also issued a statement commemorating the 107th anniversary of the start of the “Armenian Genocide.”

READ: Turkiye rejects US’ commemoration of 107th anniversary of ‘Armenian genocide’

Biden’s statement was met with harsh criticism from the Turkish leadership, with Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying the US leader’s statement was “based on lies and false information”. “Mr. Biden should first learn and know very well the history of Armenians. We cannot forgive this attempt aiming to challenge Turkiye, despite lacking such knowledge,” President Erdogan said in a televised address, commenting on Biden’s statement.

All in all, the US adoption of the Armenian narrative, and the ignorance of the Turkish call to examine the events based on historical truths, can be considered as the last fig leaf in the strategic relations between them. Turkiye can no longer describe its relations with the US as “strategic partner” and, therefore, it shall seek strengthening strategic partnerships with other powers in the world, including Russia and China, based on a policy of diversification and openness towards partners in different parts of the world, not only in the West.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.