World News and Trends: Turkey: Independent regional powerhouse?

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Turkey: Independent regional powerhouse?

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British Labour Party Member of Parliament Denis MacShane recently summed up Turkey's current circumstances: "In the Cold War years Turkey was unquestionably accepted as the West's most important frontier nation. Now it seems to prefer coddling Iran over backing the U.N. Security Council's harder line against Tehran. Disputes with Israel, once a key friend of Turkey, have become so bad, there is almost a rupture between the only two democracies in the region" ("Stop the Blame Game," Newsweek, July 23, 2010).

Turkey has even voted against United Nations–sponsored sanctions intended to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Time magazine selected "Turning to the East" as the title for a feature article about Turkey. The teaser for the article stated, "Feeling betrayed by Israel and snubbed by Europe, Turkey is forging a new identity as an independent regional power" (Pelin Turgut, July 5, 2010).

Modern Turkey's claim to a unique global role is partially based on its development out of the Ottoman Empire (roughly 1345 to 1918)—stretching from just outside Vienna, Austria, to the Persian Gulf. Ankara, Turkey's capital, also remains centrally located between East and West—theoretically interfacing between these two different worlds.

Newsweek's feature piece placed "Ankara in the Middle." The article stated: "Once an unquestioning U.S. ally, and [today] at odds with most of its neighbors, Turkey is now forging a new foreign policy, with itself at the very center" (Owen Matthews, Newsweek, July 26, 2010).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates observed that "if there is anything to the notion that Turkey is, if you will, moving eastward, it is, in my view, in no small part because it was pushed, and pushed by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought" (as quoted by Marc Champion and Peter Spiegel, "Gates Says EU Pushed Turkey Away," The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2010). Clearly America's political leadership has become very concerned about this new direction in Ankara's thinking. (Sources: Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal.)

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