Turkish-American relations are set to sour with Ankara's recent diplomatic freelancing in Tehran, not surprising given Washington's incoherent approach to states crammed between Iran and Russia.
The US still views international relations through the lens of global power balance struggles rather than a more locally refined perspective, whereby regional fundamentals are weakened for bigger-picture gambits. But the broader view in the present American case sacrifices a grand plan composed with strategic depth in mind for a short-term tactical gain.
Recent American diplomatic initiatives reveal a fragmented Atlantic alliance, weakened by economics and strange policies by the EU and the US. Attempts to utilize existing institutions like NATO and the OSCE must not exceed the boundaries of conventional wisdom, as they have tended to do in present times.
If there is linkage between sacrificing eastern Europe and central Asia to Russian influence in order to win resolution of the current chapter in the ‘How to Thwart Iran’ saga, then we are truly witnessing another Inspector Gadget Diplomacy moment. That hapless crime-fighter, endowed with a myriad of super power tools, wins his self-perpetuating series of rounds with Dr. Claw due to the diligence of his tweeny niece and her exceptional hound Brain. America neither has such partners, nor can she tolerate long-term relationships with such peers.
In an Op-Ed written in the International Herald Tribute, Vice-president Joe Biden’s nod to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as a NATO of Central Eurasia rejects the history of the post-Cold War era and makes allies question their commitment to the erstwhile pax Americana bandwagon. Turkey’s recent diplomatic freelancing in Tehran, together with Brazil illustrates the consequences for a system leader like the U.S. when foreign policy drift strikes in a time of rising competitors.
Monday’s Turko-Brazilian agreement with Iran encompasses the Islamic Republic’s nuclear enrichment process, shipping its 2,600 pounds (1,200 kilos) of enriched uranium to Ankara and held under supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In exchange Iran will take possession of more highly uranium-enriched fuel rods, manufactured by France and used for civilian purposes like producing medical isotopes and power generation.
The deal seeks to stave off harsher sanctions that the U.S. was seeking to implement through the UN Security Council. Brazil and Turkey are rotating members of the Security Council and had prior knowledge of the converging positions of China, Russia and the U.S. vis-à-vis a resolution. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pointedly stated after giving his signature to the agreement on Monday, “there is no longer any need for UN sanctions.”
Turkey’s diplomatic push comes a week after a state visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and a series of agreements expected to increase trade by $25 billion annually. Most interesting was apparent alignment between the two former rivals, especially the synchronicity on regional politics including security in the Black Sea and the Middle East.
These circumstances surrounding the latest developments show how much American declarations and, indeed their policies, are at odds with political reality taking shape in Eurasia.
Vice-president Biden writes that “we cannot allow large countries to have vetoes over the decisions of smaller ones. More importantly, we cannot permit the re-establishment of spheres of influence.”
The OSCE, accordingly is to hatch a crisis prevention mechanism designed to mitigate tensions and conflict. Its 56 member institution is, however, a consensus-orientated body paralysed by acute conflict of interests between its constituents. The OSCE has failed to resolve the Nagarno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a frozen war since 1991, just as it failed to prevent the tensions between Georgia and its separatist enclaves from bubbling into open war with Moscow. In the latter case, Russia refused to renew the monitoring mission that placed international observers between opposing forces—a so-called tripwire that may have inspired restraint during the 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict.
A further blow to OSCE credibility exists around its ability to observe elections. In Georgia 2008 and in Moldova 2010, two states representing valuable security real estate in eastern Europe, the validation of elections there by the OSCE’s assessment team was rejected by the opposition and some NGOs who cried foul.
Author Janusz Bugajski describes in his book, Dismantling the West: Russia’s Atlantic Agenda, how Russia has pursued a policy of “managed instability” in areas viewed vital to its southern security cordon, with which it has warily viewed western expansion. Russian exploitation of the OSCE—once thought the successor to NATO by Soviet/Russian leaders—and its consensus requisite is more palatable to Moscow than the Atlantic alliance
Essentially pulling the rug out from under Biden and the OSCE play, President Medvedev described in Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s presence how “Russia and Turkey are working together to maintain global and regional stability. Sitting in the president’s office just now we spoke about the fact that the Black Sea countries, Russia and Turkey, bear direct responsibility for the situation in the region.”
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation is the Kremlin’s vehicle of choice, driving into the sunset of the unipolar moment, with the members of the CSTO passengers and dependent providers of resources that pump their most valuable product through Russian pipelines onward to Europe.
If Russia has taken advantage of Turkey’s disquiet on a range of issues including the European membership snub and the American congressional acknowledgement of Turkish genocide against Armenian’s, than the U.S. has either condoned the budding strategic Russo-Turkish relationship or has been distracted by its obsession with Iran. Given the geopolitical importance of Turkey, it challenges one’s powers of perception to decipher American foreign policy toward Ankara and recognize cognisant approaches.
A recent speech by Philip H. Gordon, under-secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia underlined Turkey’s critical role in: (1) the stability of the Middle East; (2) relations with the Islamic world; (3) U.S. relations with the energy-rich Caspian Sea-Black Sea-Caucasus region; (4) security and development in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; and (5) Europe and the continued vibrancy of the Atlantic Alliance.
That Gordon omitted Iran from the list and described roles that duplicate recent areas of Russo-Turkish convergence suggest significant errors in US reasoning. Should Secretary Clinton fail to secure resolution in the Security Council imposing new sanctions on Tehran in the coming week, Washington’s influence in the various international institutions upon which it once relied will have hit an all-time post-Cold War era low. There is no reset button for that.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com