Mevlut Cavusoglu is the Turkish foreign minister.
America’s friends and allies are watching closely to gauge how America will reposition itself globally once President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. And for good reason.
Our collective security is being overwhelmed by many unconventional, complex and grave threats. Left unchecked, these threats, such as the rise in terrorism and violent extremism and also mass illegal migration, have the potential to destabilize the transatlantic community as a whole.
On New Year’s Eve, Istanbul was once again targeted by the savagery that is terrorism. Tragically, 39 innocents perished while welcoming 2017. This and other recent heinous attacks in Turkey and elsewhere in Europe are grim and sadly all-too-common reminders of the death and destruction that cowardly terrorists can inflict at locations as innocuous as nightclubs, soccer stadiums and Christmas markets.
To proactively confront these challenges, including analyzing and effectively addressing their causes, we must formulate the correct combination of solutions and apply them with determination. As we look ahead, we cannot hope to prevail if we do not devise a game plan and stick to it.
As a start, we must first reinvigorate solidarity, cohesion and trust among allies and partners. This is of paramount importance if we are to capitalize on the momentum to defeat Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and begin to address the dynamics that are tearing Syria and Iraq apart, curb the massive flow of illegal migration, and show our adversaries that we are serious when we say certain lines must not be crossed.
To restore confidence with partners, a good place for the United States to begin is with Turkey, which is a front-line state with regard to all the threats in question. It is sadly true that the Turkey-U.S. bilateral relationship is under severe strain. While we in Turkey are under intense internal and external pressures not of our design, we have, in turn, been criticized, neglected and ignored on vital matters.
Here in Turkey, the disillusionment in our public opinion and politics across the board is palpable. Why has this happened?
A major reason is the United States’ continued insistence in Syria of working with a terrorist organization — YPG/PYD — which, like its conjoined twin, the PKK, is known to conduct and support incessant and barbaric terrorist attacks inside Turkey.
Moreover, the truth is that no other U.S. ally has been targeted more by Daesh than Turkey. And Turkey has risked and contributed more than any other country to combat this evil entity, which, needless to say, has nothing in common with Islam.
All the while, Turkey has been expected to endure the morally bankrupt cooperation between our strategic ally and YPG/PYD. As the PKK is ever emboldened to continue its terrorist campaign, the Turkish people are justifiably asking some hard questions.
On the other hand, in the aftermath of the July 15 terrorist coup attempt, it took the United States four days to condemn the botched plot and 40 days to send a high-level representative to display solidarity.
As we face a barrage of unfair criticism for the measures we have had to take to ensure that our democracy and constitutional order would not be threatened again, the mastermind behind the coup attempt, Fethullah Gulen, lives and freely runs his billion-dollar FETO terrorist network in rural Pennsylvania. And, as the Turkish people who were victimized by the coup attempt understandably look for answers, we are lectured about due process, probable cause and evidential standards.
While we in Turkey grapple with these national security issues, the blame is put on us for rising anti-Americanism. It is no secret that, due in large part to the lack of U.S. focus on the issues that are poisoning our relations, Turks are more dubious than ever about the value of our alliance. But anti-Americanism in Turkey has never been of a radical nature and bears more resemblance to the ideological strands seen in Europe, and as such is not without remedy.
Turkey today once again stands as a bulwark against the many serious threats that confront the transatlantic alliance, including mass migration and terrorism. And, as we have proved time and again, most prominently in the fight against Daesh, Turkey is a steadfast ally when it comes to taking the fight to the enemy.
But Turkey, as a Muslim-majority democracy in an unstable neighborhood, also needs to see allied solidarity and cohesion when it comes to the threats it is facing, none of which are distant or imagined. In line with the effort to restore stability in Syria, we worked with Russia to establish a cease-fire. We hope this truce holds and that all parties, including our allies, will help implement it.
Turkey and the United States, crucial NATO allies at the two geopolitical ends of an enduring transatlantic alliance, have overcome many threats to our collective security and defense. We can do so again, provided we listen to each other, respect one another’s sensitivities, show concrete support where necessary and leverage our comparative advantages to influence meaningful change.
This template of recalibrating relations among indispensable allies to meet the needs of an ever-changing strategic setting applies more broadly, and it can be the road map needed to make a course correction, which would serve the goals and interests of our great nations.