Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

What everyone gets wrong about Turkey

By Steven A. Cook

18 Jan 2023 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday. Ahead of that visit, columnist Steven A. Cook argued that Turkey isn't East or West—it's Turkey.

When I lived in Ankara in the early 2000s, I often spent time with Turks in their 20s and 30s. I recall a particular dinner conversation when we were discussing Turkish foreign policy and the country’s tortured relations with its NATO allies when one of them asked: “Why do Americans and Europeans insist that Turkey is either West or East? Why can’t we just be Turkey?” I fumbled around for an answer citing Turkish interests, the Cold War, and European Union membership before settling on “But Mustafa Kemal Atatürk! He wanted to ‘raise [Turkey] to the level of the most prosperous and civilized nations of the world.’ He meant the West.”

I have thought about my friend’s excellent questions quite a bit in recent years, but especially whenever moments of crisis in U.S.-Turkey ties arise and the inevitable “Who Lost Turkey?” article appears.

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