THE JULY 15 COUP ATTEMPT: WESTERN ALLIANCE, GEOPOLITICS AND NEW PURSUITS
July 15, 2016 saw the opening of a new black page for Turkey with regards to her history of democracy. Turkey witnessed a coup attempt by a group of soldiers within the Turkish Armed Forces that are members of the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and call themselves the "Peace at Home Council" during the dates of July 15-16 2016. In the official website of the Turkish Armed Forces and TRT a memorandum broadcasted which stated that the army seized control of the country, and martial law and a curfew was declared.
After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called people resist against the coup, the attempt failed. This article approaches the coup attempt and its outcome within the context of Turkish foreign policy and historical developments in light of geopolitics and Turkey-US relations. Geopolitics is taken as the discipline that examines state relations as geographical organisms or as a phenomenon of place. The term geopolitics was first used by Rudolf Kjellen in 1916. On this regard geopolitics appears as a broader term.
As in the definition of Karl Housefer, geopolitics can be defined as basing political events to geography. In other words, it is politics that are based on geography. The biggest criticism that can be made to this term is the conceptualisation of geopolitics as a tool used by powerful states. While great powers have the ability to set a geographical ground for their political aims, its use by those countries that feel lucky or unlucky within its geography according to the conjuncture, necessitate the discussion for other definitions of geopolitics. Geopolitics activates the geography and its active appraisement; that it puts forward an active rather than a passive structure for states in terms of its meaning, shows that it can be used efficiently by countries that can successfully make contacts for a relationship between power and aim. This is because geopolitics approaches societies interrelated with the element of place. Even if the location and place of countries remain stable, the developments around the world may provide new developments in state geopolitics. In this regard, Turkey has found a place in the Western bloc during the Cold War and was named an outpost, becoming a very important geopolitical factor within the Western bloc for having a border with the Soviets. Within that period the feeling that Turkey was part of the West even reflected on the behavioural patterns of the society; this feeling directly affected the customs and traditions of the people. After the Cold War, Turkey felt that the West will give up on the country and the idea that she lost her strategic importance has spread; After the Cold War, Turkey has found herself in search for something. Actually we can summarize this period that Turkey has lived through in another way as well. Even if the places and locations of the countries remain constant, events that transpire around the world may increase and decrease the geopolitical importance of countries. Herein most important exercises with relation to Geopolitics are understood as attempts by great countries to construct periods. Hence, mid-sized countries such as Turkey can often feel deceived as interests of great countries shift. There have been political events on the possibility that the US may sacrifice Turkey during the Cold War. In the year 1959 the US removed the 15 Jupiter rockets that had nuclear warheads from the US after USSR agreed to make a deal with the US following the Cuban Crisis. This development, had risks for a country like Turkey which had a border with USSR and has placed herself within the Western alliance. While Turkey thought her brave move would be rewarded by the West, the US instead removed the Jupiter rockets, making it look as if the US could sacrifice Turkey. The US hegemony over Turkey which forced her into taking limited steps in the region during the Cold War reappeared once again with the Johnson letter. According to the deputy secretary of state George Ball, the letter was the cruellest diplomatic note he had ever seen and in a way it had the effect of a diplomatic a-bomb. According to the letter, Turkey's intervention to the island would mean a war between two NATO cobelligerents, Turkey and Greece. With the letter, President Johnson reprimanded Turkey to not attempt such an action. The letter in a way was a statement that said the enemies of Turkey can only be determined by the US. The "axis shift" arguments between Turkey and the West have often been uttered during the JDP era. At this point we must express that when the East or any other region or institution started to be considered as an alternative to the EU or the West for Turkey, the West increases the allegations that Turkey has shifted her axis. In this period, with investigations such as Poyrazköy and Balyoz some higher-up soldiers were taken into custody and the soldiers that can be considered as "Eurasian" were dismissed. The only group to take advantage of the events was the FETÖist members of the military as they rapidly rose in ranks and later attempt the coup in July 15.
Within the first few hours of the coup, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, stressed that Turkey had a key importance for the EU, emphasizing that the "EU fully supports the democratically elected government, the institutions of the country and the rule of law." With regards to the coup attempt in Istanbul and Ankara, NATO Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has called for "calm and restraint, and full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and its constitution. Turkey is an important NATO ally." These statements may have importance for an ordinary country but it can be said that it does not mean much for a country like Turkey, which has always been an important member of the Western Alliance ever since its foundation. While there has been a coup attempt in a country with the second largest army of NATO, no information was shared by NATO regarding the attempt beforehand. An even more interesting aspect is the allegation that it was Russia who first conveyed intelligence to the Turkish authorities with regards to the upcoming coup. While Turkey and Russia had never been under the same alliance roof, and their diplomatic relations almost broke off after the November 24 Plane Crisis, Russia's share of intelligence is an important point for bilateral relations. Hence, that no NATO and EU authorities visited Turkey after the coup attempt is another issue that needs questioning. In this context, the scheduled meeting of Putin and Erdoğan in Russia on August 9, may be the first indication that Turkey has opened the doors for a new era.
The US President Barack Obama has said that all the allegations regarding foreknowledge of the coup and the alleged US involvement were absolutely false. Obama pointed out that a process of extradition for Fethullah Gülen will follow a legal process in the US and stressed that Turkey needed proof of his involvement in the coup for his extradition. If the US continues to be unwilling to extradite Gülen, the allegations regarding the US involvement to the coup will continue to gain prominence within the Turkish public sphere. In other words, the US' attitude to prevent Gülen's extradition can be read by the Turkish public sphere as the US tacitly acknowledging its support for the coup. Known as the civil intelligence organization of the US, STRATFOR has attained a lot important information regarding the coup attempt on July 15 in a very short timeframe. Moreover, it can be said that while there was previous talk within the US media that there could be a coup in Turkey , that no such intelligence was shared with Turkey, a significant member of the Western Alliance, may fracture Turkey's relations with the Western Alliance in a way never seen before.
As a result, the geopolitics of Turkey is very important as it brings extreme risks. While Turkey is a member of the Western Alliance and is the strongest country in the Middle East with regards to her democracy, her army seized power in the years 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. These successive coups have created the understanding within the Turkish public sphere that "whenever there is a coup, the US is behind it." Under these circumstances if the US refuses to extradite the FETÖ leader Fethullah Gülen, the Turkey-West relations can be seriously affected. This is because Turkey's post-Cold War need for a "new alliance" may resuscitate. Such that, as Turkey and Russia draws nearer, Turkey may point towards Eurasia. Turkey may substantially change the stakeholders which utilize her geopolitics. In other words, these possible alliance developments may cause Turkey to shift her axis. If the US is basing the future of the Western Alliance on coupist soldiers, it may sit back and watch Turkey breaking of her relation with the West. The biggest development that would slow down such a development could be the extradition of Gülen to Turkey. If the extradition process will come to a stop, the Western reaction to Turkey drawing nearer to Russia may not remain limited to her removal from NATO and the suspension of her EU membership negotiations. Hence, Turkey primarily needs to restructure her intelligence organizations and her Armed Forces, ideally and before long.
1)Atilla Sandıklı, Jeopolitik ve Türkiye Riskler ve Fırsatlar [“Geopolitics and Turkey Risks and Opportunities”], Bilge Adamlar Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi, Report No: 27, 2011, pg. 7.
2)Hagan, “Geopolitics”, pg. 484.
3)Abdullah Gündoğdu, “Türk Jeopolitiği, Türk Dünyası Analizleri” [“Turkish Geopolitics and Turkish World Geopolitics”], 21. Yüzyıl Dergisi, July August September- 2008, pg. 152
4) Sandıklı, Jeopolitik ve Türkiye [Geopolitics and Turkey]…, p. 2
5)Ibid., pg. 1., Also see, Gündoğdu, “Türk Jeopolitiği” [“Turkish Geopolitics”], pg. 152-156.
6) Ibid., pg.2.
7)Hasan Kösebalan, Türk Dış Politikası [“Turkish Geopolitics”], Trans: Hüsamettin İnanç, Ankara: Bigbang yayınları, 2013., pg. 191.
8)Nasuh Uslu, Türk Amerikan İlişkilerinde Kıbrıs [“Cyprus in Turkish-American Relations”], Ankara, 21. Yüzyıl yayınları, 2000, pg.97.
9)Dünyadan darbe girişimine tepkiler [Reactions from the World on the Coup Attempt] t24.com.tr/haber/dunyadan-darbe-girisiminetepkiler,350316
10)Rus basını: Rusya darbe girişimi öncesi Erdoğan’ı uyardı [Russian Preess: Russia tipped Erdoğan before the coup attempt] https://www.evrensel.net/haber/285666/rusbasini-rusya-darbe-girisimi-oncesi-erdogani-uyardi
11)Obama: Darbe girişiminden haberimiz yoktu [Obama: We had no previous information regarding the coup attempt] www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-36871178
12)Coup Underway in Turkey, https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/coup-underwayturkey
13)Gonul Tol, Turkey's Next Military Coup, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-05- 30/turkeys-next-military-coup