USSR until today, Turkey has been of enormous geopolitical importance to the US and its European allies.
The new regional balance of power arising out the war in Iraq has made Turkey even more valuable, partly because of the Kurdish question, but also because the US needs Turkey as counterweight to Syria and Iran.
Nevertheless, Turkey’s future is with the EU, not with the US that will continue to decline as multiple poles of power continue to evolve in this century. While urban and mainly western Turkey is almost ready for EU integration, rural, mainly Eastern Turkey is clearly not, at least from my studies and from what I saw when I visited. Besides the Armenian and Kurdish issue that have Europeans worried, the military’s overbearing role in society as a guarantor of the Kemalist state, as well as Islam may be additional problems leading to EU integration. The country’s judicial system and rampant corruption are also overriding issues. Having visited beautiful Turkey a few times, it struck me that it will need a few hundred billion euros to raise its economy to a level that integration will make sense and we will not have a flood of labor exodus. The larger Turkish businesses, European banks and export firms, and a segment of the Turkish middle class are interested in EU membership. But the IMF, World Bank and European IFIs have concerns about Turkey’s membership because the country has chronic inflation, baksheesh capitalism worse than Greece, a judicial
system that needs reform and systemic corruption that needs to be addressed as well. In the past half century the IMF has tried to engender stabilization programs that have not worked any better than they have for Bolivia, while the World Bank has poured billions for development programs like water-powered electric projects that have been controversial owing to the damage that the environment has sustained. The concerns of the multilateral agencies, EU-based and US-based, are real and not pretexts to exclude Turkey from the EU. However, the most compelling reasons for Turkey to join the EU are precisely the ones that French president has provided for excluding it. For symbolic, economic, and geopolitical reasons, having a Muslim
country and for that matter Israel as EU members will entail greater stability and harmony in the region. Breaking the historical dependence on the US and becoming inexorably linked to the EU will change the
dynamic in the entire region. The alternative is to pursue existing policies that simply perpetuate instability.