ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- It is no secret that Washington is seriously concerned about Turkey's decision to build a missile defense system with a Chinese firm. Turkish officials said in September that Turkey is likely to choose the FD-2000 missile defense system from the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC), which is under US sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has also voiced concern about Turkey buying a system that is not compatible with those of other members. The technical rationale behind Ankara's choice is that the Chinese company will be more generous than Western ones in sharing technology with Turkey.
Yet, if one is to look deeper, the ideological logic behind the choice of China is Turkey's growing Gaullist strategic vision. As I previously outlined in a Brookings Institution analysis paper, there are mainly three grand strategic visions in Turkish foreign policy: Kemalism, neo-Ottomanism and Turkish Gaullism. The common denominator of these strategic visions is that they transcend the erroneous narrative prevalent in the Western media that focuses on the dichotomy between Turkey's Islamic and secular factions.
Turkish Gaullism is still an enigma for most analysts trying to make sense of Turkish foreign policy. It is where neo-Ottomanism and Kemalism converge. Despite the important differences between Kemalism and neo-Ottomanism, both share a strong sense of patriotism and attachment to the Turkish nation-state. What neo-Ottomanism represents has successfully internalized the Kemalist paradigm of Turkish nationalism. At the end of the day, both share a state-centric view of the world and Turkish national interests. They also share illiberal tendencies vis-À-vis individual freedoms, which puts limits on democratization. Seen from the prism of rising Turkish self-confidence in the last few years, there is a convergence between neo-Ottomanism and Kemalism. This third vision of Turkish foreign policy seems to unite the country around a sense of Turkish grandeur and independence.
If current Turkish trends of economic growth continue, Washington might witness the emergence in Turkey of not so much an Islamist foreign policy but of a much more self-confident, independent, grandeur and prestige-oriented and occasionally defiant strategic orientation -- in short, a Turkish variant of French Gaullism. Turkish Gaullism is primarily about Turkish self-confidence and independence vis-À-vis the West. A Gaullist Turkey may in the long run decide to no longer pursue elusive EU membership. It may even question its military alliance with the US. Burdened by a sense that it never gets the respect it deserves, Turkey is now acting on its own in search of full independence, full sovereignty, strategic leverage and, most importantly, "Turkish glory and grandeur."
So where will Gaullism take Turkey? For instance, Iran's nuclear ambition is a crucial litmus test for Turkish Gaullism. If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, Turkey may react in a predictably independent way. As France did under Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s, Turkey may opt for its own "force de frappe" -- a nuclear deterrent -- and its own "realpolitik" with countries such as China, India and Russia. It could even contemplate leaving, as France under de Gaulle did, the military structure of NATO.
The current analysis on Turkey in American circles constantly refers to the tension between "secularism" and "Islam" or "Eastern" versus "Western" proclivities. Such focus often comes at the expense of the most powerful force driving Turkish foreign policy: nationalism and self-interest. One should not underestimate the emergence of a nationalist and self-confident Turkey that transcends the over-emphasized Islamic-secular divide. After all, both the Turkish military's Kemalism and the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) neo-Ottomanism -- the ideal of regional influence -- share a similar vision of Turkish independence and nationalism. The China deal is only the latest manifestation of a growing Gaullist tendency in Turkey.
ÖMER TASPINAR (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CIHAN