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Obama era is a window of opportunity for Turkey
Today is a historic day. President Obama will begin his term as the President of the United States. Though Israel's latest Gaza operations will force Obama to make immediate foreign policy decisions, the new President will most likely have to focus on economic issues. Expectations are quite high and the problem is more serious than any other that we have ever faced. While immediate foreign policy decisions are forcing the doors, we will see that domestic decisions for the economy will in fact be foreign policy decisions. And the task to shape a new global economic architecture will be carried out by the administration that is to take the office. By this way, a change in style will take place. This is what is going to happen, regardless of whether it is desired or not. We are standing just at the beginning of a period where the economic will take precedence of and even be more determinant than the political-military. Though the experts of the issue do not agree, this is the way we have been thinking nowadays. Have you ever thought about the fact that the US government will make decisions that are important here in Turkey for us while they are trying to recover the economy there in the US? Let's see how.
The new US administration is taking office in a period of economic crisis. The crisis is both a national crisis for the US and a global crisis for the whole world. We all are suffering from the consequences of the mistakes made in the US. And similarly, the decisions to be made in the US will determine the nature and the length of the suffering. In the upcoming period, the economic will take precedence over the political-military. Let us highlight two issues concerning the dominance of the economic. The first will be a more general issue while the second will be more specific for our case.
The general issue is this: Today, the US remains to be the controller of the financial markets where the liquidity of the whole world is accumulated. In a world where no one trusts each other, everybody trusts the securities issued by the US. US treasury bills rank the first in terms of demand. So, what does this mean? In this transition period we are going through, how and under which credit guarantees the liquidity accumulated in the US will be transferred to other parts of the world in need of liquidity will be extremely important. Discussions regarding how the related government guarantee will be designed will most probably be the top priority issue during the upcoming period. This will also be key to the pace of the recovery of other countries, including Turkey. Now, isn't it obvious that the economic will be significantly important during the upcoming period despite the fact that minds are fixated on political targets? This is the first point we should keep in mind while welcoming the new US president.
Let us examine the dimension that is more specific to Turkey. We as well are standing at the beginning of a period where the economic will certainly take precedence of the political-military with respect to Turkey - US relations. From a narrower perspective, Turkey - US economic relations would only include bilateral trade relations. Nonetheless, bilateral economic relations between Turkey and the US shall be assessed through a much wider perspective. We are standing at the beginning of a new period for the countries in Turkey's surrounding region that are not fully integrated but only partially incorporated into the global economy and that basically export natural resources and import consumption goods. In this new period ahead of us, global integration of the economies of these countries and joint investments to be made by Turkey and the US might be important. Thus, if we, with a wider lens, consider the latter as a new potential basis of Turkey - US relations, we shall expect an intense dynamism. And this is the second point.
But, how can this become operational? This is the point where Obama's plans for our region would be critical. If, in the upcoming period, the US will alter its attitude that until now determined the course of action in our region and stop using the "One of your neighbors is annoying me, stand by me while I beat him today" type of approach towards Turkey, grounds for common action can be laid. This is the exact change in style we expect to take place under Obama. If a longer-run perspective will be adopted, it is necessary to wait for the economic to gain importance. And this concludes our third point.
There is a saying: You need two individuals that know how to dance to start dancing. If the US will maintain a different style and seek for cooperation in the region, she will also look for partners that are able to respond to her. The prerequisite for Turkey to be able to respond to the US is ensuring economic stability and a solid economic program perspective for the country. And at this point, we get stuck and seem to have troubles.
Obama era creates new opportunities for Turkey. We should benefit from those opportunities while the opportunity window is still open.
This commentary was published in Referans daily on 20.01.2009