Writing in Zaman, Professor Beril Dedeoglu of the University of Galatasaray in Istanbul intervenes in the discussion of whether Turkey has been aligning itself with non-Western powers under the rule of Justice and Development Party (AKP). Beyond questioning the existence of an 'axis', Dedeoglu asks if the real shift is occurring within the European Union, seeing a possible UK-French alliance v. a German-Russian front following a deep economic crisis:
The term “axis shift” is used for countries that are supposedly changing their overall political positions, meaning that they abandon their current system of security and values to replace them with a new system.
This term, which is used as a political tool, would have meaning if axes existed in the current global circumstances. Nevertheless, even if this political qualification is now used, it is not right to use it solely for Turkey; one must be able to test it elsewhere as well.
The EU’s values and policies are dictated by the West’s stable and developed structures, which are marked by principles and rules. However, its practice does not always match the principle. The EU became what it is today because it has managed to regulate the rivalry between its members. Particularly in the security domain, rivalry has been thoroughly organized with every treaty and mechanism imaginable put in place in order to prevent one member state from becoming a security threat for another.
However, the changing global conditions are pushing the member countries to progressively abandon the idea of mutual interdependence, which is at the basis of their partnership. Some serious problems have already started to appear, with the current economic and financial crisis stimulating debate over necessary reform in the security and defense architecture. Member states would like to reduce their defense spending without causing gaps in security, as they are afraid any such gap will be filled by the US.
In order to find a solution, France and the UK have decided to make an agreement reminiscent of the Treaty of Dunkirk of 1947. For now, we do not know whether this will open a path to reunite the armed forces of these two countries, but we can say that this agreement symbolizes the beginning of a serious strategic cooperation. It is different from strategic cooperation initiatives witnessed elsewhere, such as the one between Turkey and Russia. The UK-France cooperation is more intense, and the two have not required a long process of confidence-building. It does not look like the cooperation between Turkey and Syria, either, as cooperation between the UK and France extends to the whole military domain rather than just a common fight against terrorism.
Perhaps the first question to ask about the UK-France cooperation is which actors are expected to be disturbed by this rapprochement. History shows that we do not need to look far to get an answer. It seems that France has grown sufficiently away from de Gaulle’s approach to foreign policy and it is no longer filled with mistrust toward the UK. Maybe France hopes that an agreement with the UK will reduce Paris’ dependence on Germany. Such an effort risks replacing the German-French axis in Europe with another axis, one situated a little bit more to the north and with the US on one end. The UK’s new cabinet has already promised that they care about Europe more than their predecessors. Apparently they intend to keep that promise.
If cooperation between France and the UK compels Germany to reinforce ties with Russia, then we will witness a real axis shift within the EU. If that happens, the debates on Turkey will also change as the “non à la Turquie” front collapses. The EU member countries may start competing with each other through Turkey, and some countries may stop refusing Turkey’s accession and while others increase their level of opposition.