As the U.S. election approaches and following a recent information leak to the media, President Donald Trump’s attitude toward the Pentagon is taking the center stage. Criticizing the story, he said the soldiers love him but it’s actually the generals that hated him.
Trump announced that the generals only know how to wage war for U.S. defense industry companies that produce bullets, ammunition, missiles and warplanes to make money and that if he is elected president once again, he will keep the U.S. away from such conflicts.
Of course, whether it is intimidation or not, we will see if he is “really” determined to get the U.S. out of the “defense-based economy” paradigm that has kept the country in its grip for almost 60 years.
Trump, however, had proudly announced the hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons he sold to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) just a few years ago.
A possible attempt to take steps for such a paradigm shift would shake up not only the Pentagon but also the “American deep state” that has coiled into Washington like an octopus for the last 40 years.
Frankly, we must wonder to what extent such a potential shift will affect America’s 75-year Middle Eastern strategy, which has been based on the forceful rule of absolute superiority, and that if it will not affect it, then such a change is not actually possible.
The essence of the meeting in February 1945 between former President Franklin Roosevelt and then Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, aboard the warship USS Quincy on the Suez Canal, was to make France its apprentice in the Middle East and the Gulf and to gain “full dominance” in the region, despite the policy the U.S. had followed since the U.K. and the Napoleonic eras.
The U.S.’ 75-year Middle Eastern strategy, which gained momentum during the Cold War and reached its peak after the first and especially the second Gulf War, was based on three trivets. The priorities are to provide security to Europe, which has been under Washington’s wing since World War II, to easily access Middle Eastern oil – with the fewest possible means and precautions and of course at the lowest cost – and to ensure the full security of the state of Israel.
It does not seem possible to me that such a Middle Eastern strategy, defined in such a way, will undergo a paradigm shift with Trump because he is actually taking steps towards its third pillar, moves that no president has ever taken before. His actions now even include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who perhaps sees Trump’s contradictory attitude as an opportunity to take a role in the Middle East and make up for what he lost in the past, has attacked everywhere. By understanding actors in the region and their maneuvers, we will continue to render Turkey uncompromising against all attacks.
New-generation Balkan War
The Balkans were very important for the Ottomans in terms of their historical, geo-strategic and economic-political aspects but were largely lost during the Balkan Wars over 100 years ago. European states saw it as their backyard and continued to pursue domination over the region until World War II. In the aftermath of that monumental conflict and during the Cold War, the Balkans were largely under the influence of the Soviet Union and became a part of the Warsaw Pact. In 1948, Yugoslavia’s President Josip Broz Tito did not bow to Soviets’ Joseph Stalin’s pressure and liberated Yugoslavia from this process.
In May 1947, the U.S. Congress decided to give economic and military aid to Turkey and Greece, who were being severely threatened by Soviet repression, and the two countries were included in the 1948 Marshall Plan, which included the distribution of $12 billion to Western European countries.
Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia signed the Balkan Pact in February 1953, and thanks to Tito’s efforts, over 100 countries came together in Belgrade in 1961 to form the Non-Aligned Movement for those that were not part of either the Western or Eastern Bloc at that time. Yugoslavia became one of the important nations of this union.
After Tito’s death in 1980, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the Balkans were dragged into another process. Slobodan Milosevic’s appointment as Serbian president in 1989 was the beginning of the end. By turning a blind eye to the genocide of Muslims and human tragedies among ethnic populations, Europe accelerated the disintegration of Yugoslavia and returned to its aspirations of 70 years earlier; its search for a backyard.
During the 2000s, a significant portion of the Balkan countries became members of the European Union, and others were waiting for their turn as member candidates. Then China’s strategy to reach deep within Europe with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) suddenly put the Balkan countries onto Beijing’s radar with Chinese investment accelerating since 2013.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic made a statement that EU international solidarity and European unity are actually fairy tales and that the only country that could help them was the People’s Republic of China. He wrote a letter on this subject, then kissed the flags of Serbia and China on the day aid supplies arrived.
During this period, Turkey was one of the few countries that helped Balkan nations with humanitarian aid. China did not stay idle either, as they also shipped medical supplies there during the COVID-19 crisis in an effort to deepen its economic, commercial and logistical relations in the region based on the BRI.
This picture, following the Balkan tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union between 1947 and 1991, points to a “new generation” Balkan War that is now being fought by Washington and Beijing.
The U.S. is also uncomfortable with China’s increasing relations with Israel.
Therefore, as Turkey and as a regional power, we should read well all the actors – including Serbian President Vucic’s reflections from his White House visit, Jerusalem’s surprise and China’s moves towards the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean – to formulate a versatile set of policies and strategies.