Throughout the cold war Turkey has been one of the US’s most stalwart allies. Sharing a strategic boundary with the former Soviet Union, it was one of the first signatories to NATO. Turkey, a historic bridge between Europe and Asia, has been on the geopolitical front lines for most of its history. Two critically important US Air Force installations are among the nearly two dozen NATO bases in Turkey. Their presence has allowed the NATO and the US to exert significant influence through much of the region.
The European Union’s reluctance to advance Turkey’s application to full membership beyond candidacy status has created disillusionment and even anger among many Turks. While Turkey is a constitutionally secular state, many believe the underlying reason for EU exclusion is that unlike the rest of Europe, Turkey is predominately Muslim.
Turkey’s Arab Spring uprising in 2012 was initially cited by some as a democratic example of political freedom. This initial optimistic reaction has been blunted by the deep concern raised by the crackdown on opposition political speech and a suppression of the press through mass arrests.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been credited with this heavy-handed response. He has been accused of corruption, accepting kickbacks on major building projects and attempting to cripple any police or judiciary trying to investigate any wrong doing.
Our speaker will address critical questions about contemporary Turkey: Where is Turkey headed? Will Erdogan uphold the modern secular democratic tradition established by Ataturk in the 1920’s and 30’s or will he pull a Putin-like switch with President Abdullah Gul to remain in power indefinitely and move to an increasingly authoritarian state? Are fears justified about a possible move by Turkey from that of a secular state to an Islamic state?
Dr. Gregory Young is on the political science faculty at CU-Boulder specializing in the Middle East. He lived in Turkey as a child and is now a frequent visitor to that country. He is a retired naval officer with wide experience in military intelligence and reconnaissance. He earned his master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School where his research led to the discovery of a previously unknown mutiny on a Soviet Destroyer. This finding became the basis for Tom Clancy’s best seller The Hunt for Red October. His Ph.D. in political science is from the University of Colorado. Hepreviously taught at the US Naval Academy (where we was also associate chair of the political science department) and the US Air Force Academy. He lives in Boulder with his wife, Dr. Mary Marlino, who is the Director of the Libraries and E-Science at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.