ANYA SCHMEMANN: Good afternoon. If you could all get seated, please, we'll get started. If you could all find your seats, please.
Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here. I'm Anya Schmemann. I'm director of the council's task force program. And it's my pleasure to welcome you to this special event to release the independent task force report on Turkey. This task force is chaired by Madeleine Albright and Stephen Hadley, who join us today, along with CFR fellow Steven Cook, who's the project director and primary author of the task force report.
Please also -- well, join me in congratulating Secretary Albright on her latest book, Prague Winter -- we're glad that you're taking the time from your busy book tour -- and also the recent announcement that she will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Congratulations. (Applause.)
So the subject today, Turkey -- why Turkey? When we embarked on this project a year ago, there was some tension in the U.S.-Turkey relationship, and the Middle East faced uncertainty and turmoil. Indeed, at every task force meeting, we had to take stock of dramatic new developments and adjust our course.
Turkey has made significant strides over the past decade, becoming more democratic, more prosperous and more modern. Prime Minister Erdogan is popular at home and abroad, and Turkey now plays a greater role in the Middle East and beyond, as the Arab uprisings continue to unfold. The U.S.-Turkey relationship is strong, but there is room for deepening and solidifying ties.
Let me say a few very quick words about CFR task forces before we turn to this panel to explore some of those issues. Our task forces include diverse groups of experts who provide analysis and recommendations for policymakers. Our task forces are nonpartisan, and they are independent. CFR takes no institutional position on issues. Task force members are alone responsible for the content of the report. Task force reports are consensus documents; this means that members endorse the general policy thrust, though not necessarily every finding or recommendation. Task force members are listed at the end of the report. A number of them have joined us here this morning, and we thank them for their contributions. Many others of course were involved in this effort. I do want to thank our hard-working staff, particularly Alex Brock and Kristin Lewis, who have worked hard on this.
With that, I'm pleased to turn things over to our presider today, David Ignatius, and we look forward to an interesting conversation. Thank you.
DAVID IGNATIUS: Thank you.
Welcome to everyone here in the auditorium and to people who are joining us via teleconference from far away. As you know -- and I hope have copies -- we're here to discuss a new council report, and I want to start with Madeleine Albright, our former secretary of state, author. And as she told me on our way in here, her new book, "Prague Winter" is number one on The Washington Post bestseller list. What could be better than that? (Applause.)
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Yes, yes.
IGNATIUS: Madam Secretary, let me ask you to begin by framing this report and its recommendations. The headline for the report is that you want a new U.S.-Turkey partnership to make a strategic relationship between the two countries a reality, and I want to ask you to begin -- and then I'm going to turn to Stephen Hadley and Steven Cook -- to begin by telling us what to do and what not to do so as to make this relationship, the partnership that the report envisions.
ALBRIGHT: All right. David, thank you very much for being here to question us, and I really would like to thank Stephen and Steve for all the work that has gone into this. I think we've had a very good time doing this and learned a lot and the other members of our task force. So thank you.
You have framed it in a way that what we wanted to talk about -- we obviously have been NATO allies with Turkey for a long time and have been involved in a variety of of relationships with them. But it became very clear to us in looking at the international scene that we have to look at Turkey as a new Turkey. It is different from the ones that many people in this room and others have dealt with over the years and that that significant change in Turkey allows the United States to develop a new partnership. And the partnership is very, we felt, quite broad-based. We can't expect them -- and you've asked the question -- that everything we do will always be in sync and that we are in complete agreement on issues. But what we had felt was that there were increasing areas of confluence where we should look for ways to partner together and to change. And when you say, what to do -- is in some ways change the tone of the relationship.
Turkey was never a client state. But I think that we need to be in a relationship now where that asymmetry has disappeared or is limited and that we have to see them from a perspective of being a true partner.
I think the things we have to do and -- are ones that, first of all, in which we recognize what the areas are that we do have commonality on. I think stability in the Middle East is obviously one of the big ones, and in terms of relationships with Europe, I think issues also on -- energy issues. They are sitting in a geographically amazing place, in terms of various connections of pipelines, discoveries of new fossil fuel, a variety of different aspects, and then also, I think, on a variety of political relationships as a country that has a Muslim majority party, I think, and a secular one -- that it has a role to play in terms of how it operates within the Arab Awakening. And I also think, in terms of looking at more global outreach, I believe, that the United States is better off if we are operating in partnership with other countries. And in terms of the areas that are important -- of how to deal terrorism, how to deal with nuclear proliferation, how to deal with that growing gap between the rich and the poor, energy and environment -- those are all areas in which I think we can have a good relationship with Turkey.
I have one -- their geographical position puts them into an amazing place, and the best way to describe it is through the eyes of my 8-year-old granddaughter when we were there last summer, who said, we slept in Europe, and we had lunch in Asia. (Laughter.)
IGNATIUS: So I want to turn to Steve Hadley, but the interruption of the dreaded noise of a cellphone reminds me to make the CFR invocation: You must turn off your cellphones, or Council on Foreign Relations uniformed police will enter and take you away. (Laughter.)
So, Steve Hadley, let me ask you for your thoughts about the basic framing of this report. You spent a lot of time working on it. What are -- what do you think are the takeaways this audience should have most in mind?
STEPHEN HADLEY: Sure. I want to join -- one, thank my co-chair, Madeleine Albright, who is a wonderful person to have an opportunity to work with in a setting such as this. And Steven and Anya, you did a great job in the report. And the members of the commission that are here, a very experienced and wide-ranging group, were able to come to consensus on this report and really, I think, because it has three themes. One, as the secretary said, it is a new Turkey. We need to think about Turkey differently. Secondly, that requires a new partnership between the United States and Turkey. But third, we're also pretty unsparing about some of the concerns people have about Turkey today, some of the authoritarian impulses of the government, the imprisonment of journalists, the protracted nature of the judicial proceedings in the Ergenekon investigation. And as friend of Turkey, we make suggestions to Turkey on the kinds of changes it needs to address these concerns about the depth and direction of Turkish democracy. So those are really the three themes.
In terms of your question about operationalizing it, there are really two things. One is a set of structural recommendations. There is a very good relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan. We need to broaden that relationship. We suggest that Turkey and the United States get together at the Cabinet level, in a variety of Cabinet levels, more like the S&ED, for example, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China, for example, and that that also be vertically driven down in the bureaucracy, so there is day-to-day contact all the way down to the assistant secretary level.
Why do we want to do that? Because in order to be strategic partners, we need to change the way we deal with one another. It has to be a relationship that builds trust and confidence; that -- where we sit together and try to develop a common strategic framework and a common strategy for dealing with problems, where we have a rule of no surprises, where we try to work together in areas of common interest and manage our differences so they do not disrupt the relationship.
And if you can put the kind of structure together with those principles of operation, I think and the task force believes, Turkey and the United States can be terrific partners for solving common problems.
And for example, the problem we had between Turkey and the United States in the U.N. Security Council over Iran -- I think if we had in place the kinds of things the task force recommends, the likelihood is that that kind of problem could have been avoided. So that's --
IGNATIUS: That the Turks would have understood that they were going down a road that we were not in favor of.
HADLEY: And we would have had the kind of preparatory consultations at all levels, so there would have been a better understanding of red lines on both sides.
IGNATIUS: Steven Cook, you were the director of the task force and know the report intimately. I wonder if there are additional points beyond what Secretary Albright and Steve Hadley made that you'd like to note at the outset.
STEVEN COOK: Just one quick thing, but before we do that, let me just thank the co-chairs. It's been an extraordinary experience working with the both of you, Secretary Albright for the second time. Had things worked out a little differently, I may have been a traditional academic, but the time that I've spent talking with you or eavesdropping with you, I have learned much more than I could have ever learned in a -- in a book. So thank you for that experience.
One other thing: Speaking as someone who could have been a woolly-headed academic, I think that the -- apologies to my friends down there -- (laughter) --
IGNATIUS (?): Right there.
COOK: -- I think for me one of the most important things, spending as much time as I do looking at Turkey, is to provide some continuity and context in how people look at Turkey.
Suddenly in the summer of 2010, you had to identify your ideological view on Turkey before you opened your mouth. This used to be a rather sleepy issue that myself and five of my friends used to talk about in Washington, and now it's a bigger issue. So it was important to me for the report to have some context for people, for Americans, for policymakers, members of Congress and the American public to understand where the Justice and Development Party came from, that there is actually much more continuity in Turkish foreign policy these days than there were.
The debate about is Turkey leaving the West is essentially a false one; that hopefully, this report will play a role in putting that kind of debate to bed, and that the Justice and Development Party is indeed a party of Islamist patrimony, but being a party of Islamist patrimony is not inconsistent with democracy, economic liberalization or a foreign policy that is oriented towards the West as well as the East.
IGNATIUS: I want to turn now to one of the urgent foreign policy issues of the moment, which concerns Turkey's neighbor to the south, Syria. Turkey has gone from being Bashar al-Assad's best friend, to working with them, supposedly, on economic and political reforms, to being a quite bitter, I want to say, antagonist. And Steve Hadley, if you would start us off talking about the way in which you and Secretary Albright in particular have come to view this question of what's appropriate policy for dealing with a Syria that's being torn apart by violent fighting, please.
HADLEY: Well, the task force goes so far as to say that Syria is an issue where Turkey and the United States have to cooperate. It's important to each of us, but neither of us can point the way towards a solution on our own. And that's what the task force report says. The secretary and I had a running conversation over the last couple days about what that means operationally, and this is sort of what we've come to, and she can speak for herself.
But the two of us have though, well, what does that probably mean? And we would sketch it out this way: It means Assad has to go, sooner rather than later. The longer he stays, the more militarized the conflict, the more opening it provides for al-Qaida.
Secondly, that means the international community needs to accelerate and intensify its diplomacy and the sanctions.
But third, you know, why is he still in power? He's in power because he still has the support of the army, the business community and the minority groups: Christians, Kurds, Shia and the like. So you've got to somehow find a way to break those pillars away from Assad. How do you do that?
We've talked about, as the administration is trying to do, strengthening the opposition, organizing it, making it more inclusive of all groups in the society, have a cross-sectarian message so the opposition is saying to the army and to the business community and to those minorities, break with Assad and there is a role for you in a new Syria. Go down with Assad, and it makes it harder.
I've talked in print about how we need, once -- as we set up that kind of opposition, to be willing to arm the resistance through the opposition so that you are arming people who are committed to a cross-sectarian outcome, so that in the end the future of Syria is dictated by who has the most votes, not just who has the most guns.
But I think the thing that -- where the secretary and I have now come to is that we also need to begin to prepare now for some kind of intervention. Why prepare now? One, because operationally it's going to be difficult. It's not going to be as easy as Libya was. It's going to be operationally difficult. And secondly, it's going to need the support certainly of the Middle Eastern and the Arab neighbors of Syria, and it's going to take time to arrange that support.
Do it now; be making those preparations now. That will give leverage on the situation. It may be, in fact, those pillars will break away from Assad even before the intervention, but we need to prepare the intervention now, because if at the end of the day the choice is between Assad surviving this or -- or an intervention, we're going to have to do an intervention, because the lesson or the example of an Assad that survives by attacking his own people is one that is a disaster for the future of freedom and human dignity, which brings you back to Turkey, because any kind of intervention is going to be possible only with close cooperation between the United States and Turkey. It's going to have to be staged out of Turkey in some way. Jordan and Libya (sic) are not strong enough to sustain it.
So again, this is -- this is where, personally, we've come to, but what it does is it underscores the -- in our report, how critical that U.S.-Turkey relationship is to solve the problems in that region.
IGNATIUS: Secretary Albright, are you in that same place? That's a significant statement: We should prepare for military action in Syria. Are you there?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the way that I would phrase it is that we -- I happen to have one, as a decision-maker, now as a wooly-headed professor -- (laughter) -- talked a bit about what kind of tools one has in terms of trying to affect the behavior of a particular leader or country. And what I think is going on here, that -- from the perspective of the administration, is very important to look at.
There is no question that there's a lot of diplomacy going on and that there is a really determined approach to not doing things unilaterally, that that has gotten us into trouble at various times and that it's good to gather the international community. And I have been very impressed with how that has been going on, first of all, within the Security Council itself, but then Secretary Clinton is part of this Friends of Syria, which is a very large group, in which there is a recognition that what is going on is outrageous and that Assad had to go, and what are the different ways that the multinational, multilateral community can put some pressure on through diplomatic means.
The second thing in the toolbox is the use of sanctions. And I think those have a lot to do with the pillars that Steven -- Steve has been talking about in terms of separating the business community from Assad, understanding what the long-term effect of the military could be if they keep sticking with him. So there's a very set set of sanctions that are operating, and they are multilateral, which also -- they are always more effective than when they're unilateral. And getting that support for it, I think, is essential. So those kind of movements are going on.
I -- what has happened -- the president -- Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey have said that they have been tasked to look at contingency plans. I think that there -- that is in the process of being done. The intervention word is -- there are many varieties of intervention in terms of whether you do humanitarian assistance, nonlethal assistance, a variety of different things. But I do think that what is important in terms of the tools that the administration is in fact -- has asked the Department of Defense for a number of contingency plans so that there are an awful lot of options. And I think -- we've talked about this part -- is that simply often by saying that, that in some ways, it acts as a -- one might call it an incentive for some kind of different behavior.
I do think that one of the issues out there that is of huge import is the behavior of the Russians. For whatever reasons, they have been supportive of Assad. And with -- I don't know whether we have a new President Putin or an old new President Putin, but the bottom line is he is there now. They are getting ready for a G-8 meeting. I think he has to assess what his internal situation and external situation is. But I think that this is part of the diplomatic aspect that is very important.
I think everybody recognizes that Syria is a crucially important area. I know everybody gets sick of hearing it's not like Libya. It's not. It's located in a different place, very different place. The opposition is different. The geographical access is different. And I think what people are concerned about is the spreading outward of whatever is going on in Syria. So whatever discussion one has about whatever involvement the U.S. should have has to be cognizant of the area in which it is.
But to get back to the subject, Turkey is very much a part of this. And there's no question that a lot of the humanitarian aspect is affecting Turkey in terms of refugees that have crossed the border, the dangers involved with that. And generally, it fits in with what we're talking about of the partnership with Turkey and with Arabs. I think, as one studies what the success has to do -- in Libya was the Arab League. That really -- and then there is the question about international legitimacy of any action.
I've been there, done that, and the bottom line is -- the question is to what extent does it have to be a United Nations resolution -- that's where the Russians come in -- to what extent are there other ways to do this? But I think, from the perspective of somebody who's watching this pretty carefully, I am very impressed with the way that the Obama administration is using the toolbox in a very sequenced and appropriate way, and planning through this contingency planning.
HADLEY: The secretary -- just one thing: The secretary had said something very important I think, and that is there's a lot of hedging going on by various actors in the region, because they think Assad might survive. And if it's clear that he is not going to survive, and we're prepared to think of an intervention to make sure he does not survive, suddenly that hedging behavior may change. And you may find that some of these other tools that the secretary was talking about become much more effective.
IGNATIUS: I should note that this session is on the record, and an on-the-record statement by Secretary Albright and Steve Hadley supporting planning for intervention, including possible military intervention, is a -- is a significant one. And I just -- Steve, I want to press you on one point. As you know, when the administration --
ALBRIGHT: Can I just clarify that?
ALBRIGHT: Intervention -- I think it is important to see it as a number of different ways.
IGNATIUS: OK. Intervention including --
ALBRIGHT: Yeah, right. Yes. Or intervention is getting involved in this.
IGNATIUS: When -- (laughter) -- I'm not sure -- intervention.
ALBRIGHT: Intervention. (Laughter.)
IGNATIUS: Steve, when the Obama administration has looked at this question, it has concluded that you cannot do this halfway; that this is a big, potent army in Syria; and that if you're going to contemplate intervention, even to establish a humanitarian corridor, there are significant military activities that would be necessary so that deployment would be secure and successful.
So I want to -- I want to ask you, are you -- you've clearly thought about the things that the administration has been concerned enough about that it has held back from the point that you've now crossed. Why is that?
HADLEY: Well, I've held back from it and have been sort of loath to get to where we are. But the death toll is now over 9,000 lives. It's going on. And the Kofi Annan plan is clearly flaying -- failing. So we've run out of options.
Secondly, there has been a lot written about what those interventions options are, from very light to (fairly ?) heavy. And this is one of the reasons you need to start planning it, to see what kind of options would make sense and how you would operationalize it.
It's much harder than Libya. Libya was easy -- you know, population on the coast, right across from NATO bases, et cetera. This would be much more challenging, but I think we need to look at it and see what you can do. And it may be in terms of safe areas on the border, in terms of Turkey can be done in such a way that in fact Syria decides that it -- the better part of valor is, if you will, to let it happen.
But my only point is we've got to stop kidding ourselves. There is not a -- if we all say, as everybody has said, Assad has to go, then Assad has to go. And we do not yet have deployed all the tools to bring that about, which means we need to open that toolbox, we need to develop some more. They are difficult. You need to get your operational planners trying to design it, and you need to start preparing all those people whose participation will be important for the success.
And what we're saying is time to get on with that business. We're not endorsing a particular outcome. Lots of work needs to be done. But what we are saying is it's time to elaborate and expand the toolbox.
IGNATIUS: Secretary Albright, one more comment on Syria --
ALBRIGHT: No, I mean -- no, I really do think the -- you know, we've all been kind of in the business of decision-making in one form or another. It is very significant when an administration begins to look at contingency planning. That is a big deal. And when the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs are tasked to look at it, I think that is a very strong signal.
I do think, however, we are in a democracy, and I -- thanks to being out with my book, I have had a very interesting time answering people's questions about a variety of things. And the American public is really tired. Afghanistan and Iraq have made Americans very tired. And there's also -- I get asked the question about how do you feel about overthrowing one more Muslim country, what are the effects of that, how do you know if you've done a good job. I think that -- we all that were involved in previous issues I think are always asked: What's your exit strategy? Is this worth doing? What do you -- will you make things worse?
So I think that when the administration talks about contingency planning, I think they are taking all that into cognizance and then also fitting it into the way that they are using the other tools.
I think actually -- this will not surprise you -- I think they are doing a very good job in terms of pulling the story together and trying to sort out what is the best thing to do, given the circumstances in a truly difficult situation, while they are being asked what we are being asked, is, is there some number where how many Syrians are killed -- I mean, I keep being asked that -- you, Madeleine of Bosnia, you know, or Kosovo, what -- and the tipping points are different. And I do think, as clinical as this sounds, if you're a decision-maker you have to take all those things into cognizance. And contingency planning, that is a very big word.
COOK: Stephen, do you want to -- I want to have the last word, if the co-chairs will allow me. To bring it back to the issue at hand, I think the point that the task force would like to make, and I think the co-chairs would agree, is that whatever it is that the United States decides to do, it can't do it without the critical assistance of Turkey. And whatever Turkey wants to do in Syria, it can't do it without the United States. And that is critical through this new partnership that we've been talking about.
IGNATIUS: That's a useful concluding part.
I want to turn now to the question of Europe. I'll turn to the audience in a couple minutes. But Europe's been very much in the news in recent weeks because of the continuing difficulties in the European economy. We just have had elections in France that have resulted in one of Turkey's strongest opponents in terms of membership in the EU leaving office as president of France.
And I want to ask, starting with Madeleine, briefly for your thoughts about this question of Turkish membership in the EU. For Europe, with all its problems, arguably Turkey would be even more useful as a member now than before, but from a Turkish standpoint, there are lots of new reasons not to want to join Europe. And what advice would you and the task force offer on this question?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I was always for Turkey being a part of the EU when I was secretary and the Europeans told me to mind my own business. But the bottom line is I think that, from an American perspective, it would be useful. There is a genuine question as to why Turkey would want to join the EU at this point, and I think that there are a lot of Turks that actually raise that point.
There is a process that is going on, and I think to -- at various points throughout the years, the process has been helpful in terms of pushing Turkey into some aspect of governance that people find useful in terms of -- and we'll get that, I think -- in terms of democracy, rule of law, treatment of minorities, et cetera, opening up certain chapters of the accession. But I -- what is going on in Europe at the moment -- and I think it makes it very hard for this process to go forward -- I would hope that what the Turks would be doing is constantly looking at how they can be a part of Europe because I think they are both a part of Europe and a part of Asia, and I don't believe -- I mean, there are those who think that Turkey has just turned its back on Europe. From the contacts that I have with the Turks, I don't think that's true. But clearly from a European perspective, it's pretty dicey.
The other part that we know -- and it'll be interesting to analyze some of the elections in Europe -- is that there is a sense that some of the economic problems are caused by a lot of immigrants or a variety of issues and that -- and that -- bottom of the pyramid and people arguing over jobs, that is never a good time in terms of thinking that you should bring in a country of 80 million people.
So I think that they -- it continues to be a question, but I hope that the process is continued.
IGNATIUS: Steve, what do you think? Should we stop hectoring Europe about admitting Turkey to the EU? Should we keep this -- the U.S. has had quite a strong policy advocating this now for some years. What do you think?
HADLEY: Well, it's ironic, you know, if you look at economic performance, you wonder whether Turkey ought to join the EU or the EU ought to join Turkey -- (laughter) -- which is actually doing very well economically, thank you very much. And secondly, if Turkey had joined the EU, it probably, in terms of its international diplomacy, wouldn't have been heard from again. And as it is, because it is outside, it is now one of the five or six most important countries in the world today.
That said, it has been the position of many administrations, and I think it's still good for Europe for the accession process to go forward. That's probably not going to happen anytime soon because of all the political problems in Europe. So -- but it should continue to be the objective, and we should urge.
But what we suggest in the report is that the EU ought to be smart and not let the freezing or the slowdown of the accession process define the EU's relationship with Turkey, that the EU ought to be aggressive at building strong ties between Turkey and the EU now because Turkey can be very helpful in the EU in solving problems such as the challenge faced in the Middle East and North Africa. So yes, continue with the accession process, but the EU ought to be developing stronger ties with the EU -- with Turkey now.
And in terms of NATO, we ought to recognize, yes, we want Turkey to continue to be a strong supporter of NATO, but NATO has to understand that maybe it needs to give Turkey a greater role in the alliance. I think it's certainly warranted by the commitments that it has made in places like Afghanistan. Again, the alliance needs to think differently about the new Turkey that has emerged over the last decade.
IGNATIUS: Steven, do you have anything to add on this question of whether Turkey really still wants to be a member of the EU?
COOK: Well, I think that large numbers of Turks still support the idea of being a part of Europe. After all, it has been a -- something that Turks have said to themselves for many years, raising Turkey to the level of civilization. But I think they're realistic about it, and I think they've come to the conclusion that the Europeans have decided that rather than an idea based on common principles and norms and rules, Europe is going to be a geographic entity continuous with the predominantly Christian countries.
That's not to suggest that the Europeans don't have important reasons to say that Turkey is not ready. But you can imagine resolutions to those problems over the course of the next 10 or 15 or 20 years that would make Turkey a good candidate. But I think that there is a cultural issue at the heart of Europe's resistance to it, and I think the elections in France really don't do Turkey much benefit. The socialists are more willing to negotiate, but not as -- you know, not willing at all to see Turkey in the European Union.
So I think that at this point, the process is on life support, and nobody -- there's no -- nobody has a political incentive to walk away from EU membership. The Europeans don't want to be -- (inaudible) -- as anti-Muslim, and the Turks don't want to give them a way out of their conundrum.
IGNATIUS: Secretary Albright, I want to ask you one brief question, then I'm going to go to the audience. You've dealt a lot with so-called frozen conflicts, both as secretary and since then in your travels. One of the interesting recommendations is the -- in the report concerns Turkish-Armenian normalization and the 2009 protocols that were negotiated but have not been carried through. If you could just briefly note what your group recommends in that regard?
ALBRIGHT: Well, we in fact do think that it's important to get that relationship sorted out and that there should be an encouragement to go back to the protocols, which laid out a way to try to deal with this historical issue. So I would hope that they would go back to that. We did not specifically want to inject ourselves into the Nagorno-Karabakh situation, which does a bear a relationship to this, but hope that that also would have some movement forward.
IGNATIUS: So I do want to turn to the audience. I would remind everyone this session is on the record. I would ask you to please identify yourselves, keep your questions brief. If you have a specific person you want to address the question to, please do so.
Yes, please, madam. Yes. Well --
QUESTIONER: (Off mic.)
QUESTIONER: I'll take it.
IGNATIUS: And then we'll go to you in the second row, sir.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Daphne McCurdy with the Project on Middle East Democracy. So some people have argued that there's an inconsistency between Turkey's rhetoric and ambitions and the actual results it's achieved in its foreign policy. You know, there was the infamous WikiLeaks cable that said Turkey has "Rolls-Royce ambitions but Rover resources." And people have pointed to the fact that it hasn't been able to achieve a solution to the nuclear crisis with Iran, and more recently, with Syria, they've pointed to the fact that Turkey's policies haven't really matched its rhetoric on Syria. So I just wondered if the panelists could comment on this. Thank you.
IGNATIUS: Good question.
Steve, would you like to lead that off?
HADLEY: Yeah, look, Turkey is in a dramatically different place than it was just a decade ago. And it has an opportunity to play a role in a world in the region and beyond that it has not had before. And you know, that is new to Turkey and Turkey is new to that role. And it's not surprisingly that in the early years of playing that role, their reach is, in some cases, going to exceed their grasp, and they're going to make mistakes. And they have. And I think if you talk to Davutoglu, he would probably tell you that.
But one of the reasons we've called for the intensification of relations between the United States and Turkey and these principles we talked about of the new partnership is to make Turkey more effective as a partner with us in solving global problems and starting with the sort of regional challenges we face.
So we think that actually, Turkey's participation with us can help us be more effective in places like the Middle East, and the kind of new partnership we're talking about can help Turkey be more effective in its diplomacy so its confidence can, in some sense, become -- it can start punching at its weight in the future. That's the potential of the new partnership we talk about.
IGNATIUS: Secretary Albright, I'd be interested in your answer to that. And let me just amplify the question in this sense: Are we relying too much on Turkey as a partner and intermediary, thinking about the Arab Spring, the whole set of questions that have stacked up now? And in each case, the first answer, first response seems to be, call Prime Minister Erdogan. Are we overdoing this?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that -- no, I actually think we're not. But I do think that the relationship between Prime Minister Erdogan and President Obama is a very important one and provides a different voice, I think, than normally, a president of the United States gets in calling the more traditional allies. And I think that Erdogan sits in a very interesting place not just geographically, but also, I think, in terms of his thinking, of somebody who is in many ways a local politician, interesting in terms of the -- I mean, he has won fair and square. And what he's done -- the reason that the parties won is that they do constituency services and that they had gotten much more in touch with the hinterland of Turkey and not that elitist in so many ways.
I also do think that -- it doesn't mean -- I'm obviously not privy to the conversations, but it doesn't mean they always agree, but I do think that it is important to do that outreach. And I do think that the extra reach that Turkey provides in that area is useful to us, and that, as Steve said, I think for them to in fact use their influence on behalf of common policies, which is how I started this out, in terms of where we have commonality, I think it is very useful to us.
IGNATIUS: Let me turn to the woman in the second row, who -- yes, please.
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much, David. Maureen White from the State Department.
In your otherwise very, very thorough report, you did mention that you couldn't touch on all aspects of Turkey's new foreign policy, but I did -- I want to just draw our attention to one area where they've played a very crucial role in the last six months, and that is the establishment of the Istanbul process -- Istanbul process for Afghanistan, where Turkey, with other regional powers, have moved forward to make an effort to allow other Western powers to back away so that the region could look more closely at solving its problems in Afghanistan and elsewhere as a group without the intervention or necessarily the finance and the expense of other countries.
But related to a more specific question that comes out of my reading of your report, you focus on one of the ways that the U.S. government could see Turkey as an engine of economic growth in the Middle East, hopefully in partnership with the U.S., either in joint ventures or with the U.S. government financing. But there are also inherent risks involved. And when we talked about Europe or joining the EU, we didn't mention the fact that with or without membership, Turkey already has the overwhelming majority of its economic activity and its trade activity tied up in the European Union. And you also pointed to a couple of potential flaws in its own otherwise very excellent economic performance -- inflation, current account deficit and high unemployment.
So I just wonder if in the context of what's currently happening in Europe right now, with or without membership in the (EU ?), Turkey is very much exposed to some of the problems there. And what would you see as the most problematic scenarios for Turkey going forward with this economy? Thank you.
IGNATIUS: That's -- it's a good question, Maureen. Should we -- Steve, do you want to take that and perhaps Steven also?
HADLEY: I'll be very quickly -- quick. One, Turkey is exposed to the -- to the EU, and one of the things we need to do is help Turkey manage that. One of the ways to do that is to recognize, as the report says, that U.S.-Turkish economic and business relations is enormously underdeveloped.
We have a long list of things we recommend to encourage that. One of them is to talk about a free trade agreement between the United States and Turkey, and recognizing that it would be optimal if we could embed that free trade agreement in a free trade agreement between the United States and the EU. So we talk about some things we can do to help both improve Turkey's economic situation and strengthen the tie in terms of business and economic terms between the United States and Turkey.
Turkey is trying to diversify its trade south. And we think one of the important things is an opportunity for Turkish and American businesses to work together to take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East, but also of course to give the Middle East what it desperately needs, which is an economic future. Jobs, foreign investment -- those things are going to be required if the Middle East is going to be able to do what it needs to do, which is provide a better life for its people.
ALBRIGHT: If I can just add, one of the things that Secretary Clinton asked me to do builds off of President Obama's Cairo speech about a new -- it's called Partners for a New Beginning, trying to develop more economic empowerment, education, science and technology, people-to-people exchanges in Muslim communities, and having local chapters. And one of them we have is in Turkey. And there are many projects that are kind of going forward and a lot of discussion about more American investment.
And whenever Prime Minister Erdogan is here, he's always calling for American investment. We, in turn, have been saying, and whatever hat we all have on at the moment, is to say: It does mean that a lot of your bureaucratic approaches to things have to be modernized, that the rule of law generally has to be more predictable, commercial codes more predictable.
So there's a lot of give-and-take on that. And I think that's part of one of the things -- that we didn't just say everything is perfect there, that there are certain aspects in terms of democracy legislation that has to take place.
COOK: Just one quick thing. The data that you cited, that Turkey's -- the bulk of Turkey's trade goes to Europe, suggests that those who suggest that Turkey is leaving the West is actually rather silly. And if you talk to bankers in Europe and -- or New York and so on, they already consider Turkey, in large part, part of Europe.
So I -- but it is, as both Secretary Albright and Mr. Hadley point out, it is vulnerable to the problems in Europe, but it is also moving into the countries to the south and the east in aggressive ways, which I think are good and good for those regions.
IGNATIUS: So I want to turn to people in the number I saw them -- yes, you first, sir and then the gentleman in the -- in the (tan ?) -- yes.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. David Apgar, GoalScreen LLC. I want to turn the last question around. What are -- what do you think are our most important exposures to the Turkish economy? No economy in the world is at -- apparently at risk of overheating as much as Turkey's. The current account deficit is around 10 percent. So it's consuming far more than it's producing.
So is there -- are there important -- in your view, important exposures in that Erdogan's support -- as high as it, 45 percent -- might evaporate if he -- the economy collapses? Might there be a turn toward authoritarianism? Might this kick the last prop out from the economy of Southeastern Europe? What would the consequences for Iran be if the Turkish economy collapsed? And would Turkey become incapable of supporting the Syrian opposition if its economy collapsed?
IGNATIUS: Who'd like to take that question of the chances of a Turkish economic downturn?
HADLEY: You know, I don't think it -- I would be surprised if it's a question of a Turkish economic collapse. If it -- there are challenges to the economy. We talk about them. I think the risk is less that it has an adverse impact on our economy. Regrettably, there is not the kind of trade and cross-investment there ought to be, which would make it pose a risk to our economy. That's unfortunate.
But it's in our interest that Turkey succeeds, that this experiment of where a party that calls itself an Islamic party, in a part of the world where the majority of the people are Muslim, can establish clearly that it can be an agent for democratization, for economic reform, for broadening participation in the society, and still be identified as a party that believes there should be greater space for the expression of religion in the society.
It's important that that experiment succeed, not only for the future of Turkey, but is a place for countries in the south, in the Middle East, post-revolutionary, parties in that part of the world looking at how now to lead their countries can look at Turkey and say, well, this is an example of a party that has "Islamic" in its name, that was democratizing, that was modernizing, that was bringing prosperity to its people, and did it in a way that got fairly broad-scale support among the people. That's the kind of model we need to have out there to potentially give direction for the people in Tunisia and Libya and Egypt that are struggling with how to chart their own future.
IGNATIUS: Let me turn to the gentleman in the third row, please.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. My name is Haluk Unal. I'm one of those academicians that you mentioned. I'm a professor of finance at University of Maryland. I'm also the president of Turkish-American Scientists and Scholars Association, which houses about 4,000 academicians working in the United States.
My question is more on the specifics on the relationship. The report that you produced, it's commendable and we thank the council and the task force for making this possible. My question is, the cooperation and relationship on the science and technology area between U.S. and Turkey, how can we make this more prosperous and stronger? Has the task force considered this dimension?
IGNATIUS: Steven, as somebody who's almost wooly-headed, would you like to --
COOK: Well, I don't know -- I'm not sure my "almost" would help in the answer to this question, other than the fact that I think one of the very good pieces of good news, which I'm sure you're well aware of, is that there are many, many, many Turkish students studying in the United States, thousands upon thousands of them. And in fact, the State University of New York system has reciprocal degree programs with Turkish universities. The problem is the direction in the other -- going the other way.
And we overall believe that developing this new partnership between the United States in people-to-people, which we spend a lot of time discussing, that we should encourage these kinds of exchanges that will quite naturally develop in areas of science and technology. I think we're well aware, and we point out in the section where we talk about the Turkish economy, that there are growing, diverse high-tech businesses that the United States -- firms in the United States can partner with and engage with in all kinds of interesting ways for the benefit of both countries. I think this is certainly an area of growth.
ALBRIGHT: I do think, as I mentioned, this Partners for a New Beginning, one of its central pillars is science and technology and people-to-people exchanges. And we have a local chapter in Turkey, and there are various representatives as stakeholders on that, pushing exactly on what you're talking about.
IGNATIUS: Let me call on the woman standing next to our microphone runner. Yes, please.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Marisa Lino from Northrop Grumman. I would ask you to take a moment to focus on the defense relationship. And I ask this because a decade ago the relationship took a big blow, and most recently within Turkey itself, the government and the military have had issues. So how do you put the defense relationship within this new partnership?
ALBRIGHT: Well, in general can I just answer it from the perspective of a NATO issue, because one of the big deals that they are going to be talking about at the summit -- and I was asked to chair the group of experts that gave advice to the secretary-general of NATO on a new strategic concept. One of the aspects was of how to make sure that various countries paid their defense budget to what they were supposed to, and then also try to make better sense out of some of the procurement aspects and nonduplication.
So that is kind of the general picture, and -- you may be able to answer it more specifically -- but I do think that obviously there is the importance of the defense cooperation within what is -- I mean, new Turkey, old Turkey, they have definitely been a major stalwart of NATO, and it is within that context, I think, one has to look at it.
IGNATIUS: Steve, could I ask you to also turn to that, but within this context: One thing that we learned during the Libya intervention was that our NATO allies, when it came to actual military conflict, were quickly overstretched. And we're talking about scenarios for Turkey -- in particular with Syria, but there are others in the region -- that could badly overstretch the Turkish military's resources. And I wonder if you'd address that in the context of the question, if -- given the centrality Turkey plays, do we need to think about a stronger military assistance and military relationship with Turkey going forward?
HADLEY: Well, we had a very strong assistance relationship and military relationship with Turkey. We have great experience in Afghanistan, where the Turks have been, I think, three times head of the ISAF force and have been a -- an important contributor. I think the relationship between the United States and Turkey militarily will be strong going forward. But, look, it's going to be different.
Twenty years ago, when I was an assistant secretary of defense, I chaired something called the high-level defense group. My counterpart was not a civilian member of the Ministry of Defense of Turkey; it was the vice chairman of the Turkish general staff. That's going to change. And Turkey is going to define a new relationship between its military and its civilian authorities much more in a democratic tradition. And it's going to have to strengthen the civilian sector of the Ministry of Defense. And then the United States is going to have to recalibrate how it plugs into that structure in a way that, I think, is going to look much more like we do with other European countries. That's -- when that -- when the Turks -- and I think this constitution-drafting process will be part of it -- regularize that relationship, then we need to embrace it and to reconstruct the kind of close relationship in the military sphere that we've had in the past. I think we will.
Turkey is a country that still takes military things seriously and has some real military capability and, in that, they distinguish themselves from a lot of other European countries. That's a good thing, and we need to help to preserve that.
COOK: Just very quickly, to suggest that the Turkish civilian leadership in the military have had issues is an understatement. But I think that it's overall a good thing. Turkey cannot complete or it -- actually it's a process -- cannot continue along that process of democratization as long as it has a military that's autonomous in the system and reserves for itself the right to intervene in the political system. They -- certainly their wings have been more than clipped recently. But one of the problems here is the way in which the civilian leadership has gone about it.
As Mr. Hadley pointed out, you need to do this through the constitution, through laws, through changing the internal service codes of the Turkish armed forces, to prosecute senior officers of the Turkish armed forces. Some of them may very well be guilty of things. But, over time, it has looked more like a witch hunt.
MR. : Right.
COOK: And what that does is, it has -- holds out the potential of actually politicizing the military in the process of subduing them, which would bring Turkey back to the place where it was initially. So this is very important, and it's something that the United States can talk to its Turkish counterparts about in a very serious way. We've been very successful in establishing a tradition of civilian leadership that does not harm the corporate integrity and unity of the armed forces. That's something that Turkey needs in order to take that next step towards becoming a full-fledged consolidated democracy.
IGNATIUS: Could I just follow up with the panel, especially Secretary Albright? This question of prosecutions of the military in the Ergenekon case and other instances has been raised. But we haven't really touched on the broad issue of press freedoms and the independence of the judiciary, things that you note in your report are issues of concern to your task force.
And Secretary Albright, maybe you could just briefly address that issue and then we'll go back to the audience.
ALBRIGHT: We spent quite a lot of time talking about that in terms of already talking about a new Turkey, which we have now stated a number of times. We did express concern about a variety of things that were going on there, especially vis-a-vis the arrests of journalists for no visible reason and also the slowness of whatever the issues are with the military in terms of just kind of protracted conspiracy theories and not bringing things to the forefront.
Then also I think that we have been generally concerned about democracy's evolution. And those of us that work on democracy know that is democracy is not an event, it is a process. And there is a concern about sometimes too much majoritarian view, not enough respect for minority rights. And as Steve said, it is basically we are looking to the writing of the constitution as something that will in fact deal with many of these issues and that they have to be called on what the problems are, what really makes a functioning democracy.
Now I'm chairman of the board of the National Democratic Institute, and I know that the United States should not go around telling everybody it's exactly our form of democracy, especially since we've forgotten that "compromise" is a good word. And so the bottom line is that I think that there are other democratic models that might be suitable.
And Turkey is a member of something that I started, the Community of Democracies, and what we are suggesting is that Turkey avail itself of discussions within that community, because part of what the purpose of setting that up was, was to examine best practices.
The other part is how the judiciary is appointed, various -- so all those aspects -- rule of law, freedom of association, speech, minority treatment. Those are all things that we pointed out within a democracy that is in transition. It is not completed. But then nobody's democracy is completed.
IGNATIUS: Steve Hadley, do you want to add a brief --
HADLEY: Just briefly, we talk about the judiciary, the politicization of the judiciary. In some sense, prior governments did that. The solution is not for the current government to politicize the judiciary too. And we talk about the need for a selection and confirmation process that has integrity, that will establish the proposition of the independence of the jurity -- of the judiciary, acting in an appropriate role, as defined in the constitution, as being the linchpin in this process.
And so again, we've addressed these issues, and we think that the constitution is an opportunity for Turkey to say to the world and show to the world that it is ready to move its democracy to its -- to the next level.
IGNATIUS: So we're getting near the end. I want to call on two gentlemen: this gentleman here, with his hand up, and you, sir. You've had your hand up for a while.
And if we have time, there was a gentleman over here with his hand up. We'll get to you too.
QUESTIONER: Bob Winter, Arnold & Porter. Just a personal observation: I was in Istanbul over the holidays, and I was quite surprised. There was virtually no discussion among what I would call the old-time political elites, many of whom I was associating with, of concern over Islamic influence. There was enormous concern over democratization and whether Turkey is really becoming a one-party state, with no effective ability to challenge the Erdogan government.
But I'd like to comment and ask your views on the question of increasing trade. Everything that was said here about the lack of trade I can testify to, has been said in much same terms for at least 15 years and most likely longer. And I know when Ali Babacan was first appointed, he really was focusing on increasing trade, and there have been countless delegations here of Turks, and there have been attempts within the government to institute in-depth association committees at the sub-Cabinet level with industry members on those committees. The one thing that's been constant is a lack of any meaningful increase in trade.
IGNATIUS: So --
QUESTIONER: And I'm wondering whether there's anything specific that you and your study really suggest that would be different in kind or character from what has been taking place over the last decade or two.
IGNATIUS: Let's collect a couple questions and then we'll turn to the panel for a final comment.
Sir, and then we'll go to you.
QUESTIONER: Steve Larrabee, RAND. This question goes to Steve Hadley -- though, Madeleine, you may want to also chime in -- and that has to do with the Kurdish issue. One of the risks, it seems to me -- and you didn't mention this in the discussion on Syria -- is that there can be a regionalization of the Kurdish issue as more contacts begin to be established during these -- chaotic period.
The other danger, of course, which the Turks themselves are very concerned about, is that Syria, perhaps also Iran, will begin to support the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, against Turkey. And so there's a third element, which seems to me to fit into the foreign policy, and that is that the Turkish model, which people talk about as a model possibly for the Middle East, cannot really be a model if in fact it loses credibility, unless the Turkish government begins to try to address the Kurdish issue more seriously. So there are foreign policy dimensions, and there are internal dimensions. And when you mentioned the constitution, it seems to me that what's going on puts all the more reason why the Erdogan government should begin to address, in the constitution, the concerns.
IGNATIUS: With apologies, sir, we really need to leave time for our panel to answer these questions. So the two interesting questions I'd ask each of you to look at -- why, with all the talk about trade in your report and previously did we not have sufficient -- the progress that people would like to see? And then Steve Laraby's (sp) very interesting question about the Kurdish issue, which has been interwoven with the story of modern Turkey -- where do you see that going? What should the United States be doing to try to help Turkey in resolving that wisely?
Madeleine, do you want to start?
ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say -- and it also goes to the opposition party issue -- I think that we did speak about the importance of recognition of minority rights in dealing with the Kurdish issue, with full understanding of the problems created by the PKK and the fact that it is a regionalized aspect. I think there's no doubt that this is one of the big issues that the government has to deal with, and one that we as Americans and other partners need to try to be helpful on in terms of dealing with many parts of it.
The other aspect, though, I've got to say, Erdogan won elections fair and square. There were no -- there was no fraud, et cetera in it. In fact, they won fewer seats in the parliament than they had, and for me, I think the problem is that the opposition parties -- I'm so glad I'm not a diplomat anymore -- really were not very functional and that there are so many divisions among them that they did not play the role, I think, of a strong opposition that gave choice. The Kurdish issue got very complicated in that also.
But the bottom line is we warned, in some -- to some extent about some authoritarian aspect of the Erdogan government. But I also think there's another part to it, which is that the opposition parties have to get their act together in a way that they do present an option and a choice.
HADLEY: On the Kurdish issue, we think it is something that needs to be resolved as Turkey moves forward in its democracy. We think, and recommend in our report, there is an opportunity for Erdogan, and there's some indication recently -- his willingness to talk to the Kurdish party -- that he may be willing to try to take advantage of this opportunity. So we agree completely, and we have made some concrete recommendations in our report as to what he should do.
On the economics, you know, maybe people have been talking about it for 15 years, but I would say three things. One, Turkey is different than it was 15 years ago. It's a very different place, economic and from a business standpoint. So there is an opportunity there.
Secondly, people may have been talking about it, but the truth is we have, I think tended to see the U.S.-Turkey relationship through military and defense terms because the principal framework was the NATO framework. We have not looked at it in terms of economic and business terms. And that's why there is a long list of very specific recommendations: updating the BIT, doing more with the TIFA, trying to have a free trade agreement. If you can't do a free trade agreement, then do something like the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Turkey that will address some of the things that are required to make Turkey a more attractive place to invest. Those things have not been done in the past. I think we've been sort of sitting on our hands for 15 years, and we ought to do it now.
Thirdly, you know, private sector is what creates business and ties. And there are -- I -- you know, I do a lot of flying, as a lot of you do. And I went into business class of Turkish Airlines to go from Istanbul back to Washington, and there's this wonderful little flier in the, you know, pocket ahead of me, why Turkey is a great place to do business. And it was fabulous. It had all the statistics. This is the world's most aggressive business class I've seen in a long time. (Laughter.)
And we need to be partnering with them because it is relations between their businesspeople and ours that will really bring the business and economic relations forward. There are groups like TUSKON. I mean, you all know them. We ought to -- we ought to be partnering with them and encouraging the kinds of business-to-business contacts that can take this relationship to a new place.
COOK: Let me quickly follow up on that point, and then let me address the Kurdish issue very quickly as well.
There are no corresponding American organizations to promote small and medium businesses like there are in Turkey. It -- we seem to frame this issue as if this is a problem related to Turkey. It's a problem that we have as well, and we need to develop those organizations and those vehicles in which we can bring those businesses together with Turkish counterparts.
On the Kurdish issue, I -- Steve is one of the five or six people who used to have these quiet conversations about Turkey around town before the issue exploded. I think you're quite right. And we're all very hopeful about a new constitution. But we should recognize that that may in fact not happen and that the Kurdish issue is one of the central dramas of Turkish politics over the course of many years.
But there's something to be said for timing. Prime Minister Erdogan won an election. He won 49.95 percent of the vote. Clearly, many, many Turks regard his vision for the future of Turkey in a positive way. Here is a moment for him to follow up on his previous Kurdish opening. Here is an opportunity where a president of the United States has spent the last year on and off the telephone with the Turkish prime minister. Here's -- now there's obviously deep respect and a -- from what I understand, a warm relationship between the two of them. Here's an opportunity for the president of the United States to nudge, to prod, to encourage the Turkish prime minister, to make it clear to him that now is a great opportunity to do this kind of thing.
I think you're absolutely right. I think the PKK issue in -- and the Syria situation and the potential for intervention there could regionalize it. But it's already happened, and it's already happening. That should not be a reason for the United States not to do something about the Syria situation, and it's a reason for us to continue the partnership with Turkey should the decision be made to move forward.
But the bottom line is that the solution to the PKK issue is ultimately the Turks overcoming some of these obstacles to actual productive dialogue with their Kurdish citizens. Many, many Kurds are well-integrated in Turkish society, in business, in politics, in academia, what have you. But there is still this problem. And here is a great opportunity for the United States to encourage an ally and help it move to that next step in its democratization process.
IGNATIUS: Secretary Albright, a brief last word.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think -- one of the things that we tried to do in this report generally is to not just talk to the Turks, but talk to ourselves here and talk to the American public because -- and to our official leaders and members of Congress, because there hasn't been an understanding of Turkey totally. I think that in many ways, people are surprised that we can possibly have a functioning relationship with a country that is majority Muslim, that can in fact play a partnership role with us that extends some of the value aspects of our relationships.
And so we had hoped with this report to really begin a much more realistic dialogue about what it's like to deal with the new Turkey and to look for those areas of confluence, because in my dealings generally on the Hill or wherever, you get the -- it's such a surprise that we would be dealing with Turkey. Who are the Turks? You know, we need to know more about them. And so I think that is really the purpose of our report. And it's pretty broad-based in the ways that we've looked at these issues. So I'm very grateful for the attention to all of this.
IGNATIUS: My apologies to any who I was not able to call on. As a member of the council, I want to join, I know, all of you in thanking the co-chairs and all of the members of the task force. (Applause.)
SCHMEMANN: Thank you very much, David.