Turkey is in the midst of an era of dramatic change. That matters in a big way for both American foreign policy and the world, because Turkey is of enormous strategic significance. It is a big and important country. With a population of 74 million people, Turkey is larger than Britain or France, and in area it is slightly larger than Texas. The population is industrious and increasingly wealthy.
The emergence of Turkey as the most powerful regional player in the Middle East should not surprise Americans. Of all the Middle Eastern Islamic nations, it is the only one that has adapted to the modern world with any degree of success.
The Republic of Turkey is geographically, politically, and culturally, an odd-looking member in an alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Turkey has a long coastline washed by the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean, but it is hundreds of miles from the Atlantic. Turkish democracy for most of NATO’s history could best be described as an aspiration rather than a reality.