I am in Istanbul, Turkey. Don’t ask but it had to do with a cheap ticket on Turkish Airlines from Washington to Madrid via Istanbul. I am shocked to learn that Americans now need visas to visit Turkey. This is new and very indicative of the current relations between the two countries.

I had a diplomatic visa when I was posted to our embassy in Ankara. But I did not have a visa when I ran a company in the same town. Nor did I need one on several visits to the country, the last being three years ago when I crossed the entire country from Bulgaria on its western border to Georgia on the east by bus en route to Armenia. The visa requirement is rather new and has come into effect during the present Islamist tinged administration.

I have a geat fondness for Turkey and its people. I have lived here twice, once while at our embassy and again as the head of an American-Turkish joint venture. My older daughter was born in Ankara and her passport has as place of birth Turkey. I speak Turkish, albeit at a rather basic level. I have visited all of its major towns and cities and its vast store of historic sites. I like the Turkish people who combine naivety, reserve, warmth and hospitality in an almost unique blend.

But the institution of a visa requirement for Americans speaks volumes to me about a friendship turned cool. Once a staunch friend of the USA, Turkey has taken a step back from that formerly close link.

The other matter that also demonstrated the growing division in a relationship that was once a cornerstone of international security in the Middle East was Turkey’s refusal to allow our military forces to use its facilities in Turkey to support the war in Iraq. The Turkish refusal totally alienated the US Military which had been until then Turkey’s best friend in the USA. Our close ties were all based on the close cooperation between the Turkish armed forces and ours, a link that was basically established during the Korean War when Turkey provided a notably effective fighting force against the North Korean-Chinese juggernaut.

I am truly sad to see this turn of events. However, I shall recalibrate my opinions of, and feelings about, the Turks. Definitely a distinct reversal in what had been a strong example of a more unified “global community.”