Since the end of the Cold War, the world system has been going through a comprehensive transformation. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has remained the only superpower in the world, which began to behave as the only hegemon and accordingly pursued unilateral policies towards other international actors. The U.S. considers most global developments and international institutions established by the U.S. as detrimental for the continuation of its global hegemony; therefore, it started to undermine international norms, principles, and rules. The U.S. faces difficulties in maintaining order at both global and regional levels. Eventually, other global powers and regional actors began to follow different, if not conflictual, policy orientations and to play their own games.
As a regional actor who wants to play a global role, similar to other global actors, Turkey has been undertaking foreign policy initiatives under the AK Party government over the past two decades. However, there are too many global challenges as well as regional crises for Turkey to overcome. One such instance being that Turkey was forced to redefine its relations with its Western allies. More importantly, the U.S. has decided to redefine its relations with all of its partners, including Turkey. Therefore, one of the first challenges for Turkey to overcome is the resistance against the American otherization. Russia and China have created alternatives to international institutions established with the American initiative and invite other countries to be a part of these alternative institutions. Turkey also, at least tactically, chose to be a part of some of these platforms, a move which is not welcomed by Western countries. On the other hand, there are many regional crises such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Syrian crisis, and the state failures in the Middle East which have significant implications for the domestic and foreign policy of Turkey.
Turkey has recently begun to establish different institutions and initiated different processes in order to be able to undertake international responsibilities. Besides traditional actors, new institutions such as the Yunus Emre Institute (YEE, established in 2007), the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD, established in 2009), and the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB, established in 2010); had also restructured institutions such as the Turkish Crescent, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA, established in 1992), and the Diyanet Foundation (TDV, established in 1975), emerged as influential actors of Turkey’s soft power in its foreign policy implementation. Eventually Turkey became one of the leading countries in the world for providing developmental and humanitarian aid to the less developed countries.
After years of high growth rates and rapid economic development, Turkey had reclaimed more of its independence within its foreign policy and began to act as a more autonomous actor. Throughout the long-term political stability of the AK Party government, Turkey redefined its bilateral relations with both global and regional players. As a member of some significant international platforms such as the NATO and the G20, Turkey positioned itself into a new global role and attempted to develop an alternative inclusive political discourse. Today, Turkey is taken into consideration within the global balance-of-power calculations as a regional power and as a game-changing actor.
This new issue of Insight Turkey highlights some of the various regional developments around Turkey and discuss various movements of new actors and instruments, crises and progresses, from economy to culture, and how Turkey responds to these ever-changing regional dilemmas. This issue aims to enlighten readers about ongoing current events with three commentaries, five articles, and five off-topic pieces devoted to discussing these issues more in depth.
As observed by careful voyeurs of the changing international system, Turkey positions itself advantageously as a pillar of strength with a global voice to be heard. Burhanettin Duran invites us into the discussion with a masterplan of President Erdogan’s foreign diplomacy and how a new chapter has emerged to further a practical, humanitarian-focused, but militarily strong Turkey through the various international challenges it continues to face.
Faruk Kaymakcı enlightens us on how the European Parliamentary Elections were avidly followed by the Turkish public, who are eagerly hoping that this could be the beginning of much needed repairs for European-Turkish relations. The challenge of attaining EU membership being one of the ongoing unresolved topics was particularly focused upon, with the hope that European political changes can mean positive change for Turkey.
Meanwhile Muharrem Kılıç highlights that it is not just Europe with ongoing political changes as Turkey itself has made a complete overhaul on their judicial system. Capturing a snapshot of a large judicial reform package highlights a shift to modernize and update the judicial progress of Turkey to one compatible with domestic and international affairs. This move had won praise from all parties within Turkey, and the result of which sees a legal aligning closer to Europe.
Also calling for change but within the economic realm would be Mehmet Bulut and Cem Korkut who bring us back to how old Ottoman cash waqfs (foundations) can provide modern solutions for the difficult financial times the world faces. Bringing back an alternative to capitalism, and reintroducing an older system that had worked for over 500 years, cash waqfs provide protection to the individual ensuring equilibrium between the state, system, and the individual. This protection thus served better for humanity with its poverty reduction and partnership models, helped pioneer the microcredit mechanism the world has ever started to rely on.
Federico Donelli focuses on a relatively new dimension of Turkish foreign policy and reminisces on how foreign policy is rather a cultural affair. National branding and the use of culture as a diplomatic tool are seen as successful outlets of an emerging soft power. Turkey, being a modern example of broadcasting its image globally, utilizing its own high-culture and pop-culture to try to shift its international position, despite external circumstances trying to paint another picture.
As an example of a sub-governmental actor in Turkish foreign policy, Erman Akıllı and Bengü Çelenk emphasize the increasing effectiveness of TİKA and highlight that foreign aid can be a fine example of a nation branding tool. Turkey outstretching itself into the global realm allows us to examine TİKA as one of the largest successes that revitalizes the spirit of pre-war Turkey creating a peace-belt diplomatically among many diverse nations. Advocating truthfulness, global power, and generosity, TİKA is bustling with positive bilateral relations, proving an international success of Turkey’s charitable image.
Abdurrahman Babacan focuses on the consolidation of democracy in Turkey during the AK Party period and takes us on a journey into the core of AK Party political maneuvers especially within its first two election periods. Detailing the ebbs and flows of democracy building in a world where priorities need to be met from the internal minorities, its military factor, and to the external expectations of the EU. Thus, ushering Turkey into a new positive course and pushing human rights to the forefront, while modernizing the legal system despite various domestic setbacks from terrorist groups ISIS, PKK, and FETÖ all within the same time span.
There is no doubt the importance energy has played amongst Turkey’s highest priorities these days, and Remziye Yılmaz-Bozkuş explores this importance among Turkey’s relationship with the Black Sea Energy Cooperation (BSEC). Its framework stretching beyond energy into various political sectors has made for a diverse agenda of difficult decision-making. Though being the most active negotiator amongst its regional partners, Turkey lends hope that the BSEC can be a stability factor within this region of former rivals despite numerous limitations and economical shortcomings the organization faces.
One of the two off-topic commentaries focusing on regional actors, Mohammed Nuruzzaman showcases a new regional challenger in the case of Saudi Arabia. Creating a new type of foreign policy, aggressive, and proactive in response to a growing Iran contrasts the pro-democratic leanings of the region. Critiquing what is called the “Salman Doctrine,” for its lack of success in diplomacy and military affairs, due mainly to its lack of strategy. While Saudi Arabia intends to diversify away from its reliance on oil and modernize through a grand strategy, regional stability will be the price that pays for it. In the other off-topic commentary,
Shamkhal Abilov and Beyrak Hajiyev bring us to Azerbaijan and the importance neutrality can really play when in the middle of diverse great powers and how Azerbaijan neutrality can actually be an advantage for the EU. What threatens this balanced policy is the U.S. withdrawal in the region and the power vacuum that will persist in the region. Whether Azerbaijan is able to protect itself and remain neutral is a hard-hitting speculation offered.
The remaining three articles focus on various issues in international politics. H. Sonmez Atesoglu develops a model calling attention as to how vital economic power is for international security and where that power comes from initially. The recipe for building international security goes in depth about the interplay of economics, trade, maximizing military power, population and technical capabilities.
From the Black Sea region a success story brings us to Radka Havlova and Zbyněk Dubský who take us to Ukraine to discuss strategic culture and conflict resolution and how instrumental the OSCE was for de-escalating the East Ukrainian conflict. Resolving a lot of the nuances that anarchical international systems often create lead to a collaborative strategic culture of nations lead by commonality, inclusivity and interconnected security. Alper Çakmak and M. Ali Sevgi conclude our journal with a holistic Muslim migration analysis touching upon the importance of language and the ongoing struggle for identity among four Turkish migrants who had gone to Germany for varying reasons. Following them with an anthropological approach to discover the inner depth of hardship and experience that goes into being an outlander.
We are confident that this issue of Insight Turkey entitled as “Turkey in a Changing World: Responses to Domestic and Regional Dynamics” will provide timely analyses about Turkey’s new instruments and actors of foreign policy, and about different issue areas of international politics.