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December 30, 2012, Sunday

A 2012 account of Turkish foreign policy

Professor Ahmet Davutoğlu, foreign minister of Turkey, presented an account of the passing year in a presentation entitled “Turkish Foreign Policy in 2012 and Future Horizons” at the Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE) in Ankara on Dec. 7.

Finding out that he was mostly addressing scholars, he adjusted his speech, mainly theorizing about what has been done and the philosophy behind it. For example, he started with the assumption that the Cold World had ended in Europe in the 1990s, but it is just ending in the Middle East. Then he went on to outline the major fault lines that have shaped global politics as well as Turkish foreign policy in the post-World War II period. He likened these phenomena to earthquakes.

The first of these upheavals was the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which he called the “geopolitical earthquake” that took place between 1989 and 1991. The aftershocks of this earthquake were to be seen in Bosnia and Kosovo and the conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan and Russia and Georgia.  NATO gained new members. Turkey stayed pretty clear of this period due to its NATO membership. So she may be considered as one of the winners in this period but benefitted less because she lacked internal stability and financial capacity.

The second upheaval came with 9/11 (2001), which he calls the “security earthquake: global curfew.” This period is characterized by the concept “war against terrorism.” Security measures ran rampant. Military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan were major landmarks in this period.

While the whole world was under the spell of the security mentality, Turkey aggrandized its freedoms and invested in democracy. However she bore the burden of the militarization of politics worldwide.

The third phenomenon or period started in 2008 with the early shocks of the European financial crisis and continued with the Arab Spring in 2011. Davutoğlu calls this period the economic-political earthquake. The fault lines of the European economic crisis and Arab political crisis intersect in the Mediterranean basin. This area and phenomena directly concern Turkey, and they have to be managed diligently with realism and a strategic vision.

The period we are in requires less hard power and more soft power. That is why Turkey has increased the number of its foreign representatives from 161 to 221. When they reach the planned number of 235, Turkey will be ranked fifth in the world of countries with the highest number of representations abroad.

Another soft-power instrument is contact with global actors. Turkish Airlines does a tremendous job of connecting Turkey with the rest of the world. In fact, Turkey is becoming a global hub for travel.

Davutoğlu clearly stated that the foreign policy of Turkey rests on two principles or targets: 1: Economic cooperation and eventual integration and 2: Political stability based on peaceful relations and the building of civic capacity.

These targets can only be achieved in a state of peaceful coexistence. Its inputs are democracy, the rule of law and economic growth. Turkey has been working towards these goals not only by investing within but also abroad in democracy and the economic development of other countries that are coming out of the freeze of despotic regimes and economic arrest.

Davutoğlu has said, “You cannot run after history (that makes you an accessory) but run with it or in front of it.  He later added, “You cannot lose if you invest in the people “(rather than their authoritarian rulers). He pointed out that Turkey took a risk by supporting popular movements/uprisings while their outcomes were obscure.” He added, “But we stood on the right side of history” and contributed to democratic change in the region.  People won their long overdue rights and freedoms.

As regards Turkey’s relations with the European Union, Davutoğlu said: “The meaning of Turkey’s membership in the EU has a different meaning than what it was 10 years ago. We still maintain the desire to be a member of the EU, but at the same time we try to understand  what kind of a Europe we will face in the future.”

In any case, it seems that Turkey has entered on to a fast track in its foreign policy, and the politician that is in charge is the very theoretician of that policy.

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