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November 23, 2010, Tuesday

For the first time, Turkey has a foreign policy

England, weakened economically in the wake of World War II, turned over its responsibilities on the fronts of Turkey and Greece to the United States. Both Turkey and Greece were important due to the threat from the Soviet Union at the time. During the Cold War era, Turkey’s foreign policy was heavily influenced by America.

Ankara was, at the time, unable to draw its own roadmap without looking to Washington. What’s more, Ankara was tied to Washington in terms of defense security as well as economic development. And when Ankara failed to listen to America’s orders, there were always immediate repercussions. It took time for Turkey to learn how to keep pace with the Cold War world around it.

Now, the illegal factions within the state have started to be eliminated because they failed to understand they have no place in the new world order. Over the past decade, the strong global economic foundations laid during the Kemal Derviş era in Turkey have begun to bear fruit. In the meantime, there have been some very important changes on the global front. America may continue to be the sole global super power, but it has lost the influence it enjoyed during the Cold War era. And now, alongside America, powers such as China and India have begun to rise to the forefront; at the same time, Europe, which maintains its economic importance, has been weakened both militarily and politically. As for Turkey, during an era when it is quickly democratizing, it has implemented a foreign policy that reflects the values of its people. This is the reality that lies beneath the tension Turkey has been experiencing with Israel as of late.

In the same way, Turkey’s new foreign policy is in line with the multi-polar world around it.

Turkey has thus entered into new styles of relations, not only with centers of power such as Russia and China, but also with its neighboring countries. Foreign policy has begun to be interpreted in Turkey as simply an extension of economic relations.

Actually, the phenomenon popularly referred to as a “shift in axis” is nothing more than the process in which Turkey adjusts to the new world order around it. When former US President Richard Nixon made his famous effort to step up US relations with China, he was simply keeping pace with the conditions developing at the time. Then, China did not accept Russia’s assertion that it was the global leader of communist nations; serious differences in both ideology and national interest were emerging between the two countries. And thus, when Nixon created an important alliance against Russia by making peace with China, he was not overseeing a slippage in axis but rather making a diplomatic maneuver suited to the existing reality. In the same way, the foreign policy that Turkey is trying to implement today is based on efforts to correctly read the global realities around it and taking steps accordingly. This in no way means that Turkey has broken away from its Western alliances or that it now prefers the East to the West. What it does mean is that Ankara sees and recognizes the importance of the East and is determined to benefit from the advantages it offers. These are foreign policies which a nation that believes in itself, and which wants to obtain a better position for itself within the global order, must implement.

It is, of course, an inescapable fact that some of these steps will have a negative effect on certain world capitals’ interests. It is actually quite easy to see what is happening in these capitals when you look at who has raised “shifting of axis” arguments and just who is supporting these arguments. In a time when the world has become multi-polar and possesses so many centers of power, a foreign policy with only one direction or dimension would mean a certain blindness and inability to read opportunities. Turkey’s politicians are, despite their occasional tactical errors, generally on the correct strategic road, for now.

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