Former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said Turkey is successfully becoming a European-type democratic state, vital to the security of both Europe and the region, at the meeting of the 2012 Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit held in İstanbul on Thursday.
The Atlantic Council is convening in İstanbul for the third year, with the support of the Turkish government, to promote dialogue about regional issues of energy, business and politics, the challenges facing the Middle East, and other issues on the world agenda.
During the meeting, various topics on the Caspian Sea, Central Asia, North Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other regions were discussed in the company of politicians and strategic thinkers.
Brzezinski, a member of the Atlantic Council's International Advisory Board, spoke following an introduction by Atlantic Council President Frederick Kempe, who called the veteran statesman an inspiration for people across the world. In his own speech, Brzezinski expressed his pleasure at visiting Turkey, declaring the country's importance for both the region and the world.
Brzezinski began his speech by recalling US President Barack Obama's remarks delivered four years ago in Ankara, repeating Obama's statements on the importance of Turkey to Europe and the US. After his election in 2008, Obama made his first visit abroad to Turkey, where he highlighted the significance of bilateral relations between Ankara and Washington in a speech in Turkey's capitol.
“Turkey is a critical ally. Turkey is an important part of Europe. And Turkey and the United States must stand together, and work together, to overcome the challenges of our time," Obama said. Brzezinski also reiterated Obama's comments on the future of Turkey and its geostrategic importance, calling especially for solidarity between Ankara and Washington. "The future must belong to those who create, not those who destroy. That is the future we must work for, and we must work for it together," said the US president in 2008.
In his speech for the Atlantic Council, Brzezinski emphasized another one of Obama's sentiments given in 2008. "Turkey's greatness lies in [Turks'] ability to be at the center of things. This is not where East and West divide -- it is where they come together. In the beauty of your culture. In the richness of your history. In the strength of your democracy," Brzezinski quoted.
Calling Turkey a key political power in the region, Brzezinski said Turkey's unique geostrategic role could be illustrated by two hypothetical questions, both involving scenarios that Brzezinski emphasized were unlikely. "But just consider," Brzezinski said, "What would the region be like if Iran suddenly became like Turkey, an impressively modernizing democracy? The region would become dramatically more stable and more promising. That in itself demonstrates the significance of these historical undertakings [in Turkey]."
On the other hand, Brzezinski posed, "What would this region be like if Turkey, because of spreading regional, ethnic and religious violence, became like Iran? It would become a transmission belt of violence and unrest to Europe," said Brzezinski. He added that Turkey is a vital power in the region and a contributor to European security. The former American national security advisor declared that Turkey and the US share a common interest in reaffirming the vitality of the Atlantic community, pointing to the 1942 proclamation of the Atlantic charter as an important milestone in promoting a shared vision for a democratic world.
US Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone, also taking part in the summit, said that Turkey is located in a region feeling the turbulence of change. "Change is not always positive, but in Turkey we face changes that are dramatic and positive and directed, change that is in the form of renewal, and the good part of that renewal is its focus on the economy, energy, and strategic foresight of change in its national interest," Ricciardone said. The ambassador also said that Turkey is proving itself as a rising power by "rewriting its constitution from scratch,” adding that the new constitution is “a huge ambition of the Turkish people and … the strength of democracy."