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From Turkish liberalism to realpolitik?

New research article: "Turkish Diplomacy since 2003: Transition from Realpolitik to a Liberal Foreign Policy?" Author: Gilles Bertrand (Associate Professor in international relations, head of the Master Programme 'International Politics' at the Institut d'Etudes politiques de Bordeaux, France, and member of the Research Centre Emile-Durkheim, University of Bordeaux; research interests: Greek-Turkish relations Review by: Anja Grabovac

Turkish geographical location has influenced the nature of its diplomacy throughout the history. During the period of the Ottoman Empire, relations vis-á-vis other international actors and neighbours (i.e. Soviet Union or Greece) were based on a game of balancing, primarily on the use of power politics. The landslide victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 2003 general elections was a pivotal moment for the country. The author explains: “The foreign policy has changed from the ‘Policy of Zero Problems with our Neighbors’ to global ambitions and a strengthening of the ties with Africa (since 2005), Latin America (since 2006) and the initiatives towards Eastern Asia and the Middle East.” In what was has realism and its core premises shaped the Turkish foreign policy? What does the history convey?

The Ottoman Empire did not try to position itself as a hegemon against the Christian monarchies nor did it put much interest into the European affairs, Mr. Bertrand explains. Gradually, the country adopted a more open approach and became a part of the ‘Concert of Nations’. As a Turkey, it has transformed itself into a nation state, maintained a balance of power with other actors and/or potential enemies and it tried to remain neutral, build upon Atatürk’s motto ‘Peace at home, peace abroad.’

What kind of tradition does liberalism have in Turkish politics? Not so strong, however, with the AKP in power, Turkish foreign policy has moved to a more liberal discourse and behaviour. Trade and cooperation, multilateralism and mediation in solving conflicts and higher involvement of non-state actors into the diplomacy have been prioritised. Because and despite these factors, the Turkish foreign policy remains close to the ‘European liberal model’ and yet so far from being a part of it. The stagnation of more than two decades-long road towards an EU membership is a proof that Turkey has still a long way to go. Domestic and external issues slow down any greater progress. More importantly, Turkish position of a ‘bridge’ between the West and East persist despite its efforts.

Do you want to learn more about the changing diplomacy in Turkey and the ways it affects the international environment? Make sure to read this instructive article from Gilles Bertrand!

Read the whole article in the latest issue of Perspectives (Vol. 21, No. 2, 2013) in your library or order one online today!

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