Type: Analysis
Pages: 8 | Words: 2329
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Intense debate characterizes the activities within and outside Turkey. In recent years, a new form of activism known as neo-Ottomans reflects the relationships between the Turks and Balkans. However, much remains unchanged in the interests of Turkey. On the other hand, a significant shift was registered on the economic front. In this regard, the country’s foreign policy has become linked to the ideals of liberalism in international politics, in which the strengthening of economic ties remains the priority. Thus, it is assumed that the country departed from its old conservative approach, which was based on the realist school.

Turkish foreign policy often fell under substantial study in the recent past. Recent growth has supported the notion that the foreign policy of the country has kept shifting based on the prevailing international circumstances. When considering the foreign policy of the country, one is obliged to examine several factors. Such factors may require one to put the application of Turkey for membership into the European Union into perspective. Despite the stalemate, which marred the local effort to join the union, the country has been very successful in having its agenda on the right track. The fact that Turkey was focused on consolidating its power throughout the Balkans region contributed to the consideration of the Turkish republic by the European Union. The other leading players in Europe view Turkey with suspicion since the country has paid more attention to the Balkan area.

It should be noted that countries had to change their foreign policy orientations after the end of the Cold War in order to suit the prevailing conditions. Turkey is still a member of the international system, as earlier. Thus, when changing the system configuration, it becomes necessary to alter some aspects. After the end of the Cold War, the world was altered from bipolar to a multi-polar system. The level of instability increases in the multi-polar system. This is based on the fact that the Cold War precipitated instability in the world. Thus, the interests of Turkey had to be redefined after it. Consequently, the international system was not static anymore. The breakup of the Socialist countries such as the former Yugoslavia is closely associated with the end of the Cold War. To some extent, the collapse of Yugoslavia influenced the policy choice of Turkey in the Balkan region.

The ambition of Turkey appears to have been modeled by the Westphalian nation state ideals. It depends on the several aspects of activities that Turkey pursues in the international stage. As in any state, the foreign policy remains a domain of elected officials. Nevertheless, international aspects such as economic or strategic pacts bind the states. This implies that the foreign policy of countries cannot be altered in a short period of time. The same applies to the Turkish case, when the traditional policy-making processes caused a large commitment to the prevailing international deals as well as the strategic alliances, which were agreed at the beginning of the Cold War. The clearest indication that world factors affect the policy is the fact that Turkey transformed itself from an authoritarian regime to democracy in order to gain membership in NATO. Adopting democratic ideals, Turkey wanted to join NATO in order to counter the power of the Soviet Union.

From that time, Turkey has had the different types of governments from various ideological perspectives. Nonetheless, the structure of the international system during the Cold War era meant that countries had fewer opportunities for choice in terms of international positioning. The bipolar structure reduced the ability of Turkey to make independent policy decisions since it was a member of the western camp. Thus, it is not a coincidence that the foreign policy of the Turkish republic remained relatively underdeveloped at the time.

Historical Background

In the 18th and 19th centuries, military defeats as well as wide-ranging revolts characterized the Balkan region. With modernization, some groups of people such as the aristocrats lost considerably since people from the lower ranks of society were dissatisfied with the prevailing circumstances. During the antagonism between reformists and those seeking to maintain the status quo, skirmishes spread through the Balkans, and the Great Powers were involved in the crisis. Ultimately, under the Treaty of Berlin, the Ottomans surrendered the administration of Bosnia to Austria-Hungary in 1878.

The Turkish Republic tried to continue with the cordial association that it had with Yugoslavia. This was reflected in the Balkan Entente signed in 1934, which was agreed during the leadership of President Kemal Ataturk. In the pact, Yugoslavia was held as a pillar of the security framework of the region. This was against a backdrop of a high level of militarism and authoritarianism throughout the European region. In 1950, the Turkish government led by Menderes accepted Muslims from Yugoslavia, who were mainly Bosniaks and Albanians from the Sanjak region. These immigrants were gladly accepted for the purpose of overcoming the technological gap in the new republic.

Yugoslavia encountered the serious issues in its history. Even before the World War II, there were tensions in the monarchical country. The country’s multiethnic society is cited as a main reason why tensions often aroused. The fact that Serbs dominated the political life of the country worsened existing oppressiveness. At the same time, the conception of the new state created major challenges. For instance, the Slovenes and Croats wanted the federation while the Serbs favored the unitary arrangement.

Between 1960 and 1980, Yugoslavia was a regional industrial power due to the nature of its success. For instance, its GDP growth rate was about six percent. It offered free medical care. The literacy level was at ninety-one percent. The level of life expectancy stood at seventy-two percent. However, after the country’s confrontations with the West, its economy disintegrated leading to the collapse of the country. It should be mentioned that the former Yugoslavia leaned toward the Eastern bloc during the Cold War period. With the collapse of the war, the former Yugoslavia could not get access to any form of support. Thus, its collapse was matter-of-course at the end of the Cold War period.

The preview of events related to the Cold War is crucial toward understanding the Turkish foreign policy since the end of the war preceded the eventual collapse of the former Yugoslavia. The prevailing circumstances dictated the development of events. By the time the Cold War collapsed in the early 1990’s, the ensuing international system of the political environment led to a greater sense of insecurity. The conditions also paved the way for the growth of potential instability in Turkey. The reason is that nations broke away from the former Soviet Union as well as Yugoslavia. In such circumstances, there was a high level of insecurity based on the level of instability. In short, the propensity for engagement in war was higher than it was up to that time. However, it was ironical that such a sense of instability provided stability. Hence, the prevailing sense of instability precipitated the protection of the status quo. It is clear that the collapse of the Cold War contributed to the end of monolithic alliances that had characterized the international system earlier. Thus, the collapse of the war immediately induced a shift in the public interests.

As liberal theorists believe, a shift in circumstances at the international level precludes immense changes in the national interests. As the interests shifted, policymakers realized that the emerging trends required alternative measures. Subsequently, the states responded by realigning their alliances or bilateral agreements. As already indicated, Turkey was a key player on the part of the Western camp throughout the Cold War era. At the end of the war period, Turkey lost its relevance. The loss of relevance is based on the fact that Turkey occupied a strategic position between the former Soviet Union and the West in the war. Thus, its prime value declined immensely. This happened since the Soviet Union was not a threat anymore. In fact, the West was not interested in work with Turkey, albeit on the war front. Security was another issue that affected the circumstances. Security considerations forced the West to form the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Even though, NATO survived a period of confusion after the Cold War, Turkey remained its member. It is believed that it was searching for relevance after the unexpected turn of events.

When the Cold War ended, each international body or local authority had to react. The European Union took a reactionary step. It was based on the idea that the West supported democratization and liberalization efforts aimed at reforming the former Eastern and Central European countries. However, the European community was more focused on reforming its nearest neighborhood than other parts of the globe. It is worth noting that the relationships between Turkey and the European Commission were longstanding. The possible entry of Turkey into the body was the ultimate goal. After the collapse of the Cold War, it became obvious that Turkey did not feature in the European Commission’s immediate aspirations.

The main reason why the relations between the Western bloc and Turkey suffered is that Turkey and the Commission had a mutually beneficial scheme modeled on the strategic lines. Turkey presented strategic significance for the European commission while the latter offered the economic aid, which was crucial in the country’s development. After the Cold War ended, Turkey lost its strategic significance. Consequently, the West was not interested anymore in supporting Turkey on the basis of its strategic value. At this point, the European Commission (EC) shifted its focus to CEEC (Central and Eastern European Countries). However, there is one aspect that proves that the significance of the country was not totally lost. Turkey remained the only country, which enjoyed the unrivalled benefits from the union, although it did not get membership in the EU.

Turkish Militarized Foreign Policy

Given the prevailing conditions of uncertainty in the international system during the 1990s, Turkey’s foreign policy rested on the need to preserve the status quo. In anticipation of the potential challenges, which could emerge based on a shift of international structures, Turkey chose to pursue a divergent proposition regarding foreign policy matters. It is also evident that the fact of the Soviet Union’s and Yugoslavia’s collapse meant that a host of challenges hitherto un-witnessed appeared. As Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union dissolved, new states emerged. Clearly, the emergence of the new states meant that Turkey’s sphere of influence was changing. Traditional allies of Turkey included Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the immediate surroundings. With the new circumstances, the Middle East States got the opportunity to encroach into the region in a bid to secure international or regional associations. This was a cause for alarm in the Turkish Republic. Clearly, the Turkish Republic was under siege. At the turn of the late 1990s, the instability in local politics and insecurity in foreign affairs led to the culmination of national security-centered approach to foreign policy development.  

The decline of the national security centered approach became inevitable. By 1999, two stunning developments led to changes in the national security oriented approach to policymaking. The capture of Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya and his subsequent trial in the Turkish court helped defuse tensions in the PKK. Two years following the Luxemburg rejection in 1997, the European Union allowed Turkey to be a candidate for membership. Later, the country softened its security-centered approach as circumstances changed.

Theoretical Framework

A theoretical framework is critical in conducting any useful research. Foreign policy is best studied using international relations theories. In this study, four theories are applied. They include constructivism, Neo-Ottoman, realism, and liberalism. In the immediate subsequent step, each theory is put into perspective.


Constructivist theory or constructivism underlies a multiplicity of ways of viewing aspects about a number of issues. Constructivism has several strands that are used to understand relations. The directions include radical constructivism, social constructivism, social constructionism, cybernetics, socio-cultural practices, and information-processing constructivism. In order to understand how the theory applies to international relations, it is necessary to comprehend how the various strands operate. However, the primary goal is the aspect of social construction.

Radicalism is an ancient phenomenon. Radicalism reflects the adoption of ideas that are far flung from the mainstream ideals. For instance, the support of revolution as a measure towards making change is radicalism. Thus, when focusing on policy enactment, aspects that show significant deviations from the norm are put into perspective. It is worth noting that, during the Cold War period, countries around the Balkan region were interested in supporting the Eastern Bloc or the Soviet Union. However, Turkey chose to support the West, despite its proximity to the Eastern Alliance. Shifting focus to radical constructivism, exceptions in policymaking become important.

Constructivists agree that there are particular interests that drive policymakers. In truth, interests differ based on a number of factors. On the one hand, the actors involved would affect the policy options that individuals make. The individual characteristics may play a critical role. Similarly, the prevailing circumstances at the time of taking an action or making a decision largely influence the policy that has been achieved. At another level, based on the constructivism perspective, states regard some interests as of greater significance than others hold. However, it is noticeable that the interests of states are products of beliefs, ideas, as well as cultural influences. Consequently, the aspects that shape policymakers are based on the perceptions that such actors have in regards to the other players. Therefore, it is critical to note that culture shapes the policies adopted by countries. The case of Turkey reflects this state of affairs since a shared history is cited as a main source of influence in the foreign policy of the Balkan region.

At other times, perceived fears about other players could drive foreign policies. In this regard, ideological aspects come to the fore. This is based on the needs that states have in attaining supremacy over other competing powers. Thus, the need to reinforce its emerging hegemonic power in the Balkan region is critical in shaping its behavior. A predicated sense of commonality is a serious factor in the process of policymaking. However, at the end of the day, specific interest such as economic benefit may override such issues as shared history or culture.

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