Learning Strategic Depth: Implications of Turkey's New Foreign Policy Doctrine *

Article excerpt

Turkey stands at the threshold of all major trends within its neighborhood and is actively seeking to harness the assets that its geography and historical experiences afford it. As a staunch ally of the United States which has traditionally privileged its "strategic partnership," Turkey's global role has shifted from being a Western geo-strategic military deterrent to an exemplary model of a Muslim-majority, secular, and democratic nation. This article offers an introduction to Turkey's new foreign policy doctrine known as "strategic depth" and then seeks to examine its implications for Turkey's emerging role in Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and Central Asia. In the following sections, this article will outline how Turkey is beginning to realize its full potential as a versatile multiregional and increasingly powerful international actor.

**********

Turkish foreign policy rarely makes global headlines, nor has it traditionally been an important factor in international politics in the 21st century. However, the events of September 11th, 2001, the American-led War on Terror, Second Gulf War, and the most recent domestic political turmoil have refocused world attention on Turkey's future path and progress. The nation's history and experience with democracy, secularism, Islamic fundamentalism, and ethnic minorities present a microcosm of the challenges facing its entire neighborhood. For the last several decades, Turkey, with its strict adherence to maintaining stability and the status quo in its region, has been trying to adjust to a world where conditions for traditional foreign policy making have been undergoing a radical change. Today Turkey stands at the threshold of all major trends within its neighborhood and is actively seeking to harness the assets that its geography and historical experiences afford it in its foreign and national security policy.

This article first considers the incredible transformation that Turkish foreign policy has undergone since the national elections in 2002 and analyzes the new government's chief foreign policy advisor's doctrine of "strategic depth." The implications of the "strategic depth" doctrine are manifest in all aspects of Turkey's national security and foreign policy decisions, while its mere mention can cause counter-balancing weights within Turkey's own domestic structures. Despite its tremendous importance and far-ranging implications, the "strategic depth" doctrine has received little scholarly attention. (1) This article endeavors to contribute to the debate by offering perspective on "strategic depth" as a viable Turkish grand strategy. In the following sections, Turkey's new foreign policy doctrine will be examined from the perspective of furthering Turkey's own development and progress, while taking into account and examining Turkey's emerging role as a multiregional power in the international state system.

Finally, by surveying the key implications and regions advocated by "strategic depth," this paper will argue that while Turkey's pre-Cold War and pre-9/11 goal of belonging to the West (and in particular of being a part of Europe) is still in place, analysts can no longer take Turkish foreign policy for granted. Turkey no longer solely represents a geographic barrier against communism, but rather is transforming itself to meet the various threats emerging from its new geopolitical environment. In this context, Turkey's global role has shifted from a Western geo-strategic military deterrent to an exemplary model of a Muslim-majority, secular, and democratic nation. By broadening its horizons and seeing the positive role that it has to play in Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, Turkey is beginning to realize its full potential as a versatile multiregional and increasingly powerful international actor.

What is Strategic Depth?

The concept of "Strategic Depth" in Turkish foreign policy refers to the academic work of Professor Ahmet Davutoglu, who published his Turkish international relations book of the same title in 2001. …