Turkey's Neighborhood Policy: An Emerging Complex Interdependence?

Article excerpt

Turkish foreign policy is by no means immune to either the influence of the international system or the effects of its neighborhood's transformations. Given this background, after the end of the Cold War, the neglected historical and geographical reality of interconnectedness between Turkey and its environs resurfaced. Interconnectedness did not only open up new horizons and create opportunities but also posed new problems and conflicts for Ankara. With the turn of a new century, Turkey became more able and willing to benefit from increasing interconnectedness in its vicinity. Hence, this paper emphasizes the significance of the interplay between domestic and regional dynamics and the effects of the unprecedented level of economic interdependence in contemporary Turkish foreign policy.

The paper starts from the proposition that Turkish foreign policy went through two concomitant yet conflicting transformations after the Cold war. The first transformation is defined in this paper as the "renationalization" (2) of Turkish foreign policy led by security concerns, which arose from regional turmoil and domestic conflicts. The renationalization of foreign policy refers to the revival of nationalism in the political discourse and the rise of security concerns regarding the preservation of the territorial integrity and national unity of the Turkish state in the new world order. Owing to renationalization, we witnessed the predominance of a security-first "assertive new activism" (3) in Turkish foreign policy throughout the 1990s. The second transformation, which Turkish foreign policy vaguely underwent in the 1990s, was the rise of "internationalism" (4) due to the concerns about Turkey's new role in international politics. Starting with the Helsinki summit in 1999 but perhaps even more profoundly after the twin economic crises of 2000 and 2001, internationalism was accompanied by economic liberalization and surpassed the renationalization process. This economic orientation already towards a liberal economy began in the late 1980s under the leadership of Turgut Ozal. Since the end of the 1990s Turkey has been pursuing liberal international policies based on commerce, cooperation, and soft power. In this paper, it is mainly argued that in the Turkey of the 2000s, an economy-oriented "new activism" (5) has prevailed over the security-first activism of the 1990s. This is due to the changes in domestic political structures and the increasing importance of economic growth and trade not only for Turkey but also for its neighbors. Hence, instead of finding conflict with its neighbors, recently at the top of Turkey's foreign policy agenda is a move to promote interstate cooperation.

Against this historical background, this paper aims to explain mainly Turkey's relations with its neighbors through a liberal framework, which underlines the importance of interdependence and international cooperation among states. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye put forward three defining characteristics of complex interdependence: i) the absence of a hierarchy among issues, ii) increasing use of multiple channels of interaction between states, and iii) declining primacy of military force. I argue that recent developments in Turkish foreign policy, particularly Turkey's relations with its neighbors resemble the characteristic features of complex interdependence. I further argue that the new activism in Turkish foreign policy seems, at least to me, to facilitate international cooperation among regional actors and to create a complex interdependence between Turkey and its neighborhood.

The paper proceeds as follows: The first part is devoted to the description of the main premises of the liberal model put forward by Keohane and Nye. The second part gives a brief overview of the main determinants of Turkish foreign policy and the relationships between Turkey and its neighbors directly after the sudden end of the Cold War. In the third part, I apply the analytical framework to the Turkish case and try to explain to what extent the characteristic features of complex interdependence can be observed within contemporary Turkish foreign policy. …