Turkey between East and West: New Challenges for a Rising Regional Power

Turkey between East and West: New Challenges for a Rising Regional Power

Turkey between East and West: New Challenges for a Rising Regional Power

Turkey between East and West: New Challenges for a Rising Regional Power

Synopsis

As a rising regional power in the critical borderland between Europe and Asia, Turkey has been more challenged than its neighbors by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia. A secular Muslim nation with a history of involvement in European affairs and some with Western international structures, Turkey is positioned to play an influential role in areas with which it shares both ethnic and religious affinities. Building on what is perceived as a successful model of political and economic development, Turkish leaders are promoting regional economic cooperation and advocating new approaches to security in the area. However, their efforts have been hampered by persistent economic deficiencies and by imperfect democracy in Turkey itself. In this volume, experts from Turkey, Europe, and the United States address the key aspects of Turkey's multifaceted role in Europe, its ethnic and religious ties to Central Asia and the Balkans, the Cold War legacy, the quest for a new security role in the region, problems of political modernization, and strategies for future economic development and regional cooperation.

Excerpt

The modern Turkish Republic was born at the end of the First World War as the negation of the collapsing Ottoman empire. Its founder, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), abandoned the ancient imperial capital, Istanbul, in favor of Ankara, replaced the Ottoman constitutional monarchy with republican institutions under the guidance of a single ruling party, launched a radical secularization campaign, and made clear his desire to adapt the new Turkey to the ways of the West.

During the cold war era Turkey appeared to be firmly anchored to Europe. As a pillar of the nato alliance in a highly sensitive region it was considered to be an essential strategic partner. the tradition of single party rule was abandoned, and though the domestic environment remained troubled, movement toward political pluralism seemed to be inexorable. From the early 1960s, the goal of gradual association with the European Community was placed on the agenda. This period also saw hundreds of thousands of Turks permanently relocate in western Europe as a migratory work force, giving rise to a host of new and complex social and interpersonal interactions. the opening of the Turkish economy during the 1980s, associated with prime minister Turgut Özal, integrated the national economy more closely with western markets and gave rise to something of an economic boom. Özal himself spoke of his country, somewhat unguardedly, as "the Japan of West Asia."

The optimistic sense of future prospects to which these dynamics gave rise was naturally transferred to evaluations of Turkey's potential role in the post-Cold War environment. the breakup of the ussr eliminated a centuries-old common border with a centralized Russian state and seemed to transform Turkey's strategic situation. the emergence of newly independent states of Turkic and Islamic heritage in Central Asia and the Caucasus created a new field of interest for Turkish foreign policy and gave rise to considerable enthusiasm concerning the Turkish mission amongst the 'lost cousins' of Turkestan. This enthusiasm was to some extent shared in the West, where the distinctiveness of the modern Turkish experience was highlighted. As a democratically governed secular state, Turkey was unique in the Islamic world. It possessed a dynamic . . .

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