Academic journal article McNair Papers

4. the Exercise of Turkish Foreign Policy: Ataturk to Ozal

Academic journal article McNair Papers

4. the Exercise of Turkish Foreign Policy: Ataturk to Ozal

Article excerpt

Churchill said of the Soviet Union, "I cannot forecast for you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." The most perceptive part of this statement, and the most often neglected, was his coda, "but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." (1) Ataturk's Turkey had an equally focused foreign policy, intimately tied to the national mission of achieving the level of contemporary civilization, and the parallel goals of security and modernization. Like the Ottomans, he drew a distinction between the core policy and the day-to-day pursuit of this policy, He also recognized the small power status of the Republic and the need for an international aspect to the national security policy. Turkey's permanent policy was one of alignment with the West, while the temporary policy was made up of any actions required to sustain national security. Like Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, outside observers found it difficult to evaluate the new Turkish Republic or interpret its actions objectively. However, the key to Turkey's actions could be found, set out quite unambiguously, in the National Pact, and in Ataturk's public announcements. The security imperatives of Turkey were clear, concise, and a good deal more benign than those of the majority of new postwar states.

From 1923, other than a determination to revise details of the Lausanne Treaty, the policy rejected expansion and aggression. It specifically eschewed any romantic notions of re-establishing the Ottoman Empire, and it actively suppressed pan-Turkic aspirations. It was fundamentally defensive. What was seen by the outside world would be the temporary policies required to maneuver in a dangerous environment, the whole object of which was defense of the national mission, which could be dubbed "the inverse-ghazi theory of foreign policy." Under the Ottomans the key elements in maintaining the Sultan's authority and legitimacy were martial success, territorial acquisition, and the distribution of wealth to supporters. By 1918 empire, war and alliances had all ended in catastrophe. After 1923, Ataturk based the legitimacy of the Republic on the defense of a strictly defined status quo, in which national security was paramount.

Foreign Policy Imperatives

in 1927 Ataturk addressed the GNA over a period of 6 days, setting out the history, background, and achievements of the new state, and laying down the tenets of Kemalist, and therefore Turkish, foreign policy. (2) The pursuit of national security was encapsulated in simple watchwords: "Friendship with every nation"; "Turkey has no perpetual enemies"; and most significantly, "Peace at home, peace in the world." (3) In addition he stated "the State should pursue an exclusively national policy.... When I speak of national policy I mean it in this sense: to work within our national boundaries for the real happiness and welfare of our nation and country by, above all, relying on our own strength in order to retain our existence" [emphasis added]. (4)

He was equally unambiguous about his assumptions of "full sovereignty," stating: "We refer to full sovereignty as ... complete independence and freedom of action in political, economic, judicial, military, and cultural fields. Lack of sovereignty in any one of these connotes ... a total lack of sovereignty of nation and country." (5) Strict interpretation of these statements would be used by nationalist hardliners in the post-Ataturk era to denounce NATO membership, foreign aid, U.S. troop-basing, and applications to join the European Community. A similar interpretation fed the demands for autarky and state control of the economy, useful in the early years of the Republic, but increasingly economically self-defeating in the late 20th century.

This self-centered policy had its drawbacks. It encouraged introspection and ethnocentricity. It fostered a mindset that could view the world only from a Turkish perspective. …

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