Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Turkey as a Regional Power and the Caucasus

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Turkey as a Regional Power and the Caucasus

Article excerpt

As a regional power, Turkey is increasingly being faced with unwanted situations because of its geo-strategic gateway status both on the East-West and North-South directions, and the spillover effects of the instability emanating from its neighbors. Therefore, it is imperative for Turkey, regarded as a model country in the region, to develop certain solution oriented policies in order to resolve the surrounding instability. Otherwise, not only the regional power status of Turkey will be void, but also its spheres of influence will be lost to other regional and global power contenders.

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When we look at recent history, public opinion seems to be highly critical of Turkey's ineffective regional policies due to economic, political and military reasons. Mostly unfair and unfounded, these criticisms either portray Turkey as a regional 'giant' who comes up with 'midget' policies, or claim that Turkey only follows the footsteps of global powers such as the U.S. In order to verify their claims, this approach uses Turkish position in Iraq war and the Middle East, Turkish-Russian and Turkish-Caucasus relations, and Turkey's Cyprus policy against the EU and Greece as examples of Turkey's secondary position.

The first problematic here is, within the international balance of power system, whether or not Turkey can act as a regional power and establish policies accordingly. When we look for a realist answer to this question, we have to consider the economic and power structures of Turkey, the priorities of existing governments, and Turkey's relations with regional and global powers.

Caucasus can provide us some of the most interesting case studies through which we can analyze the foreign policy processes and efficiency of Turkey. Recent developments in Caucasus and foreign policy responses of Turkey can help us understand the general outlook of Turkish foreign policy, its targets and priorities, as well as the policy making processes. Furthermore, this can provide us guidance in evaluating the efficacy of Turkey as a regional power.

When we talk about the Caucasus policies of Turkey, the first thing that needs to be mentioned is Turkey's unsurprising principle of respecting and protecting the independence and territorial integrity of the newly independent states in the region. Ever since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and throughout the subsequent disagreements and conflicts in the region, this has been the focal point of Turkey's position towards the region. This approach had caused certain tension with the separatist groups and their supporters, and from time to time with the established states. For example, there were tense moments with Russia because of the Chechnya issues, and with Abkhaz and the Abkhaz diasporas due to the problems in Abkhazia.

The second part of Turkey's policies towards the political situation and conflicts in the Caucasus emerges in the form of joint action with the international organizations and Western allies. It is possible to say that this approach is preferred by the foreign policy decision makers because it is subtle and does not tilt the regional power balances in one way or another. However, an important consequence of this approach is that, it curbs the capabilities of Turkey as a regional power and prevents it from taking a more proactive role in decision making. Yet, it should also be kept in mind that, outside its official foreign policy position, Turkey establishes informal relations with groups that are parties to the regional conflict in the Caucasus. This approach was particularly implemented during the early 1990s when central authority was not quite established in the Caucasus, including Russia. In fact, this situation had fostered Turkey's role and power in regional politics and power balances. Nonetheless, due to the limitations Turkey had in terms of allocating resources to these issues, and also due to the changes in the regional power relations, by 2000, a new equilibrium emerged in the region and thus Turkey gave up on its previous inclinations. …

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