Turkey: The Emergence of a New Foreign Policy the Neo-Ottoman Imperial Model
Constantinides, Stephanos, Journal of Political and Military Sociology
This article focuses on Turkey's ambitions in the Balkans with an inevitable reference to the Greek-Turkish relations. Undoubtedly Turkey has reached a significant point in its evolution as a nation-state; it is now at crossroads. For the first time since its creation on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire by Mustafa Kemal in 1923, it is seriously challenged and threatened as a unitary state by the Kurdish revolt and other centrifugal movements. On the other hand, the reinforcement of Islamic radical movements challenge Turkey's secular orientation. Its foreign policy is influenced by these events. The Turkish Balkan policy is connected with the ambitions of this country to play a role of regional leader in three strategic areas: the Middle East, the Balkans, and the ancient Soviet Republics of the Caucasus-Central Asia. We suggest that contrary to Ataturk's heritage, the Turkey of today is returning to what we call a Neo-Ottomanism that is to say to a foreign policy based on the Imperial Ottoman tradition. Therefore, its Balkan ambitions are to be considered inside this theoretical scheme. INTRODUCTION Modern Turkey, the nation-state republic, was born from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, in 1923. Established partly in Europe (area of 23, 623 km2) and essentially in Asia (area of 756,953 km2), Turkey has a population of 60.8 millions. European Turkey lies west of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus. The Black Sea is linked with the Mediterranean, giving Turkey control of important waterways. Asian Turkey, known also as Anatolia, with fertile coastal plains constitutes the mainland of the country. The geostrategical importance of the country "at a multifold crossroads between East and West, North and South, Christendom and Islam," and the fact that it was the main obstacle to Soviet expansion in the Mediterranean,"the southeast keystone of NATO during the Cold War"1, facilitated its integration to the Atlantic Alliance and its ties with Western Europe and the United States. Turkey's economy is still largely dependent on agriculture, although since 1980, more than half of the population lives in urban centers. In spite of the fact that agriculture only accounts for 20% of the GNP, it employs almost half of the labor force. Conversely, manufacturing provides about 30% of GNP but employs a relatively small percentage of the labor force. The per capita income remains lower than in other industrialized countries (around 5000 dollars) but unemployment is under control because many Turks work abroad, especially in Germany. The inflation rate is very high in comparison with Western countries (around 20%). Services, particularly tourism, are growing rapidly. Remittances from workers abroad, tourism, income and foreign aid provide the Turkish economy with the necessary foreign exchange. Even with these weaknesses, Turkey is on the road to industrialization and with a population of over sixty million, it constitutes an important market for western countries.2Although the foundation of the Republic in 1923 was seen as a new era based on pre-Islamic secular traditions, this situation has radically changed in recent years. Although there was in the beginning a vision of discontinuity between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic, one now observes an effort to build a kind of affiliation of contemporary Turkey to the Empire. Kemal Ataturk's reforms are now challenged by Islamists while the attachment to the West is also contested. In its foreign policy, Turkey is no longer guided by Kemalism. Participation at the summits of the Islamic Conference, visions on areas which were part of the Empire e.g. Kirkuk or even all of northern Iraq.3 efforts to play a role in areas where the Ottoman Empire was present like the Balkans and the Middle East indicate that...
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