During a recent visit to Europe, President Clinton emphasized the importance of Turkey, both in Europe and for shaping the future of the critical region that lies between Europe and the wider Middle East and Central Asia. This is nothing new; during the cold war, Turkey played a central role in containing the Soviet drive toward the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
But even before that, Turkey had embarked on a difficult journey. More than 75 years ago, the newly established Turkish Republic set out to gain an undisputed place among the modern, Western, contemporary societies. In so doing, the country distanced itself from its Islamic, eastern past. Since then, Turkey has been pursuing the course prescribed by Atatiirk. In the aftermath of World War II, this process was supported and stabilized by Turkey’s firm inclusion in the Western alliance.
After the cold war, Turkey has experienced a new wave of change that for the first time in recent history fundamentally questions the established principles of the Kemalist state tradition. In addition, new foreign and security policy challenges have emerged, inducing a domestic debate over Turkey’s regional role.
One result is that Europe and the United States are confronted with a changing Turkey whose contours are only dimly visible. Heinz Kramer’s analysis endeavors to depict the main forces for change and to evaluate their impact on Turkey’s relations with its European and American allies. Internally, his focus is on the ethnic and religious challenges to the Kemalist tradition. He analyses the development of the country’s Kurdish problem and the revival of political Islam as the main challenges to the established political elites. He recommends that a stronger emphasis on liberal democratic policies would create a more stable environment for Turkish politics in the first decades of the new century.
Kramer also assesses the different options available to Turkey with the breakup of the Soviet empire. He evaluates Turkey’s choices vis-a-vis the new Turkic world of Central Asia, in relations with its regional neighbors of the Middle East, and in its continuing strong links with its allies in Europe and the United States. Kramer, a European, concludes that Europeans and Americans alike will have to take into account a stronger Turkish assertiveness in regional and international affairs. Allied policies toward Turkey must be readjusted accordingly, including the development of a continuous, high-level political dialogue.
This book could not have been written without the assistance and advice of many people to whom the author is grateful for having the time to share their thoughts. This is especially true of Turkish friends and colleagues— scholars, journalists, politicians, and officials-—who during the past twenty years have contributed to his education in Turkish social and political life. It goes without saying that none of them can be held responsible for the views expressed in the following pages.
Heinz Kramer would like to thank Richard Haass of the Brookings Institution for suggesting that he write about this subject and for having the patience to wait for its conclusion. He would also like to thank Susan Jackson, Myrna Atalla, and Mohammed Sulaiman for their verification of the manuscript and Karla Nieting for her valuable assistance throughout the project and German language verification. For the Brookings Institution Press, James Schneider edited the manuscript, Helen Winton proofread the pages, and Sherry Smith provided the index. Most importantly, the author would like to thank the German Marshall Fund of the United States for its support of this effort.
The views expressed in this book are of course those of the author and should not be ascribed to any of the persons whose assistance is acknowledged above, or to the trustees, officers, or other staff members of the Brookings Institution.
Michael H. Armacost
Turkey is a long-standing ally of the United States and Europe. Since the inception of the cold war it contributed to the effective containment of the Soviet Union by guarding the southeastern flank of the Atlantic alliance. After the demise of the Soviet Empire its strategic importance changed, but it has not diminished. Today it could play an important role in developing the energy resources of the Caspian Sea region. Its contribution to containing Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and its strategic cooperation with Israel are important for the future of the Middle East. Turkey is promoting cooperation in the Black Sea area and supporting the newly independent states (NIS) of Central Asia in their drive for national consolidation and independence. Peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean depend on Turkey’s readiness to solve its longstanding disputes with Greece and help resolve the problem of a divided Cyprus. Developing relations with various Balkan states make Turkey a key to establishing cooperative structures there. Finally, the construction of a new European security architecture depends on Turkey’s support for NATO’s enlargement and restructuring.
It is against this background that President Clinton declared,
A democratic, secular, stable and Western-oriented Turkey has supported U.S. efforts to enhance stability in Bosnia, the NIS and the Middle East, as well as to contain Iran and Iraq. Its continued ties to the West and its support for our overall strategic objectives in one of the world’s most sensitive regions is critical. We continue to support Turkey’s active, constructive role within NATO and Europe.1
This evaluation of Turkey’s strategic importance is widely shared by European political leaders. It has been repeatedly emphasized by declarations of the European Council, the meeting of the heads of state and governments of the members of the European Union. Despite the difficulties the EU has in adequately responding to Turkey’s wish for membership, the member states have a strong politico-strategic interest in binding the country firmly to its Western allies. This interest has, among others, been expressed by French Minister for European Affairs Alain Lamassoure in his capacity as acting president of the European Council when he, in explaining to the European Parliament the wish of the EU to conclude a customs union agreement with
Turkey, stressed the country’s importance:
At the crossroads of the Caucasus, the Balkans, and the Middle East, and at the door of Central Asia, it holds a strategic position which gives it a role of major importance, on the one hand as a pole of stability in this particularly troubled region and, on the other, as a moderating element in the many regional conflicts at its doorstep.2
Turkey’s ongoing but altered strategic importance coincides with far-reaching domestic and international changes that lead to the question of how far the country’s allies can simply continue their established conduct of relations with it. The international changes in the aftermath of the East-West conflict are obvious to everybody, although their exact meaning and long-term consequences are less clear. The outlines of a new world order are only dimly visible.
Because Eurasia has been most strongly affected by the upheaval in international politics, Turkey inevitably has experienced its share of change. Turkish and foreign analysts concur that today the country is facing a foreign and security policy environment completely different from what it was only ten years ago.3 It is hardly imaginable that Turkey’s relations with her Western allies will remain untouched by that development.
What is less often realized in the West is that Turkey is also undergoing extraordinary internal changes. As a side effect of the international changes, important developments such as the uneasy relations with the Kurds or the advance of politicized Islam that have long been in the offing but have been restrained by the repercussions of bipolar international relations on Turkish domestic politics could break through. Prime minister Turgut Ozal’s policy of radically opening the country to the outside world in the 1980s triggered economic and social changes that accelerated domestic political developments in the early 1990s.
Today, many established political truths of the republic’s tradition are being questioned by a growing part of Turkey’s public. The most obvious examples are the clash of political ideologies between secularists and Islamists and the debate about Turkey’s “Kurdish reality.” Such discussions would not have been possible without a general liberalization of Turkey’s political climate caused by the slow but constant growth of civil society since the second half of the 1980s.
It is far from clear where these developments, characterized by strong internal dynamics, will lead the country. “The Turkey we have known for 70 years is gone. There is a new Turkey underway in developing both geopolit-ically and domestically,” one observer has said.4 Turkey’s allies will have to respond by adapting their policies toward the country. A reevaluation and eventually a reorientation in relations between the United States and Turkey as well as between Europe and Turkey has to be addressed by U.S. and European political leaders if they want to keep the established relationship intact under the new international and domestic conditions.
This book gives a detailed but by no means comprehensive account and analysis of the main internal changes taking place in Turkey and of the country’s foreign policy outlook since the end of the cold war. It is written with a policy-oriented perspective, which means that the evaluations and prescriptive parts are also biased by my liberal democratic convictions.
In the first part the focus is on the internal challenges to the Kemalist foundations of the republic, Turkey’s established political raison d’etre. The discussion of these challenges is guided by the realization that persistent severe domestic problems prevent the country from fully exploiting the new foreign policy opportunities it is facing. The book analyzes the most important elements of the far-reaching social and economic changes Turkey has been experiencing and its inadequate political responses. The fragmentation of the parliamentary system and the fossilization of the Kemalist political practice as a long-term consequence of the 1980 military coup have been the main factors that prevent the political innovation necessary to successfully deal with the country’s most pressing political and social problems. Besides the provision of satisfactory living conditions for a fairly young and still growing population of 65 million, a lasting solution to the Kurdish problem and a convincing answer to the Islamist threat in the framework of a solidly based Western liberal democracy stand out among the challenges Ankara faces. Only bold steps in further developing the liberal and democratic elements of Turkey’s political system will provide the country with a solid base for successfully mastering the challenges of the ever more globalizing world of the next century.
The second part of the book focuses on Turkey’s new foreign and security policy environment, which is complicating the development of a comprehensive design for realizing the country’s national interests in international politics. The way political leaders resolve this situation will also determine the country’s future relations with its Western partners. The demise of the Soviet Union brought with it new challenges to the east in the geopolitical maneuverings over Caspian Basin energy resources and the long-term establishment of a political order in Central Asia. The Gulf War dragged Ankara more intensely into reshaping the regional political geometry of the Middle East by confronting it with the problem of the future of Iraq and opening the opportunity to establish strategic cooperation with Israel. All these matters are also analyzed from the point of view of American strategic interests in the Middle East.
The centerpiece of Turkey’s relations with the West, its European vocation and embedded position in the Atlantic alliance, have also been put to the test by the new international political situation. Turkey is trying to become a regional power in the eastern Mediterranean and with respect to the Balkans, which could further complicate its relations with the European Union but which also, if constructively managed, could contribute to the stabilization of Europe’s politically most volatile region. The deterioration of Turkey-EU relations proper plus the country’s creeping marginalization in the establishment of a new European security architecture could, however, lead to a lasting alienation from Europe.
Turkey and its European partners seem unable to adequately address the challenges of the new European situation. A simple continuation of past policy seems no longer possible, but promising new avenues have not been opened. If this situation continues, the overall Atlantic framework cannot remain unaffected. Thus the third part of the book analyzes the essence of American and European policies toward Turkey in more detail and proposes ideas for a more constructive management of these relations.
Far from trying to resolve the current and foreseeable problems of American and European relations with Turkey, my analysis presents a warning to Western (and Turkish) political leaders: the future conduct of relations with Turkey needs a thorough conceptual reassessment that takes into account the domestic and external changes influencing the redefinition of its place in the new international, especially the new Eurasian, political order. Otherwise, the management of international security in a region that is crucial to American and European interests could become unnecessarily difficult and expensive.
The Erosion of the Kemalist Model
For three-quarters of a century Kemalism has been the official ideology of the Turkish Republic.1 But in the past decade, doubts have arisen that this ideology is still capable of serving as the overall guide for the country in the next millennium. The principles that guided Mustafa Kemal’s efforts to establish a modern Turkey were functional for the period the country was then passing through. They were instrumental in creating a nation-state according to nineteenth-century European standards in the Anatolian heartland of the former Ottoman Empire. However, gradually they became an obstacle to Turkey’s further democratic consolidation because the country’s leading circles tended to base their policy more on an authoritarian interpretation of these principles than on a liberal democratic one, both of which are theoretically possible given the conceptual openness of the “six arrows of Kemalism.”2 Consequently, Turkey’s development toward a mature, open society and liberal Western democracy based on an efficient market economy has been punctuated by periods of narrow-minded politics that gave priority to the preservation of a state-centered political system based on a model of a closed society. The history of Turkey’s democratic transition and consolidation after its turn to a multiparty parliamentarian system following World War II has been a history of societal development and emancipation from a state elite that was reluctant to give up its tutelage of the masses and that still tends to justify its reluctance with the need to preserve …