From an Underdeveloped Country to a Regional Power
No. 1 2012 January/March
Ilter Turan

Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the Istanbul Bilgi University, President of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) (Turkey).

The Turkish Transformation

Turkey seems to be on everyone’s lips nowadays. Its impressive economic development and political perspectives have seen an increasingly keen attention of analysts across the world. This article examines Turkey’s transformation from an underdeveloped country to a regional power in eighty years, and analyzes how this change affects regional and global economics and politics. Although Russia and Turkey are very different, the challenges these countries had to address in the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century are similar in many ways. So, Russian readers may find remarkable parallels between the two countries.


Turkish modernization, having its origins in the Ottoman modernization as a response to the growing military superiority of the West that gradually turned into an existential threat to the empire, was a policy initiated and driven by the state. Unlike the Russian defensive modernization which had a stronger industrial component, Turkish modernization concentrated on the cultural transformation of society along Western lines. A bureaucratic-military elite set out to build a “modern” society by educating the citizens and inculcating “modern” values in them. This mode of change led to the growth of a strong, interventionist state that conceptualized citizenry as passive objects that needed to adopt the changes that the state demanded of them, although it often failed to persuade large segments of the population of the benefits change would bring them. Furthermore, such a strategy failed to mobilize the energy and resources of various segments of society behind policies of change, i.e. it lacked that critical element of popular mobilization which is indispensable in bringing about social change.

The early Republican leadership tried to consolidate its support first among the elite groups, planning in the long run to expand its support base to include the population at large. The military, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the universities and the quasi-official organizations representing members of the free professions, all receiving a modern education, were rendered into pillars of the regime. The linkage with the masses, on the other hand, was established through the intermediation of the local notables that came together with state elites within the framework of the single Republican People’s Party. The RPP did not have extensive membership. Rather than possessing a clearly defined ideology, it represented a modernist outlook. Rather than aiming wholesale transformation of society, it preferred controlled change. It was concerned that unless the central values of the republic such as laicism (a movement demanding the removal of religion from various spheres of life – Ed.) and republicanism were vigilantly protected, the proponents of the ancien regime would raise their heads and threaten the survival of the republic.

In foreign policy domain, the early Republican governments aimed both to settle issues left behind from the Lausanne Peace Treaty that Turkey had signed with the Allies after a war of liberation, and modify those aspects of the Treaty that it had found most difficult to accept. Poor in material resources that could be allocated for the pursuit of foreign policy goals, Turkey preferred to practice a low level of involvement in international affairs and used means that did not necessitate expending major resources such as going to the International Court of Justice or settling differences through negotiations and international conferences. These considerations produced a policy of neutrality that was continued as it became more and more evident that the world was getting ready to go to another war. Accordingly, Turkey signed a number of defensive alliances, but in each case making sure that such relationships would not pull the country into hostilities among major powers, Ally or Axis. The country’s strategic location, on the other hand, encouraged all parties to court it, making it possible for the country to reclaim through the Montreux Convention in 1936 the sovereignty it had lost on the Turkish Straits at Lausanne as well as recover Antioch-Alexandretta that the French had tried to incorporate into their Syrian mandate in 1939.

Turkey maintained its neutral stance throughout the war, much to the frustration of the Allies. As the tide of war turned against Germany, the Allies, in order to bring the war to a successful conclusion rapidly, insisted that they use Turkish territory to fight the Germans. Turkey resisted, however, saying that it be given the weaponry it had been promised in agreements so that it could ensure its own defense. Turkey managed to stay out of the war. Many Turks feel that this is what saved Turkey from being liberated from the Germans by Soviet troops but becoming a part of the “Soviet world” in the process.

Such neutrality was not without its costs, however. The Soviets lost interest in extending the 1925 Treaty of Friendship and Non-Aggression. They expressed a strong desire to change the regime of the Turkish Straits so as to have a say in their operation as a Black Sea country. They also insinuated that changes on the border of the Georgian S.S.R. were needed. Roosevelt was in sympathy with the first of these demands. Turkey felt threatened, but it did not have many friends in the new international order that was beginning to take shape.


The founding leader of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk died in 1938. Turkey went through the war under the leadership of ?smet ?n?n?. As the war came to a close, Mr. ?n?n? quickly judged that Turkey should join the Western Bloc in the emerging rivalry between it and the Socialist Bloc. This policy was shaped more by security considerations that the Soviets wanted to expand at the expense of Turkey, rather than questions of ideology, but it necessitated domestic policy adjustments. President ?n?n? further judged that the best way to enhance Turkey’s acceptability in the Western camp was the introduction of political competition.

Two factors of a domestic nature facilitated a democratic transition. First, during the war, Turkey had exported agricultural products and raw materials. The associated commercial activity had led to the emergence of a new layer of local business elite that wanted a political opening to carry their newly acquired economic power to the political arena which was occupied by the traditional local notables who were closely linked with the RPP. The peasantry that had been forced throughout the war into sacrifice and deprivation to help maintain a fully mobilized army, supported the demands for change. Second, the regime lacked an ideology that supported the continuation of a single party system. In fact, the westernization outlook of the regime implied that Turkey wanted to become like Western European countries which were characterized by democratic systems.

Turkey’s democratic opening came quickly in 1946. A number of rival parties were allowed to participate in the 1946 elections. The Democratic Party (DP) established a small foothold in parliament. This was followed by liberalizing changes in the electoral system, law of associations, press laws and powers of the police. The four consecutive RPP governments during the 1946-1950 interim vacillated between liberalization and return to single party rule, but Mr. ?n?n? did not veer off course and led the country to 1950 elections in which the DP won an overwhelming victory. In the meantime, Turkey had become the recipient of U.S. economic assistance under Point Four and later the Marshall plan. It also became a member of the Council of Europe in 1949.

Becoming a member of NATO was a more complex matter. European members of NATO were concerned that Turkey’s inclusion would not only take away American resources that they themselves might need, but it would also expand the area to be defended by the Alliance too far, thereby exposing Western Europe to new dangers. The British, on the other hand, saw the Middle East in which they included Turkey as their zone of influence and were therefore reluctant to see Turkey move into an organization which was clearly run by the U.S. Furthermore, the allies felt that the Turks had shown themselves to be not dependable since they were thought to have failed in delivering on their alliance promises during the war. To disprove this last point, Turkey committed an infantry brigade to join the U.S. and others that went to the defense of South Korea against an invasion effort from the North.

Despite a lack of enthusiasm among many members of NATO regarding Turkey’s membership, the U.S., as the planner of the strategy of the Alliance, saw that Turkey could contribute in many ways to its capabilities – from the security of the Eastern Mediterranean to constituting a Southern flank that could serve as a pincer along with Norway on Soviet forces in case they staged an attack on the Central front. In 1952, Turkey, along with Greece, became a member of NATO.



As the Cold War continued with intensity, the individual members of the Alliance had to yield to American leadership. Turkey was more accommodating to this leadership than some other allies for two reasons. First, it was more exposed to the threats perceived to be emanating from the Warsaw Pact than many other NATO members. Second, it was economically weak and dependent on the Alliance for military and economic assistance. The alliance connection made it possible for Turkey to modernize its military equipment, improve its training and enhance its defensive capabilities. It also helped overcome the periodic economic crises that the Turkish economy underwent in an almost predictable fashion.

The economic dimension of the relationship may need some elaboration. The republic inherited an agricultural economy, much of it comprised of villages not integrated into a national economy. Even before Turkey became a member of NATO, American economic assistance helped Turkey to start developing a system of highways, resulting in linking the agricultural hinterland to the national economy. Peasants could now raise products which they would be able to send to urban markets. In a matter of a few years, an integrated national economy emerged and expanded. Demand for goods and services, which proved difficult to meet, soared.

The war had sapped the country’s already limited resources. The capital needed for reconstruction was lacking. The state had tried to allocate some funds to industrial development. In 1933, it had initiated an industrial development plan that was only partly implemented as a new war broke out in Europe. During the war, some capital accumulated in the hands of merchants that were involved in producing, collecting and selling raw materials and agricultural products. Based in small towns, however, members of this stratum were far from constituting an entrepreneurial class that would lead the country into industrialization. After the war, once again, the state assumed the leadership of the industrialization effort by both making industrial investments itself and by making cheap money available to private entrepreneurs who wanted to develop industries.

The idea behind this industrialization effort was import substitution. The proponents of such a policy had thought that by producing what Turkey imported they would render the country less dependent on the external world. This assumption was not borne out in implementation. While industrial production did in fact increase, thereby reducing the need to import those items that were now produced in the country, this only led to a change in the composition of imports from finished goods to capital and intermediate goods. Furthermore, now that there was an industry, inability to finance imports threatened to close down factories and cause widespread unemployment. On the other hand, since Turkey could not export generally its poor quality industrial products with uncompetitive prices, the only way to finance its economy was borrowing.

The mismatch between Turkey’s external earnings deriving from raw materials and agricultural products and its larger external spending to finance the import substitution-oriented industries constituted the background for periodic crises. The expansion of the economy was financed by external borrowing until a point at which Turkey’s ability to pay back the loans came into question. When Turkey failed to find the funds, an economic crisis ensued. Turkey as a security asset enticed the allies to search for ways of helping Turkey meet the crisis. It became standard that Turkey would be asked to adopt a reform program characterized by austerity measures and devaluation of the Turkish Lira under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund. In return the allies led by the United States and in later years by Federal Germany would lead consortia to meet Turkey’s hard currency needs. As the stability of the economy was restored, the same process of expansion, eventual inability to borrow and a crisis repeated itself.

The 1973 oil crisis marked the beginning of a period where the Turkish strategy of import substitution-oriented industrialization proved unsustainable. For the next seven years, as Turkey’s efforts to overcome its economic difficulties failed to produce satisfactory results, private industries, a sector that had grown significantly over time, came to recognize that a major change in economic policy was in order. By the end of 1979, Turkey was not able to import as much fuel as it needed and it could not pay the salaries of its diplomats, a reality which forced the government to consider changing the basic orientation of economic policy. The change came on January 24, 1980. On that day, the Council of Ministers changed rules, regulations and principles that had been devised since the beginning of the Second World War in order to “protect the value of the Turkish Lira.” Many restrictions on possessing, transferring, selling foreign currency were lifted, marking the beginning of a new era in Turkey’s economy and, as we shall discuss shortly, its foreign policy.

At the time the so called 24th of January 1980 decisions of the Council of Ministers was issued, few people, if any, appreciated the major transformation the change implied. Soon exports began to increase, it became easier to find hard currency and the Turkish economy began to grow rapidly. The changes had initiated a period of export-led growth that continues to this day. Through a relatively short period of time, the Turkish economy has become more and more integrated into the world economic system and its place has risen to that of the 17th largest economy in the world (sixth in Europe) and Turkey has become a member of the G20.



Opting for export-led economic growth in 1980 was the first of the two major events that has led to the transformation of Turkey’s domestic and international politics. The strategy of export-led growth rendered Turkey into a “trading state” in which economic rather than pure security considerations began to play a major role. Expressed differently, security became redefined with economic factors occupying a place of prominence which they had not had before.

The next important event, of course, is the end of the Cold War marked by the demise of the Warsaw Pact and the break-up of the Soviet Union. The disappearance of the “adversary” meant that NATO members could now be less constrained in formulating their own foreign policies and establishing closer relations with the former adversaries including Russia. We may then say that 1991 marks the beginning point for the new Turkish foreign policy.

The trading state orientation has guided Turkey to search for new markets around the world. In addition to the neighboring regions of Russia and the FSU, the countries of the Middle East and the Balkans; African countries, China and other Asian countries, as well as the major countries of Latin America have all become targets of Turkish economic expansion. As the importance of economic considerations have ascended in policy-making, successive governments have become more sensitized to the political concerns of countries with which trade was expanding or was expected to expand.

Equally importantly, in domestic politics, the voters have come to judge governments mainly by economic performance. They have become less and less impressed with security and/or ideology based arguments that imply a necessity for economic deprivation. Furthermore, as the country has become more prosperous mainly through the growth of private economic activity, society has become stronger vis a vis the state. A proliferation of autonomous civil society organizations capable of making demands from the government has taken place. Turkish politics has become more democratized and public opinion has begun to play a more important role in the shaping of both domestic and foreign policy.

In short, Turkish foreign policy has undergone substantial change after 1991. The time since then may be divided into two reasonably distinct periods, with Turkey as an ally with broader concerns, and Turkey as an autonomous actor on world stage. The first period beginning in 1991 lasted until 2007 elections. The second period is continuing.



During the first period, while Turkish foreign policy aimed to develop more comprehensive and closer relations with former adversaries as well as newly independent countries, Turkey took care to retain and cultivate good relations within the Western camp, believing that Turkey’s basic interests lied with the West.

The clearest indication of the importance Turkey attached to the Western connection was its dedication to pursuing membership in the European Union. As shall be recalled, Turkey had searched for a close relationship with the EEC shortly after it had come into being. These efforts had culminated in 1963 in the Ankara Association Treaty and an additional protocol in 1970 depicting a three stage process through which Turkey would be readied for full membership. Mutual reluctance for the rapid advancement of the relationship deriving, on the one hand, from Turkish feelings that membership would seriously undermine its independence and destroy its fledgling economy, and the European feeling that an underdeveloped economy such as that of Turkey would be expensive and difficult to digest, had rendered progress on full membership slow. Nevertheless, a customs union was achieved in 1996. Although Turkey was not invited to membership at the 1997 Luxembourg meetings when East European countries were asked, after strong Turkish protests, it was declared a candidate country in Helsinki in 1999 and began accession negotiations in 2005.

Within NATO, Turkey also took care to participate in Alliance projects. Accordingly, Turkey contributed troops to peacekeeping or peace enforcement in such diverse places as Lebanon, Somalia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Afghanistan after 9/11. It also lent support to the enforcement of a No Fly Zone in Northern Iraq within the framework of Operation Provide Comfort. The only major disagreement that emerged during this first period with an ally was in 2003 with the U.S. regarding the use of Turkish territory to send troops to Iraq. In retrospect, the Turkish refusal becomes understandable. Turkey was concerned that the American intervention might stimulate Kurdish separatism in the country’s southeast region which borders Iraq. It was also concerned that Turkey’s cooperation with the U.S. on Iraq’s invasion would undermine its improving relations with the Arab World. After some disillusionment on both sides, the two countries proceeded to mend fences, however, since they had too many common interests that would be damaged if they allowed Turkey’s decision to deny passage to U.S. troops dominate their relationship.

During this period, Turkey also took care to develop its relations in its neighborhood. Efforts were made to improve relations with the countries of the Middle East. Turkey began to reach out to regions of the world which it had not before, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Relations with Russia also intensified owing mainly to their economic dimension. While Russia constituted an important export market for Turkish goods and services, it also became a major source of energy for growing energy needs of the Turkish economy.



The elections of July 2007 appear to have been a turning point in Turkey’s domestic and international politics. The elections showed increasing support for the Justice and Development Party and its policies while revealing that the opposition was too weak to offer an effective challenge to the government. In the meantime, the economy had recovered from the difficulties experienced in 2001 and had shown robust growth after 2002 for the sixth consecutive year. Grown more confident, the government began slowly to engage in a more autonomous foreign policy, becoming more manifest with the appointment of Ahmet Davutoglu to the foreign ministry. Professor Davutoglu had already been the foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister and was said to be highly influential in the formation of policy before his rise to the cabinet post. His assumption of the ministerial seat, his intellectual talents and skills in articulating his viewpoints soon came to be reflected in foreign policy.

Mr. Davutoglu formalized his thinking into the “zero problems with neighbors” doctrine. Accordingly, Turkey would try to address all problems it might have with its neighbors and try to solve them through peaceful means. Mr. Davutoglu also argued that any event that occurred in the regions bordering Turkey was of concern to Turkey and Turkey would be present there. The doctrine did not appear to run counter to Turkey’s general orientation of keeping close ties with its Western allies, but represented a shift of focus to the immediate neighborhood. But more importantly, Turkey has begun to initiate and pursue foreign policy actions on its own, sometimes in harmony and sometimes differing from those of its traditional allies.

The points of convergence between Turkey’s foreign policy and those of its traditional allies continue to be strong, built on the idea of working towards a world in which democratic values and market economies prevail and where relations between states are conducted in the absence of the use of force. This orientation of shared values evolved into allied cooperation in the past, as mentioned earlier above, and continues to constitute the basis of current cooperation more recently in Egypt, Libya and Syria. It is also behind Turkey’s having agreed to the placing of radars for a NATO anti-ballistic missile system in Eastern Turkey. In the past, Turkey’s allies welcomed Turkish initiatives to enhance regional peace. To cite two examples, Turkey mediated between Syria and Israel in order to initiate proximity talks regarding the Golan Heights in 2008, which was seen as a desirable development, and it agreed to smoothen its relations with Armenia, an action that has not succeeded so far but earned Turkey wide approval of its friends.

The continuation of reliable alliance links should not lead us, however, to overlook major problems that exist between Turkey and its allies deriving from three different sources: Turkey’s problematic relations with the EU, Turkey’s problematic relations with the United States, and Turkey’s aspirations as a rising power to have a greater say in world affairs. It may be useful to discuss these separately.



While the transformation of the Turkish economy and integration into the global system enhanced Turkey’s desire to become a full member of the European Union, the end of the Cold War and the ensuing changes in Europe’s security environment reduced the interest of the EU in seeing Turkey among its ranks. Three problem areas have emerged in the Turkish-EU relationship.

The first is that the EU authorities have found Turkey’s performance on democracy and human rights in need of improvement, arguing that progress towards membership is hampered by problems encountered in this area. Turkey has tried to accommodate EU expectations by changing laws, training civil servants to be more sensitive about observing the rights of individuals, and setting up specialized agencies to address EU complaints. Recently, even the political power of the military, a constant ground for EU criticism, has been reduced through trials in which some top level commanders are being tried for having planned an intervention and for having conducted activities to discredit civilian governments.

The second problem is Cyprus. During the big expansion to take in Eastern European countries, Greece threatened to subvert the entire process unless Cyprus was also included. Other members yielded, violating in the process a basic principle of admission to the EU that a country should settle its outstanding problems with neighbors before becoming a member so that these problems would not be rendered into EU problems. Since having become a member, the successive governments of Cyprus have assumed, probably unrealistically, that they need not make compromises regarding the unification of Cyprus since a combination of Turkey’s desire to join the EU and its ability to get other EU members to support its cause will make unification possible on its own terms.

Evidence so far has been to the contrary. While Cyprus has blocked the opening of eight or more chapters on Turkey’s accession negotiations, Turkey’s resolution on the nature of an acceptable solution has not changed. Rather, a number of other “complications” have arisen. EU-NATO cooperation has been blocked by Turkey since Turkey cannot be represented in Western European defense planning with the EU. Cyprus, in return, cannot be admitted to NATO councils. More recently, a new conflict has erupted between Greek Cyprus on the one side, and the Turkish Cypriot state and Turkey on the other, regarding exploration for oil and gas in the island’s exclusive economic zone.

Some observers have suggested that the Turkish-EU relationship is hostage to Cyprus. While it is true that Cyprus appears to constitute a barrier to the relationship, the presence of other impediments confounded by proclivity of some other EU members to hide behind Cyprus in stopping progress on Turkey’s accession suggests that not all credit should necessarily go to one small country.

This leads to the third problem. Some important members of the EU have their doubts about Turkey’s joining the EU. Two founding members of the EU, in particular France and Germany, do not want Turkey in the EU but rather propose a special relationship. Although sometimes cultural and religious grounds have been expressed as the primary reason for their reluctance, a possibility that the accession of Turkey would change internal power balances within the EU and challenge the Franco-German condominium should not be overlooked.

The Turkey-EU relationship today is at pretty much a standstill. Turkey has lost its initial enthusiasm about becoming part of the EU though successive governments have confirmed their attachment to EU values. The EU, for its part, has failed to become the power center that it has aspired to be and is currently embroiled in deep economic problems. Both sides take care to insure that the relationship does not rupture. Turkey conducts substantial bilateral relations with individual members to its satisfaction. Despite talk about eventual Turkish membership, there seems to be no persuasive ground at the moment on which to predict a brighter future in the relationship. These days, EU membership counts for less and less as a determinant of Turkish foreign policy.



The Turkish-American relationship slowly came under strain after the end of the Cold War. The American leadership, used to determining the strategies and the major policies of the alliance, assumed that it would continue to operate within the same framework while Turkey, under the widely altered circumstances, felt that it could now act more independently.

Seeing many common interests and wanting to preserve the close relationship that they had developed during the Cold War, Turkey and the U.S. have tried to find the appropriate expression to describe their relationship. Initially dubbing it “strategic,” they have finally settled on “model partnership.” While such an expression does not give an indication of the nature of the relationship, it is clear that both sides perceive substantial common interests and would like to cooperate in achieving them. Being pragmatists, both governments are oriented towards the future and try not to ponder on past difficulties.

The multiplicity of power centers in the American political system, however, carries the potential of producing unexpected difficulties in the relationship. The anti-Turkish activities of the ethnic lobbies in the U.S. Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives, have accounted for an arms embargo to Turkey that lasted for three years during 1974-1977 and stood in the way of the sale of some arms to Turkey. In more recent times, tensions have derived from the introduction of Armenian Genocide resolutions. While the passing of such a resolution may not bring concrete results, it is an emotionally charged issue with the Turkish public which, in turn, may lead Turkish governments to take radical steps that would put the “model” relationship to test.

Until rather recently, Turkey could count on the support of the Jewish lobby to counter the weight of Armenian and Greek lobbies in the U.S. Congress. The progressive erosion of good relations between Israel and Turkey, however, starting with the severe Israeli attack on Gaza and peaking with the killing of nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying humanitarian assistance to Gaza, by Israeli commandos on the high seas, has generated criticism from AIPAC. Turkey may no longer count on the support of the Jewish lobby.

Despite difficulties, actual and potential, both countries depend on each other and will therefore work hard to maintain a friendly working relationship in the future. Turkey not only needs American intelligence and some sophisticated weaponry in its efforts to fight PKK terrorism in its southeast, but also benefits from the broader security which NATO provides under U.S. leadership. The U.S., on the other hand, needs to work with Turkey in achieving stability in the Middle East.



During the recent years, a number of factors have come together that have contributed to the self perception of Turkey by its policymakers as a regional power that is also in a position to influence global politics. Turkey’s strong economic performance has constituted a beginning point for this development. Turkey has gradually ceased to rely on the support and assistance of other countries and international institutions for its economic prosperity. The economic resources it has generated, on the other hand, has made it possible for it to extend economic and technical assistance to poorer countries within the realm of Turkish interest such as the Turkic republics of Central Asia and the small and relatively poor countries of the Balkans.

Turkey’s claim to regional leadership has also been facilitated by the decline of others such as Egypt with its traditional leadership role in the Arab world. Turkey’s ability to talk to conflicting parties has further strengthened this role. Finally, the fact that Turkey has an operating democratic system that has produced stable and effective governments for a decade has cemented it.

None of these factors would explain Turkish aspirations without taking into account the desire of the country’s current leadership to assume a regional and global leadership role in international politics. As the new leadership has become more confident and assertive, it has also become painfully aware that there exists a world order with its assumptions, philosophy, values, codes of conduct and institutions, all favoring the victors of the Second World War. It seems not easy for newcomers to be incorporated into this system and bring their newly enhanced power to bear on regional and global politics.

The Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, frustrated by the incapabilities, insufficiencies, insincerities and double standards of the world order, has chosen to cooperate with its major actors and, at the same time, challenge it. Accordingly, Mr. Erdogan has voted against a UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran, and has rendered a very harsh critique of the United Nations in the opening session of the General Assembly in September 2011 while extending support, for example, to NATO operations in Libya.

Some observers have called this mode of behavior “Third Worldist” while one has argued that “Gaullist” describes the phenomenon better. Rather than focusing on names, describing it might be preferable. The new foreign policy is revisionist in rhetoric but more conventional in what the country actually does in the domain of external relations. Some of the rhetoric may be converted to policy if international conditions allow it, but that remains to be seen.

In terms of regional politics, Turkey, after some hesitation, has sided with the demands for change and democratization. The Prime Minister enjoys visiting countries in the region where he seems to appeal to the masses by putting some of his revisionist rhetoric into practice. He has achieved success in isolating Israel so as to force it to respond to the plight of the Palestinians but to no avail. At the more pragmatic level, he has worked hard for the removal of visa requirements between Turkey and the countries of the region and has promoted growth of trade and investment among Turkey and its neighbors.

It seems that Turkey will continue its revisionist rhetoric and its pragmatic day-to-day conduct of external politics as power shifts continue from the Euro-Atlantic region towards Asia. It is probably inaccurate to attribute grand goals to Turkish foreign policy such as leading the Islamic world or working to reconstitute the Ottoman Empire. What we observe is the emergence of a middle power with an ambitious leader that may sometimes overjudge his own powers, but aiming to enhance the power position of his country during a period of a major world economic crisis and rapidly changing circumstances.



How does the transformation of Turkish foreign policy affect Turco-Russian relations? It may be appropriate to note that the current state of relations with growing trade and the repeal of visa requirements between the two countries, with Russia poised to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey, has been a part of this change. There is no reason to suspect that relations, particularly in the economic domain, will not continue to develop in the future. There are still reasons to suspect, however, that in addition to relations characterized by cooperation, there will be others that can best be described as being competitive.

What are the elements of the competitive dimension in the bilateral relationship? To begin with, the Turkey’s claims to being regional power includes areas that Russia has tended to perceive as its exclusive domain such as the Caucasus and Central Asia. Second, while Russia appears to be interested in monopolizing the energy supply sources and routes to Europe, Turkey is interested in their diversification. Third, Russia has identified with the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East while Turkey has committed itself to democratizing change. Fourth, Russia is a beneficiary of the post-Second World War international order which Turkey challenges. Other elements of competition may easily be identified and new ones will inevitably evolve.

The psychological adjustment that Russia has had to make to being reduced to a middle power from that of a superpower and the feelings of insecurity that change has generated, the authoritarian nature of the Russian political system, the shortcomings of its judicial system, its failure to develop a market economy, its willingness to use economic tools to achieve political ends constitute important elements of a background against which small problems may easily evolve into major difficulties. Turkey, too, may exhibit overconfidence about its newly acquired power and international standing, and not be sufficiently appreciative of Russian psychology or concerns. This difficult background calls for prudence, care and patience to sustain and develop what is a highly and mutually beneficial relationship.