The phasing out of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union have changed the geopolitical environment around Turkey radically. In fact, Turkey has been touched more deeply than many other countries by the sweeping repercussions of these historic developments in world politics. Its strategic location links Turkey to the northern Middle East and the Persian Gulf, as well as to the Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian worlds, sothe twin collapses of the Cold War and the USSR produced tremors that are still felt in Ankara. Situated at the intersection of three regions where political and economic hierarchies and the territorial status quo are being reordered, sometimes violently, Turkey has moved, according to Turkish officials, from its flank position in NATO’s Cold War structure to a frontline position in the new era.
Section I of this paper will provide the historical backgrou nd within which the fundamental political and security objectives and goals of Turkey have evolved. Section II will elaborate how the momentous geostrategic changes of the last couple of years in Eurasia have helped shape new perceptions of opportunities as well as threats, and corresponding policy responses. Section III will concentrate on the new security environ ment in Turkey’s south. Section IV will look at Turkish security and defense policies, and at the ongoing reorganization and modernization of the Turkish Armed Forces in order to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War era. The focus throughout the study will be the expanded Middle East, meaning the traditional Middle East plus the former Soviet Republics in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Turkey’s political and security interests and policies and its apprehensions about the risks and threats with origins to its west, specifically, Greece and the Balkans, will be touched upon only in highly general terms in order to reflect the deep sense of exposure to unstable regions in all directions.
Finally, although the guerrilla war waged by the Marxist-oriented Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) since 1984 to establish an independent Kurdistan in Turkey’s southeast is, without doubt, the most serious challenge to the country’s political and territorial integrity, it will not be dealt with in this paper except when powerful inter-linkages with the behavior and intentions towards Turkey of other states in the region demand attention to it. The two successive Gulf Wars and the collapse of the Cold War have loosed powerful forces throughout the region and in the West in support of Kurdish nationalism in the region at large. In the case of Turkey, these external forces have directly and indirectly encouraged the escalation of the PKK’s armed struggle against the Turkish state.