Turkey’s Changing Role in the World

June 25, 2010 — Dr. Henri J. Barkey and Dr. Kemal Kirisci joined us for a discussion on the implications of Turkey’s changing role in regional and global affairs. Dr. Barkey is a visiting scholar in the Carnegie Middle East Program and the Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor at Lehigh University. He served on the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff working on issues related to the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, and intelligence from 1998 to 2000. Dr. Kirisci is a professor at the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Bogazici University in Istanbul and was the director of the Center for European Studies there from 2002-2008. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Kirisci began by explaining Turkey’s changing foreign policy approach in the last few years. One of the driving forces behind a more ambitious foreign policy has been the country’s democratization, leading to an increasing role for business and civil society. There is an amplified interest in economic interdependence and the opening up of markets in the region, especially given the country’s lack of natural resources.

Dr. Barkey focused in on this theme further, discussing specifically the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its role in leading Turkey’s ambitious foreign policy directives. The country’s previous parties and leaders have focused on limited issues such as Cypress, while the AKP hopes to position Turkey in a more central role regionally as well as globally. Three fundamental elements behind such thinking are (1) the view that Turkey’s strategic location is matched by no other country; (2) the country’s growing economic prosperity and stability, with a new class of business people emerging from an export-driven economy that is quickly replacing previously inward-orientated economic practices; and (3) the country’s unique cultural and historic ties to the Middle East.

The panelists addressed questions on the implications of Turkey’s changing ambitions for US-Turkey relations. Regional concerns were also raised in the discussion, specifically focusing on Turkey’s relations with Armenia, Israel, and Iran. Both experts were conscious to frame their explanations through the lens of Turkey’s overarching goal of getting to zero problems with neighbors. This is the string tying together most of the country’s positions on regional issues, and ultimately, on global issues as well.

Security for a New Century is a nonpartisan discussion group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].

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