A country’s foreign policy is shaped by its identity, sense of belonging, world outlook, and geographic location. This last one is a constant; the others are subject to evolution, change, and definition/redefinition within the limits of reason. In today’s polarized Turkey, we do not have a consensus on any of the first three and the last one happens to be a double-edged sword. In countries enjoying such consensus, the task of governments is to merge these with national power into policies designed to maximize national interest. This requires realism, calm, poise, prudence, consistency, and determination.
On Monday, April 25, following their visit to Kyiv, Secretaries Blinken and Austin spoke to the traveling press. They were asked the following question:
“… do you see a scenario where international support enables Ukraine to avoid losing this war to Russia, but isn’t able to fully expel Russian forces or reclaim its victory, and how would you think about such a scenario?”
On March 25, Russian General Staff deputy head Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy announced that the significant reduction of the Ukrainian military potential will now make it possible for Russia to concentrate on the main goal: the liberation of Donbas, while the operation itself will last until “total completion of goals, set by the commander-in-chief.” After the talks in Istanbul, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin also said that Russia will drastically decrease the military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv.
In its early years, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched an open-ended accession process with the EU. From day one, the process ran into difficulties because the EU countries behaved as if they regretted their decision. Ankara gradually came to believe that the process would lead nowhere. This was the firstepisode in the brief story of the past two decades.
The Turkish Government has decided to close the Turkish Straits to all warships as a result of Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine. So, I thought that an updated version of a post I had written two years ago could be timely.
Two years ago, I was trying to draw attention to the risks of the politically, financially, and environmentally extravagant, and totally unnecessary “Canal Istanbul” project. With the decline of the Turkish economy, the project is unfortunately not dead yet, but it has moved way down on the Government’s agenda. Today, not only Turkey’s but the world’s attention is focused on the Russian offensive against Ukraine. Thus, the Montreux Convention has once again become a topic of interest. And this may prove the last nail in the coffin for the Canal Istanbul project.
The Russia-West standoff over Ukraine continues. The US and its European allies are warning of a serious risk of a Russian offensive against Ukraine. Moscow is claiming that the US is trying to pull Russia into an armed conflict over Ukraine that Russia does not want. The US is sending troops to Germany, Poland, and Romania. The West is waiting for the Russian response to its written proposals which Moscow says focus only on secondary issues. Lines of argument and underlying rationale are getting increasingly blurred and confusing.
On January 26, the US and NATO delivered their written responses to Russia’s security demands in Eurasia. A day later, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the media that the responses offer grounds for serious talks only on matters of secondary importance; that there is no positive response to the main issue which is continued NATO enlargement towards the east and the deployment of strike weapons that can pose a threat to Russian territory.
With the New Year and Christmas celebrations behind, the world is back to the realities of the day. And the new year’s first surprise was the turmoil in Kazakhstan.
In their phone call of December 30, Presidents Biden and Putin had agreed to the sequence of Strategic Stability Dialogue starting on the 9th and 10th in Geneva, a NATO-Russia Council conversation on the 12th, and an OSCE meeting on the 13th.
Thus, during the past week, Secretary Blinken and senior officials of the US State Department were engaged in intensive telephone diplomacy with Washington’s allies and friends across the globe to secure a broad front against Russia in Ukraine. The readout of Deputy Secretary Sherman’s call with Georgian Foreign Minister Zalkaliani said, they “emphasized the need to uphold the right of sovereign nations to choose their own security arrangements and support Georgia and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of continued Russian aggression and discussed how to enhance peace and security in Europe.”
The top foreign and security policy item of 2021 was the strategic competition between major powers. Its subtitles were “China’s ascendancy”, “Russia’s resurgence” the “waning of American power”. The rise of authoritarianism, democracy’s decline, the failure of multilateralism, and climate change remained subjects of philosophical debate. Needless to say, Covid-19 is still the common enemy but the world failed to close ranks against it.
The so-called “Friends of Syria Group”, now history, held its first meeting in Tunis on February 24, 2012. On April 1, 2012, it met for the second time in Istanbul.
Later that month in 2012, Turkey’s Foreign Minister delivered a major foreign policy speech in the parliament. Emphasizing the genuine desire for change underlying the Arab spring, he declared that attemptsto explain the current developments with plans imposed from abroad and external conspiracies were primarily an insult to the honorable peoples of the region.