The “rules-based international order” is now a recurrent theme in policy statements by senior officials of the Biden administration.
Secretary Blinken, meeting with his Chinese counterparts in Anchorage on March 18, 2021, started the talks by saying that the rules-based international order is not an abstraction; that it helps countries resolve differences peacefully, coordinate multilateral efforts effectively, and participate in global commerce with the assurance that everyone is following the same rules; that the alternative to a rules-based order would be a far more violent and unstable world for everyone.
During my years at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I sometimes asked the ambassadors in Ankara how they viewed their job in our capital since they usually stressed Turkey’s location as a unique observation post for the broad region. Many said, “never a dull moment”. I always responded that I was hoping for the day when the answer would be “boredom”, and we laughed. Because, while Turkey’s geostrategic location is an asset, it comes at a price. The end of the Cold War was a relief. But with the wars in Yugoslavia, the Caucasus and the first Gulf War, all of a sudden, we found ourselves in the middle of three major conflict areas. There was a refugee flow from Bosnia to Turkey. Our trade with Europe was disrupted. The Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline remained closed for years. Our trade with Iraq and the Gulf suffered. Energy projects in the Caucasus became more complicated. The 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the Arab spring created new challenges.
Turkey’s joining the Council of Europe and NATO in 1949 and 1952 respectively, and the launching of the EU accession process in 2005 had provided a progressive institutional framework for Turkey’s relations with the West. But our democracy started to falter as the Arab spring threw the region in turmoil. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP), lacking foresight, put all its eggs in the Muslim Brotherhood basket. It assumed a leadership role in the regime change project in Syria. Non-interference in Arab affairs ceased to be an axiom of Turkish foreign policy.
In a recent post I gave a summary of two weeks of disarray, confusion, and wobbling in Turkey. What the country has witnessed during the following two weeks gives me no other choice than to admit that my description was exaggeration. Actually, those two earlier weeks were a period of peace and calm by Turkish standards. Because a public appeal by retired admirals regarding the Canal Istanbul project, the Montreux Convention and respect for Ataturk’s secular legacy was presented by the government as a hint of a coup. The opposition was caught off guard and rode off in all directions. It was chaos. Yet, I could not help remembering the title of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s 1974 song, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”.
On July 14, 2015 the P5+1 and Iran agreed on the JCPOA.
The deal represented a sea change for Iran. It came out of the negotiation process as a successful interlocutor for the P5+1 giving a boost to regime’s legitimacy. It moved from being an adversary to a potential partner for the West. The gradual removing of the sanctions brought dynamism to its economy. Foreign companies flocked into the country. GDP growth rate surged from -1.3 % in 2015, to +13.4 % in 2016.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, was opened for signature on 11 May 2011, in Istanbul. Turkey was the first member state to ratify it.
Monday, March 8, was International Women’s Day 2021. In a message President Erdogan said:
“… To carry our country forward, to achieve our objectives, we shall keep walking, women and men, shoulder to shoulder as a nation.
“We are proud of our women who throughout history have remained at the forefront in every aspect of life, and who set examples with their struggle and achievements…
“I condemn, in strongest terms, every kind of physical and psychological violence against women, which I consider a crime against humanity.”
No one hoped for a breakthrough at the US-China talks in Anchorage. And only a few might have expected the talks to start with such an exchange of sharp rebukes. After all this was the first high-level meeting between the Biden administration and Chinese officials.
Before meeting their Chinese counterparts, Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held talks with their counterparts in Tokyo and Seoul. This was the first cabinet-level overseas travel of the Biden administration. Japanese Prime Minister Suga will be the first foreign leader to visit Washington in April for a summit meeting.
Following the Second World War, the standoff between the US and Russia, NATO and the Warsaw Pact was called the Cold War. Nonetheless, in 1969, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed. The same year, Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) were launched. These talks led to Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 1972. Thus, East-West relations moved beyond Khrushchev’s “peaceful co-existence” to a period of “détente”.
In September 1990, Congress of People’s Deputies voted for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This marked the end of a bipolar world and the beginning of a unipolar one, of US supremacy.
On February 19, President Biden addressed the global community for the first time. At 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference he defined the partnership between Europe and the US as the cornerstone of all that the West hopes to accomplish in the 21st century, just as it did in the 20th century. He said, “I know — I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined — determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.” (emphasis added)
He expressed his strong belief that democracy will and must prevail.