The Balkan Trust for Democracy
helping to deuse a series o crisis-prone relationships onurkey’s borders, most notably with Greece and Syria. “Zeroproblems with neighbors” may have been a sel-denedcaricature, but it has been a reasonably accurate descriptiono the benign regional environment acing urkey over thelast decade. Tis was also a highly permissive environmentin economic terms, encouraging a signicant expansion o urkey’s commercial ties with Middle Eastern and Eurasianneighbors, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, the Gul Coopera-tion Council states, and above all, Russia. Political scientistKemal Kirisci’s description o contemporary urkey as a“trading state” is very apt. o reverse the traditional maxim,urkish policy under AKP has been a case o the agollowing trade.Te erosion o urkey’s security-centric worldview coin-cided with a period in which the PKK insurgency, whilenot eliminated, appeared relatively contained. Certainly,the level o violence, while rising in recent years, has beenlow when compared to the 1990s, when perhaps 40,000people were killed in the insurgency, counter-insurgency,and political violence. Despite the continued prominence o PKK attacks in urkish perceptions, urkish public opinionhad become progressively less “hawkish” on oreign andsecurity policy. Tis trend is clearly illustrated in recentndings rom the German Marshall Fund’s
survey. In the 2011 edition o the study, urks andEuropeans exhibit virtually the same views on the ques-tion o the “use o orce to obtain justice,” with only a thirdregarding this as acceptable.
(Te most recent spate o PKK violence, above all the October 19, 2011 attack that killed 24urkish troops, may well reverse this trend).A relatively benign regional environment, coupled withhigh growth, took the edge of o urkey’s tradition-ally conservative, status quo-oriented, and elite-drivenoreign policy. Over the last ew years, in particular, theAKP leadership has embraced what might be described asan increasingly nonaligned strategy, seeking new ties toother emerging powers and adopting some o the oreignpolicy vocabulary o the global south and the ashionableobsession with so power. Te anities and concerns o the prime minister and the oreign minister — and mucho the urkish public — have also been reected in aconrontational policy toward Israel, the Palestinian issue,
German Marshall Fund of the United States,
Transatlantic Trends 2011: Key Findings.
. The comparable gure for U.S. respondents was 60 percent.
and Gaza in particular. On these, and on other questions,personalities play a role; this is hardly a unique example, butencouraged by a strategic environment in which urkey’straditional alliance relationships have been o secondary concern.
The End of a Permissive Environment
Are we looking at the end o urkey’s ambitious “secondwave” in international policy? Several signs point in thisdirection. First, the extraordinary economic growth thaturkey has enjoyed in recent years may not be sustain-able. Current projections suggest that urkish growth may all rom the prevailing 8-9 percent to perhaps 2 percentnext year — and that might still be high by U.S. and Euro-pean standards. At the same time, economic conditions inurkey’s Middle Eastern neighborhood have deterioratedsubstantially. Chaos in Syria, new sanctions and a less posi-tive relationship with Iran, and an unsettled environmentrom North Arica to the Gul will likely put the brakeson urkey’s trade and investment ties to the region. radi-tional markets in Europe will remain critical to the urkisheconomy, but the outlook there is equally dim. Overall, it isquestionable whether urkey can maintain a commercially driven external policy when the international economy appears set or protracted low growth, i not renewed reces-sion.Second, the strategic environment in urkey’s immediateneighborhood is now ar rom benign. In the space o ayear, urkey’s relations with Syria have gone rom boomto bust. Te political relationship between Ankara and theBashar al-Assad regime has deteriorated to an extraordi-nary degree. Even i the regime in Damascus manages tohang on to power, the extent o its repression and alienationrom the international community suggests that there canbe no going back in terms o Ankara’s engagement withSyria. Under Assad, the country will remain an unstablepariah. Under other scenarios, urkey may ace a chaoticand conict-ridden Syria or some time to come. In eithercase, the possible security implications will be stark roma urkish perspective, and will range rom uncontrolledreugee ows to the revival o PKK sae havens across theborder. urkey’s recent large-scale cross-border operationsagainst PKK havens in northern Iraq suggest that Ankarais unlikely to tolerate the revival o a Kurdish insurgency based in Syria. Even short o this, a standing state o mili-tary conrontation with Syria is not out o the question, a