NOV 05, 2022 – DAILY SABAH
‘Türkiye’s versatile and multilateral diplomatic practices and its neutral stance during the war resulted in the simultaneous applause for President Erdoğan from the Russians and the Ukrainians at the Dolmabahçe talks, which was not a typical scene in world politics’
After the end of the Cold War, nations around the world launched a great quest for guidance. The U.S. could not establish the new world order alone and failed to remain the body policing the world. On the one hand, China continues to rise step by step. On the other hand, Russia continues to give the West a headache. After all, the countries with large populations, such as India, Indonesia, Türkiye, Mexico and Brazil, continue to grow.
Every state of the world seeks alliances to secure its people’s protection, hence a balance of power. The current rapid, unbalanced change in the world poses significant threats to Türkiye due to its geopolitical position but also offers opportunities as a regional power.
Due to its geopolitical location and nature, Türkiye has been one of the first countries to become aware of this balance shift. And by abandoning all the classical period politics, Türkiye has chosen to pursue a multilateral, multi-faceted foreign policy to base its future on a robust foundation and to establish a new foreign policy and security paradigm.
When encountering the threat of the PKK terrorist group and Daesh in the Syrian war, Türkiye decided to close a gap in its defense system. Türkiye, a NATO ally, did not hesitate to establish a dialogue with Russia on a strategic issue and purchased the S-400 long-range air defense system for protection, especially against missile attacks.
Politicians who practice the classical paradigm, especially the Türkish opposition, hardly understand and appreciate the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) efforts and capacity to perceive the paradigm shift. Türkiye rearranged its relations not only with Russia but also in the Middle East. The alliance with Libya, in particular, indicated how the global balance might change.
On the other hand, Türkiye has maintained strong commercial and political relations with the European Union while trying to keep its ties with the U.S. at a certain level.
The shining star
As a result of its independent, balanced, consistent and proactive foreign policy constructed over a decade, Türkiye turned into a shining star on the world stage with the Russia-Ukraine war. When the war started, the Western states embargoed Russia. Türkiye was the only country in the world to declare that it would continue its relations with Russia while finding Russia’s occupation in Ukraine unjust. None of the countries with a pro-Russian stance, such as India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China, were able to play a similar role between Russia and the West.
Türkiye’s versatile and multilateral diplomatic practice and its neutral stance during the war resulted in simultaneous applause for Erdoğan from the Russians and the Ukrainians at the Dolmabahçe talks, which was not a typical scene in world politics.
Resolution of grain crisis
Russia and Ukraine together supply 30% of the world’s grain. When the war prevented the exports of both countries from reaching their export markets, the underprivileged countries of the world were pushed to the edge of starvation. The world took a deep breath when the parties concluded the first grain agreement with the facilitation of President Erdoğan in the presence of the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. When another food crisis broke out again today, Erdoğan talked with Russian President Vladimir Putin and revealed critical clues for resolving the issue and finally managed to put the grain agreement back on track.
Türkiye’s reliable, impartial, effective and reassuring attitude to all parties in foreign policy has played an essential role in the resolution of the grain crisis, prisoner exchange, and in the access of Russian citizens to Europe and the European institutions to set a dialog with Russia.
I think that if these critical steps taken today are the ground for peace talks between Ukraine or Western states and Russia in the future, Türkiye will be the one who will play a role again. For this reason, Western states and Russia need a prudent attitude from Türkiye within this time frame. The Russia-Ukraine war has revealed Türkiye’s role as a regional power and the diplomacy and leadership capacity of Erdoğan. This capacity disturbs terrorist organizations and the opposition, while it is a hope for world peace.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.