Throughout modern history, there has been a direct relationship between conflict and the emergence of new ways of arbitrating world affairs. Every major war since the 17th century was concluded by a treaty that led to the emergence of a new order, from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 that followed the Thirty Years' War, to the Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815 that brought an end to the Napoleonic Wars, to the ill-fated Treaty of Versailles that concluded the first World War, to the agreement at Yalta that laid the groundwork for the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. Yet the Cold War, which could be regarded as a global-scale war, ended not with grand summitry, but with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was no official conclusion; one of the combatant sides just suddenly ceased to exist.
Two decades hence, no new international legal and political system has been formally created to meet the challenges of the new world order that emerged. Instead, a number of temporary, tactical, and conflict-specific agreements have been implemented. From the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Cyprus, and even the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a series of cease-fire arrangements have succeeded in ending bloodshed but have failed to establish comprehensive peace agreements. Overall, the current situation has quantitatively increased the diversification of international actors and qualitatively complicated the foreign-policy making process.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made it clear that this situation is not sustainable. Immediately after the attacks, the United States began attempting to establish an international order based on a security discourse, thus replacing the liberty discourse that emerged after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It is in this context that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq can best be understood. The intent was to transform an unstable international environment by targeting crisis-prone zones that were considered to be the sources of insecurity. But in the process, predictions about the end of history and the expansion of civil rights and liberties have largely lost their appeal.
U.S. President Barack Obama challenged the security-based perspective of the post-Sept. 11 era as soon as he assumed the presidency in 2009. He has actively attempted to restore America's international image, and has made considerable efforts to adopt a new vision that embraces a multilateral international system and fosters close cooperation with regional allies.
Still, we are faced with an incredibly difficult period until a new global order is established. Many of today's challenges can only be resolved with broader international involvement, but the mechanisms needed to meet fully those challenges do not exist. It will therefore fall largely to nation-states to meet and create solutions for the global political, cultural, and economic turmoil that will likely last for the next decade and beyond.
In this new world, Turkey is playing an increasingly central role in promoting international security and prosperity. The new dynamics of Turkish foreign policy ensure that Turkey can act with the vision, determination, and confidence that the historical moment demands.
Turkey in the post-Cold War era
Turkey experienced the direct impact of the post-Cold War atmosphere of insecurity, which resulted in a variety of security problems in Turkey's neighborhood. The most urgent issue for Turkish diplomacy, in this context, was to harmonize Turkey's influential power axes with the new international environment.
During the Cold War, Turkey was a "wing country" under NATO's strategic framework, resting on the geographic perimeter of the Western alliance. NATO's strategic concept, however, has evolved in the post-Cold War era -- and so has Turkey's calculation of its strategic environment. Turkey's presence in Afghanistan is a clear indication of this change. We are a wing country no longer.
Turkey is currently facing pressure to assume an important regional role, which admittedly has created tensions between its existing strategic alliances and its emerging regional responsibilities. The challenge of managing these relationships was acutely felt in recent regional crises in the Caucasus, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Turkey remains committed to establishing harmony between its current strategic alliances and its neighbors and neighboring regions.
Turkey's unique demographic realities also affect its foreign-policy vision. There are more Bosnians in Turkey than in Bosnia-Herzegovina, more Albanians than in Kosovo, more Chechens than in Chechnya, more Abkhazians than in the Abkhaz region in Georgia, and a significant number of Azeris and Georgians, in addition to considerable other ethnicities from neighboring regions. Thus, these conflicts and the effect they have on their populations have a direct impact on domestic politics in Turkey.
Because of this fact, Turkey experiences regional tensions at home and faces public demands to pursue an active foreign-policy to secure the peace and security of those communities. In this sense, Turkish foreign policy is also shaped by its own democracy, reflecting the priorities and concerns of its citizens. As a result of globalization, the Turkish public follows international developments closely. Turkey's democratization requires it to integrate societal demands into its foreign policy, just as all mature democracies do.
The European Union and NATO are the main fixtures and the main elements of continuity in Turkish foreign policy. Turkey has achieved more within these alliances during the past seven years under the AK Party government than it did in the previous 40 years. Turkey's involvement in NATO has increased during this time; Turkey recently asked for, and achieved, a higher representation in the alliance. Turkey also has advanced considerably in the European integration process compared with the previous decade, when it was not even clear whether the EU was seriously considering Turkey's candidacy. EU progress reports state that Turkish foreign policy and EU objectives are in harmony, a clear indication that Turkey's foreign-policy orientation aligns well with transatlantic objectives.
As we leave behind the first decade of the 21st century, Turkey has been able to formulate a foreign-policy vision based on a better understanding of the realities of the new century, even as it acts in accordance with its historical role and geographical position. In this sense, Turkey's orientation and strategic alliance with the West remains perfectly compatible with Turkey's involvement in, among others, Iraq, Iran, the Caucasus, the Middle East peace process, and Afghanistan.