Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy in the age of BRICS: a crit­i­cal per­spec­tive, By Ziya Öniş

Turkish Review - - CONTENTS - PRO F. ZİYA ÖNİŞ

Talk­ing TR is a monthly se­ries of talks and dis­cus­sions from lead­ing an­a­lysts and aca­demics on key is­sues for Tur­key and the re­gion, filmed in front of a live au­di­ence. Each month Talk­ing TR ad­dresses a dif­fer­ent topic. This es­say is a mod­i­fied tran­script of the talk pre­sented by Prof. Ziya Öniş, of İs­tan­bul’s Koç Univer­sity, at the May Talk­ing TR event in İs­tan­bul on Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy I would like to present a broad frame­work for un­der­stand­ing and dis­cussing Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy. One of the fea­tures of the re­cent era of glob­al­iza­tion has been global power shift. There has been a rel­a­tive de­cline of es­tab­lished pow­ers, which has ac­cel­er­ated in the wake of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis. There has been a cri­sis in Europe, which is caus­ing ma­jor chal­lenges for the Euro­pean Union and the so­cial-mar­ket model of Europe. We can also see the ac­cel­er­ated rise of the BRICS (Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China and South Africa) in gen­eral and of China in par­tic­u­lar. In this con­text, sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion BRICS -- near-BRICS, or what one might call emerg­ing mid­dle pow­ers -- are also sig­nif­i­cant ac­tors, and I would like to lo­cate Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy in a broader dis­cus­sion of near-BRICS and emerg­ing mid­dle pow­ers.

These are large coun­tries and sig­nif­i­cant ac­tors and have the po­ten­tial to play an im­por­tant role. They are play­ing an in­creas­ing role in the G20 and in the broader global con­text. There is also an in­ter­est­ing de­bate about the role of these near-BRICS or emerg­ing mid­dle pow­ers in the chang­ing global con­text. Ac­cord­ingly, there are es­sen­tially two dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. One is the more skep­ti­cal view, which is that although we talk about the broad­en­ing of global gov­er­nance and the par­tic­i­pa­tion of emerg­ing pow­ers, what we are likely to see is the dom­i­nance of a “G2” -- the United States and China. Even among the larger BRICS, there is a com­mon view that China is go­ing to dom­i­nate the BRICS. Although this per­spec­tive rec­og­nizes that the sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion BRICS are also im­por­tant, the skep­ti­cal view tends to think that their role is likely to be pe­riph­eral.

There is also an op­ti­mistic point of view, to which I sub­scribe to more closely. Ac­cord­ing to this view, this sec­ond group of coun­tries could play a very con­struc­tive role in the chang­ing global con­text, and could be im­por­tant ac­tors. How­ever, this is not in­evitable and I want to re­late this dis­cus­sion to re­cent Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy. I would also like to ar­gue that there are five cri­te­ria un­der which coun­tries like Tur­key, which is in the emerg­ing mid­dle-power cat­e­gory, can play an im­por­tant role. I would also put coun­tries like Mexico and In­done­sia in this cat­e­gory. MIKTA (Mexico, In­done­sia, South Korea, Tur­key and Aus­tralia) is an in­ter­est­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion that con­sti­tutes a com­bi­na­tion of both emerg­ing and es­tab­lished mid­dle pow­ers. I would in­clude South Korea

and Aus­tralia in the es­tab­lished mid­dle-power cat­e­gory.

What are these five con­di­tions that re­late to these im­por­tant re­gional pow­ers? The re­gions in which they are lo­cated are im­por­tant and in the Turk­ish con­text, this is ex­tremely crit­i­cal. Tur­key is a mul­ti­re­gional power with im­por­tant in­flu­ence in re­gions that have very sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems to re­solve. Both of its re­gions are im­por­tant and Tur­key’s mul­ti­re­gional role is im­por­tant; these are re­gions where there are se­ri­ous con­flicts to be re­solved.

The sec­ond cri­te­rion is the ca­pac­ity to be a role model in terms of de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. South Korea is an in­ter­est­ing case. It is not a large coun­try; its pop­u­la­tion is 50 mil­lion. How­ever, it has been part of the de­bate on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Scholars of my gen­er­a­tion re­mem­ber that the hy­per growth of South Korea was in the con­text of au­thor­i­tar­ian pol­i­tics -- a very re­pres­sive, au­thor­i­tar­ian regime. But, since the 1980s, what we have seen is the trans­for­ma­tion of South Korea into a con­sol­i­dated, es­tab­lished democ­racy. We no longer talk about South Korea as a ris­ing power but as an es­tab­lished power, given its sig­nif­i­cant con­ver­gence to the in­come lev­els of in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries. So, role­model char­ac­ter­is­tics are im­por­tant as a sec­ond cat­e­gory.

The third el­e­ment, which is also very im­por­tant -es­pe­cially for dis­cus­sions of Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy -- is the abil­ity to form in­clu­sive, en­com­pass­ing coali­tions. Ef­fec­tive coali­tion-build­ing is key to play­ing a suc­cess­ful role in these re­gions be­cause none of these coun­tries are big enough to be in­flu­en­tial on their own. One of the ad­van­tages of coun­tries lo­cated in this cat­e­gory is that they have his­tor­i­cal links to es­tab­lished pow­ers. There is also the fact that they now form parts of groups of ris­ing states. Tur­key, for ex­am­ple, has his­tor­i­cal links to the West. When you look at Mexico in the con­text of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA), you see a sim­i­lar pat­tern. How­ever, these coun­tries want to be more as­sertive re­gion­ally and glob­ally. They have the po­ten­tial to do this, but will need to rely on build­ing ef­fec­tive coali­tions. In the con­text of US po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Joseph Nye and his conception of smart power, I think one could con­cep­tu­al­ize ef­fec­tive, in­clu­sive, over­lap­ping and in­sti­tu­tional coali­tion-build­ing as a key con­stituent of smart power. An im­por­tant test of Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy is whether Tur­key has been ef­fec­tive in terms of build­ing ef­fec­tive coali­tions dur­ing the re­cent pe­riod.

The fourth el­e­ment is that emerg­ing near-BRICS pow­ers are uni­formly more demo­cratic than the first group of large BRICS. When you look at the large BRICS, you see a di­vi­sion be­tween the au­thor­i­tar­ian BRICS with firmly en­trenched au­thor­i­tar­ian regimes -- China and Rus­sia -- and the more demo­cratic vari­ants in Brazil and South Africa. In­deed, I would put South Africa more in the cat­e­gory of sec­ond-BRICS or near-BRICS, given its size and eco­nomic ca­pac­ity. It’s also in­ter­est­ing that in spite of the lim­i­ta­tions of their demo­cratic sys­tems, this group of near-BRICS also has ex­pe­ri­ences of sig­nif­i­cant trans­for­ma­tion. One ex­am­ple is In­done­sia, which for a long time was au­thor­i­tar­ian but has been trans­formed in a more demo­cratic di­rec­tion, with some reser­va­tions. It still has the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a hy­brid democ­racy, but there has been a sig­nif­i­cant trans­for­ma­tion. This also ap­plies to Mexico; a coun­try that was a one-party state for a long time but has been trans­formed -- even if there are demo­cratic qual­i­fi­ca­tions. The fifth el­e­ment is that the

abil­ity to play an ef­fec­tive mid­dle-power role de­pends on a cer­tain match­ing cor­re­spon­dence be­tween ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ex­pec­ta­tions. This is another area where we could test Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy in the re­cent pe­riod.

These re­quire­ments are nec­es­sary for an op­ti­mistic sce­nario, in which these coun­tries can play an im­por­tant role; this ef­fec­tive role is con­di­tional, not in­evitable. In that con­text, I want to of­fer a broad cri­tique of re­cent Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy in terms of its abil­ity to match these un­der­ly­ing cri­te­ria for ef­fec­tive re­gional and global role. One crit­i­cism is about be­ing a role model. I think that in terms of role-model char­ac­ter­is­tics, we have seen a de­cline from the golden age of the Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party) era, when Tur­key was quite ef­fec­tive in terms of its eco­nomic per­for­mance, with very high rates of eco­nomic growth. There has also been a de­cline in terms of the mo­men­tum of de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion re­forms and its soft power-based for­eign pol­icy.

I think that in the more re­cent pe­riod, we have seen a de­cline in the raw char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Turk­ish model, in terms of the ma­jor chal­lenges to sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth that we have ob­served re­cently. Tur­key is fac­ing a mid­dle-in­come trap and has very se­ri­ous chal­lenges in terms of its abil­ity to deal with this trap. In terms of de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion, I think that there are also sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems. In the for­eign pol­icy realm, we can also see quite sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems. Role-model char­ac­ter­is­tics are very im­por­tant and Tur­key has the po­ten­tial to pro­ject it­self as a role model but an im­por­tant dis­cus­sion -- which sub­se­quent com­men­ta­tors could fol­low up on -- is whether Tur­key is re­al­iz­ing its po­ten­tial to be a role model.

The sec­ond cri­tique, based on my five cri­te­ria, is the swings and para­doxes of Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy be­tween mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and uni­lat­er­al­ism. I think there is a ten­dency to­ward over-ex­ten­sion, over-in­volve­ment and an over-am­bi­tious for­eign pol­icy, es­pe­cially in the con­text of the Mid­dle East; there is also a ten­dency for uni­lat­eral ac­tion, which has been un­der­min­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy.

This brings me to my cri­te­rion about ex­pec­ta­tions and cred­i­bil­ity. I think that in the Turk­ish con­text, there is a gap be­tween ex­pec­ta­tions and cred­i­bil­ity. Another para­dox of re­cent Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy is in the sense that Tur­key has, in the con­text of the Arab Spring, pro­jected it­self to its neigh­bors as a democ­ra­cypro­mo­tion force. But clearly, to play this role model, de­vel­op­ments in the do­mes­tic sphere have to be in line. There is a mis­match be­tween the do­mes­tic sphere and Tur­key’s role as a pro­jec­tor and a pro­moter of democ­racy. There has also been a drift away from Europe. Iron­i­cally, Tur­key could ex­ten­sively uti­lize its links to the West and to the more demo­cratic BRICS and near-BRICS. How­ever, the para­dox in the re­cent era is that Tur­key has been drift­ing more in the di­rec­tion of the au­thor­i­tar­ian BRICS and the Rus­sia-China axis. One ex­am­ple of this is the in­creas­ing pleas for mem­ber­ship of the Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CSO). This is not to say that de­vel­op­ing eco­nomic re­la­tions with Rus­sia and China are not im­por­tant, but the logic of ef­fec­tive coali­tion-build­ing sug­gests that you need to have a hi­er­ar­chy of pri­or­i­ties in your for­eign pol­icy.

There’s an in­con­sis­tency in the Turk­ish con­text -- for ex­am­ple, in its ap­proach to the Mid­dle East. In the con­text of Rus­sia and China, there is a con­sis­tent ap­proach in the sense that their for­eign pol­icy is based on the prin­ci­ple of sovereignty. Clearly, their conception of democ­racy is the de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion of glob­al­iza­tion, rather than pro­mot­ing democ­racy; so, these are clearly au­thor­i­tar­ian states. The point I would like to con­clude with and open up for dis­cus­sion in the sub­se­quent ses­sion is the fact that Tur­key’s role in the re­cent pe­riod could have been very ef­fec­tive. The prob­lems with and para­doxes of its for­eign pol­icy in­clude in­con­sis­ten­cies be­tween swings to mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and uni­lat­er­al­ism. In ad­di­tion, the swings from democ­racy pro­mo­tion to a drift in the di­rec­tion of the au­thor­i­tar­ian BRICS has un­der­mined Tur­key and led to par­tial iso­la­tion in Turk­ish for­eign pol­icy.

To con­clude, coun­tries like Tur­key have a very im­por­tant role to play, but that role is con­di­tional and de­pends on a cer­tain set of con­di­tions. What we see in the Turk­ish con­text is how Tur­key has failed to cap­i­tal­ize on its ad­van­tages and to play a pro­duc­tive, im­por­tant role as an emerg­ing mid­dle power.

Emerg­ing near-BRICS pow­ers are uni­formly more demo­cratic than the first group of lar ge BRICS

May 21, 2015 PHOTO: Turk ish Re­view

Ziya Öniş on stage at Talk­ing TR .

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey

© PressReader. All rights reserved.