LONG-LASTING STABILITY AND ALL-INCLUSIVE CO-OPERATION IN SOUTH CAUCASUS: AN UNATTAINABLE GOAL?

Prof. Hüseyin Bağcı
President of the Foreign Policy Institute

South Caucasus is known by its mountainous and challenging territorial features.
Accordingly, the people living in this region are known to be tough and often
uncompromising. In fact, the region has such a complicated history with invasions,
occupations, forced relocation of large populations, like Meskhetian Turks from Georgia to
multiple locations in the Soviet Union, today the region suffers from an interwoven set and
layers of difficult issues inherited from its painful past.
When tackling with regional issues in South Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia are
to be considered as the countries situated at the heart of the region, but without including
Turkey, Russian Federation (RF) and Iran, any analysis of the region and its multiple
problems would remain incomplete. The RF, as the successor of the Soviet Union, has, in its
view, vested strategic interests in the region and therefore, is keen to maintain its military
presence and political influence in the region. Still, following the dissolution of the Soviet
Union, Turkey, relying mainly on the support of the USA, has been able to develop strong
relations with the countries, except Armenia, in this region. Construction and
operationalization of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline has been the jewel in the crown of
such strategic achievements. Other important projects such as Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural
gas pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad have strengthened the sense of friendship and co-
operation between Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
On the other hand, Armenia has been and is still suffering from a self-imposed isolation in
the region and fails to benefit from any of major project implemented in South Caucasus.
Why so? Two main reasons: one has to do with its unwise approach towards and bad
relations with Turkey. This economically underdeveloped and scarcely populated country of
South Caucasus has indeed bitten some pieces larger that it could swallow. Armenia
blatantly violated in the beginning of 1990s the internationally recognized borders of
Azerbaijan and occupied a region inside Azerbaijan known as Nagorno-Karabakh and relying
on the Russian military support, has been keeping it under occupation since then. Similarly,
towards Turkey, its militarily strongest neighbour, which handles its relations with Azerbaijan
based on the principle of “One nation, two states”, Armenia has been following a hostile
policy, supporting the efforts of Armenian diaspora around the world to ensure the
international recognition of the so-called “Armenian genocide”. The relocation of Armenian
population in the then Ottoman territories under the then circumstances is presented as
“genocide” by some Armenian circles, which distort the history. On this front, however,
Armenia has hit the wall and can no longer achieve much other than irritating a most
important neighbour. Armenia has also serious problems with Georgia due to its close
relationship with Russia, which has territorial issues with Georgia and in August 2008 had a
brief war with this country.

2
Moreover, Armenia has been suffering from an identity crisis in the international scene as it
has been moving between the RF and the West as its strategic partner. Due to this
unresolved dilemma, it has found itself often engulfed in political instability and never-
ending political ‘revolutions’. Its problematic relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan have
caused Armenia to become heavily dependent on RF and Iran. Iran, due to its large
population of Azerbaijani descent, mostly inhabiting the northern regions of this country
that border with Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, has made a strategic choice and thus, has
been providing Armenia with a lifeline.
In this overall picture, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey and the RF have been
able to develop their relations and partnership in many areas. Despite differentiation of their
certain political and strategic priorities, a fact that has become clearer in recent years
particularly in Syria and Libya, these two major players and historical rivals in the region have
been careful not to cross certain red lines and appear keen to maintain their mutually
beneficial relations. In fact, this partnership has played a key role in the relatively smooth
conduct and conclusion of the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Apparently, the complex situation and confusing web of relations in South Caucasus cannot
be covered in a single article. However, it is useful to take stock of what happened recently
and also to give some thoughts to where the region might be heading towards from this
point onward.
It is doubtless that today’s political and strategic conjuncture offers a unique and historical
opportunity to all actors in the region to achieve something that has not been attained since
the collapse of the Soviet Union: durable peace, stability, and all-inclusive co-operation in
the region. In this respect, in November 2020 Turkey and Azerbaijan came up with an
important proposal to all concerned and suggested that a South Caucasus co-operation
platform be established by incorporation of all existing regional co-operation schemes, and
regional development projects are devised and implemented jointly in a spirit of co-
operation and mutual benefit. The 10 November (2020) Agreement brokered by the RF and
signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia after the 44-day War to end the conflict includes
one provision, which is strategically vital both for Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is the one about
the establishment of direct transportation connection between Azerbaijan’s Autonomous
Region of Nakhcihevan and the rest of Azerbaijan. Such a connection bears significance in
many ways, as it would also connect Turkey and Azerbaijan directly without having to go
through either Georgia or Iran.
As far as Iran is concerned, this key regional actor appears to have exaggerated worries
about the results of increased direct contacts between Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani
population in Iran, after the liberation of occupied Azeri territories. However, it can be
regarded only as normal when Azerbaijani Turks in Iran feel happy about the liberation of
occupied Azeri territories from Armenia and cheer for the decisive victory of Azerbaijan’s
army. It was not perhaps the wisest approach for the Iranian leadership to relocate, in a
rushed manner, to the Azerbaijani border a lot of military troops and equipment as it caused
concern on the Azerbaijan side. In today’s world, the internationally recognized borders of
each country are inviolable and cannot be changed easily. Within this given parameter, the

3
countries in the region should focus on the possibilities of co-operation, and carefully avoid
potential new conflicts and confrontations. During the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war, the
Azerbaijani leadership has acted wisely by declaring and emphasizing several times the
importance they attach to their close relationship with Iran. In fact, throughout the war, the
Azerbaijani side has demonstrated all features of a well-established and mature state
structure, with all officials and institutions acting and functioning in the best way possible.
Azerbaijan’s victory means a lot for the Azerbaijani people as it clearly ended the Armenian
occupation of many regions. This will definitely boost the self-confidence of Azerbaijan and
we may see in the period ahead a more dynamic Azerbaijan spearheading the regional co-
operation initiatives. The new strategic realities may also assign Azerbaijan the responsibility
to function as a more active bridge between Turkey and the Turkic states in Central Asia. For
its part, Turkey has always supported Azerbaijan in every way possible, including through
military cooperation. This close relationship will undoubtedly continue as Turkey and the RF
will be monitoring jointly the implementation of 10 November Agreement. Due to its Prime
Minister’s reckless and inconsiderate behaviours and actions, Armenia has lost a lot as a
result of the recent developments. In any case, the day of victory for Azerbaijan was
inevitable as occupation of a big and wealthy neighbour by its smaller neighbour was not
sustainable in the long run. In fact, RF President Vladimir Putin has also underlined this
conviction in his statements.
Interpreting the recent developments from an optimistic angle, one can claim that
Azerbaijan by taking its occupied territories back from Armenia, has relieved both the RF and
Armenia from a huge burden. On the international fora it was unjustifiable for Armenia to
defend such an occupation and explain the anomalies it caused such as millions of internally
displaced Azerbaijani people. If the Armenian leadership starts showing some wisdom, which
it has failed to demonstrate so far, it should seek to open new avenues of co-operation with
Turkey and Azerbaijan. The future sustainable prosperity and peace of the Armenian people
heavily relies on such an approach.
Last but not the least, the role to be played by the countries outside South Caucasus, like the
USA and France, and other international actors such as the European Union and the
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), must consider the new realities
on the ground. In particular, the OSCE, its Minsk Group, its Co-Chairs and Special
Representative, should quickly adjust their approaches to the new realities. Only this way
they can remain relevant besides Turkey and the RF and can find opportunities to make
meaningful contributions to the peace, stability, and co-operation in South Caucasus.

Visits: 31

Hulusi Akar’ın Almanya Ziyareti Ne Anlam Taşıyor?

Geçen hafta Almanya’yı ziyaret eden Türkiye Savunma Bakanı Hulusi Akar
Alman meslektaşı Karrenbauer tarafından hem büyük bir nezaket hem de siyasi
olarak “kulağa hoş gelen bir söylemle” karşılandı. Türkiye’nin NATO’nun çok
önemli bir üyesi ve aynı zamanda Almanya için çok önemli siyasi ve ekonomik
bir ortak olduğunu ifade etti.

Son yıllarda Alman ve Türk siyasilerin birbirlerine karşı sert söylemleri ile ‘’Berlin
ve Ankara’daki sağır kulaklar’’ artık tam anlamıyla ortadan kalkmamış olsa da,
Almanya halen Türkiye’nin AB içindeki ‘’avukatı olma’’ rolünü devam ettirmeye
devam edecek gibi görünüyor.

Türkiye’nin son yıllarda icra ettiği başarılı askeri operasyonların Almanya
tarafından çok yakından takip edildiği ve başta Silahlı İnsansız Hava Aracı (SİHA)
konusunda Türkiye’nin geldiği teknolojik seviye en üst noktaya gelirken, Alman
ordusu tarafında, halen, SİHA’ları envanterine katıp katmama konusunda ortak
bir kanı oluşmadığı görülüyor. Türkiye’nin on yıllardır en önemli silah ve
teknoloji tedarikçisi olan Almanya’da, son aylarda Türkiye’ye yönelik var olan
olumsuz yaklaşıma rağmen, Alman Koalisyon Hükümeti pragmatik bir yaklaşım
ile Türkiye’ye hem askeri ambargo konulmasını önlemiş hem de Türkiye ile
birçok bölgesel sorunda benzer yaklaşım içine girmiştir.

Almanya ile Rusya arasındaki ilişkilerin bir kriz doğurması ihtimali artarken,
Türkiye ile Rusya arasında askeri ve siyasi ilişkiler, Yukarı Karabağ savaşında da
görüldüğü gibi, son on yılda iki ülke arasındaki kompartımanlaştırılan konular
içinde işbirliği alanı dahilinde değerlendirilen bir gelişme olarak görülmektedir.
Almanya’daki siyasi ve ekonomi elitlerinin Türkiye yaklaşımı çok gerçekçi bir
noktaya gelmiş bulunmaktadır. Savunma Bakanı Akar’ın Almanya’dan neler
talep ettiğini bilmiyoruz. Fakat Almanya’nın, Türkiye’nin Rusya’ya daha fazla
yakınlaşmasını istemediği bilinmektedir.

Joe Biden yönetiminin Türkiye yaklaşımı da çok önemli olacaktır. Bu nedenle
Washington-Berlin-Ankara ekseni oluşacağı öngörülebilir. İngiltere’nin AB’den
ayrılması, Avrupa Savunmasında önemli bir boşluk oluşturmuştur. Türkiye’nin
oluşan bu ‘’boşluğu doldurma arzusu’’ Ocak ayı başında Cumhurbaşkanı
Erdoğan tarafından AB Büyükelçilerine verdiği yemekte ifade edilmiştir.
Temel soru ise şudur? Bu yıl Eylül ayında yapılacak Almanya genel seçimlerinin
sonucunda kurulacak yeni Hükümet, Merkel politikalarını devam mı ettirecek
yoksa yeni bir yaklaşım mı benimseyecek? Beklenti, Almanya’nın Bismarck veMerkel tipi bir ‘’realpolitik ve pragmatizm’’ yaklaşımlarını birlikte devam
ettirecek olmasıdır.

Sonuç olarak, Türkiye’nin son yıllardaki Suriye, Libya ve Doğu Akdeniz’de
sergilediği askeri başarılar Türkiye’yi bölgesinde çok daha güçlü bir konuma
getirmiştir. Alman mevkidaşı Karrenbauer’in Savunma Bakanı Hulusi Akar’a
Türkiye’nin her zaman Almanya’ya güvenebileceğini söylemesi Ankara
açısından iyiye işaret olsa da, sorun Almanya’nın bunda ne kadar samimi
olduğudur. Şimdi test edilmesi gereken Almanya’nın samimiyetidir.
Önümüzdeki günlerde yapılacak NATO ve Mart ayındaki AB toplantısı bu
testlerin yapılacağı toplantılar olacak. Bekleyip , göreceğiz.

Visits: 516

Libya’da Seçimlere kadar Yönetecek Geçici Konsey Seçildi

Libya’da taraflar arasında anlaşma sağlandı ve seçimlere kadar yönetecek geçici konsey belirlendi.
Birleşmiş Milletlerin girişimi ile İsviçre’de toplanan Libya Siyasi Diyalog Forumu (LSDF) üyeleri
yaptıkları seçimle Başkanlık Konseyi Başkanlığına Muhammed Menfi’yi ve Başbakanlığa da
Abdulhamid Dibeybe’yi getirmiştir.
Libya Siyasi Diyalog Forumu, 11 Haziran 2015 tarihinde 22 katılımcı ile BM öncülüğünde Fas’ta
toplanarak hazırlık döneminde yol haritası belirlemek için oluşturuldu. Bunlar özetle;
– İlk aşamada, Milli Mutabakat Hükümeti ile Tobruk’ta bulunan Temsilciler Meclisi arasında
diyalogu başlatmak ve İki kutuplu çatışmayı önlemek,
– Sonrasında Merkezi hükümetin kurulması ve anayasanın hazırlanması için yol haritası
belirlenmesi,
– Geçiş dönemini takip eden 60 gündeyse Merkez Bankası, Denetleme Kurulu, Yolsuzlıkla
Mücadele Kurumu, Yüksek Seçim Kurulu, Anayasa Mahkemesi gibi bağımsız devlet
kurumlarının tesisi öngörülmektedir.

Visits: 47

İstikşafi Görüşmeler Başlarken Yunanistan’ın Siyasi Görünümü ve Silahlanma Çabaları

2019 ve 2020’de Atina ile Ankara arasında gerilime sebep olan sorunların araştırılarak çözüm
bulunmasına yönelik istikşafi (exploratory) görüşmeler bugün (25 Ocak 2021) İstanbul’da
başlayacaktır. Her iki tarafında bu konuda kendine özgü argümanları olduğu ve bunlardan ödün
vermekten uzak duracakları değerlendirilmektedir. Umarız bu konudaki girişimler NATO üyesi olan
her iki taraf arasındaki siyasi ve askeri gerilimi azaltmada etkin bir rol oynar.
Yunanistan ile Türkiye arasında gerek Ege Denizi ve gerekse Doğu Akdeniz’de neredeyse kemikleşmiş
olan muhtelif sorunlar her an bir çatışma zemini olmaya devam etmektedir. Her iki tarafta meseleyi
barışçı yollarla çözme niyetinde olduklarını ifade etseler de kendi argümanlarından taviz vermek
niyetinde olmadıklarını gösteren bir tutum sergilemekten geri durmamaktadır.
Son olarak, 2021’in ilk günlerinde Yunanistan’ın batıda İyon Denizi’nde kıta sahanlığını 12 mile
çıkartma kararı ve bunu Ege Denizi’nde de yapmaya hakkı olduğunu ileri sürmesi, görüşmeler
öncesiAtina’nın yaklaşımı hakkında bir ip ucu olabilecektir.
Ankara ile olan müzakere ve siyasi ilişkilerinde Atina aşağıda belirtilen üç önemli faktörün kendisine
avantaj sağlayacağını değerlendirebilir;
Birincisi, Yunanistan’ınAvrupa birliği üyesi olmasıdır. Her ne kadar,Ekim 2020’de yapılan toplantıda
Yunanistan ve Fransa’nın Ankara’ya yaptırım kararı alması için yaptıkları baskılara boyun eğmese de
A.B. Mart ayı toplantısında konuyu yeniden ele alacaktır. Hem Fransa’nın hem de Atina’nın
yaptıtımlar konusunda baskısının devam edeceği ve Almanya’nın bu durumda kilit rol oynayacağı
söylenebilir. Bu durumda, Türkiye’nin gerek Cumhurbaşkanı ve gerekse Dışişleri Bakanı tarafından
uzattığı zeytin dalı ne kadar güvenli olarak ele alınacaktır, bekleyip göreceğiz. Bütün her şeye rağmen,
Yunanistan’ın AB üyesi ve arkasında üye ülkelerin az veya çok desteğine sahip olması, Atina için
Ankara’ya karşı avantajlı bir konum yaratmakta olduğu değerlendirilmelidir.
İkinci olarak, Doğu Akdeniz’le ilgili olarak, “düşmanımın düşmanı dostumdur” ilkesinden hareketle
Atina’nın İsrail, Birleşik Arap Emirlikleri (BAE), Mısır, Suudi Arabistan ile gerçekleştirdikleri anlaşmalar
ve ittifak Atina tarafından önemli bir yaklaşım olarak ele alınmaktadır. Özellikle, İsrail’in BAE ve Suudi
Arabistan ve Katar’la olan anlaşmaları Atina’nın bu iş birliğini pekiştiren bir görünüm arz etmektedir.
Yunanistan Türkiye karşıtı ittifak ilişkisiyle Ankara’yı Doğu Akdeniz’de kuşatarak hareket sahasını
kısıtlayabildiğini ve siyasi olarak bloke edebileceğini değerlendirmektedir.
Üçüncü faktör ise, Atina’nın silahlanma çabalarına hız vermesidir. Yunanistan’ın 2009 yılında 7,88
milyar Euro olan savunma harcamaları kısıtlamalardan dolayı 2018 yılında 3,75 milyar Euro’ya
düşmüş ve 2020 yılında ise %45 artışla 5,5 milyar Euro olarak gerçekleşmiştir. 2021 başında
Yunanistan Fransa’dan 18 adet Rafale savaş uçağı alımı için 2,5 milyar Euro ‘lük bir anlaşma yapmıştır.
Bu taarruz uçaklarının 3.700 km. olan menzili F-16 menzilinden dört kat, Mirage uçaklarının
menzilinden iki kat fazla olup, Türkiye’nin her yerine ulaşabilecek yetenektedir. İlk partinin
programdan altı ay önce, Mayıs ayında teslimi için baskı yapması ve pilotları eğitim için Fransa’ya
göndermesi silahlanmaya verdiği önemi göstermesi açısından dikkate değerdir. Ayrıca, dört adet yeni
firkateyn alma ve mevcut dört adedi de modernleştirme girişiminde bulunması Atina’nın havada ve
denizde etkinliğini attırma niyet ve maksadı üzerinde ciddi emareler sunmaktadır. Bunun yanısıra,
Yunan Silahlı Kuvvetleri’nde 15 bin yeni kadronun açılması ve elinde mevcut 85 F-16’nın
modernleştirilmesi önemli bir gelişme olarak görülmelidir.
Atina’nın bir taraftan Ankara ile görüşmeleri A.B. ve ABD’ne karşı bir iyi niyet göstergesi olarak
sürdürürken, diğer taraftan yukarıda belirttiğimiz avantajlarını öne alarak Türkiye ile uzlaşmaz tutumunu sürdürmeye devam edeceği değerlendirilmektedir. Bu nedenle, Ankara’nın siyasi olarak
elini güçlendirmesi gerekmektedir. Bu ise, A.B. ve özellikle Almanya ile ilişkileri yine rayına oturtmak,
İsrail, Mısır ve Suudi Arabistan ile ilişkileri olumlu yolda geliştirmek ve ABD’nin yeni yönetimi ile
işbirliğini arttırarak bölgede etkinliğini sürdürecek siyasi güce sahip olmasından geçtiği
değerlendirilmektedir. Bu Yunanistan’ın saldırı amaçlı askeri bir provokasyona girişmesini önleme
açısından da önemli bir girişim olacaktır.

 

Prof.Dr.Serdar Erdurmaz

Visits: 301

AN EVALUATION OF THE SITUATION IN THE USA BY KAAN SOYAK

New York based FPI Advisor Kaan Soyak has made an evaluation about the current developments in United States of America. The questions are asked by Ngazete. Please find below his comments;

SORU: Amerika neden Trump’ı azlediyor? Neden görevi bırakmasına bir hafta kalırken?

KAAN SOYAK: Kongre de Trump’ın azledilmesiyle ilgili oturumda hararetli konuşmalar yapıldı. Ardından 10 Cumhuriyetçinin de evet oyu kullanmasıyla toplam 232 evet oyuyla Trump’ın azledilmesi maddesi kabul edildi.

Bağlayıcı bir özelliği olmamasına rağmen bu karar,  ABD tarihinde aynı Başkanın kongre tarafından ikinci kez azledilmesiyle ilgili alınmış ilk karar olması açısından çok büyük önem taşıyor.

Psikolojik olarak da çok sağlıklı bir durumda olmadığı, uykusuz ve çok sinirli olduğu söylenen Trump’ın , günlerce önceden kendisini destekleyen internet siteleri üzerinden gecen hafta kongreyi basan destekçilerini kışkırtmaya başlaması ve kongrenin basılması öncesi destekçilerine yaptığı konuşması bardağı taşıran son damla oldu.

Başkan olduğu günden beri kendisini koşulsuz destekleyen Lindsey Graham ve Mitch McConnell gibi isimler de “artık yeter” diyerek, Kongrenin basılmasından sonra Trump ile ipleri kopardılar.

Trump ’ın 2 ana korkusu var.  Bir tanesi 2016 yılında  kazandığı  seçimlerde Rusya’nın  Trump lehine müdahil olduğu ve  Rus Oligarkların Trump iktidarına büyük miktarda  yatırım yaptığı gibi iddiaları araştıran ekibin Biden döneminde devletin en önemli kurumlarının başına teker teker gelmelerinin beklenmesi ve ikinci olarak da Ailesini de kapsayacak açılması muhtemel bir davalar zincirinin kendisini beklemesi. İşte bu yüzdendir ki Trump’dan 20 Ocak tarihine kadar yeni kışkırtıcı adımlar atması ve bunun sonucunda yeni olaylar çıkması hala ihtimal dahilinde..

ABD güvenlik birimlerinin ellerinde de bu konuda çok sayıda belge bulunmakta. Ancak, alınan bu azledilme kararının şimdilik biraz da olsa Trump’ı caydıracağı düşünülüyor.

SORU: Trump destekçilerini geçen hafta kongre baskınında gördük, Trump destekçilerini nasıl tanımlamak gerekiyor? Trump ile birlikte nasıl bir dönem bitiyor? Nasıl bir dönem başlıyor?

ABD TOPLUMU KUTUPLAŞTI, BİDEN’IN İŞİ HİÇ KOLAY OLMAYACAK

KAAN SOYAK: Trump seçimleri,  Cumhuriyetçi partinin ağır topları ve eğitimli kesiminin de destekleriyle kazanmıştı. Birçok Demokrat bile seçimlerde Trump için oy kullanmıştı. Başkanlığının  2. yılına başlarken,  Trump’da değişiklikler baş göstermeye başladı. Yanındaki yol arkadaşlarını kolay harcamaya ve göreve getirdiği saygın isimleri görevlerinden Tweet mesajlarıyla almaya başladı.

Hem ABD ordusunda Orgeneral seviyelerine gelmiş ve önemli görevlerde bulunmuş askerlerin, hem de iş veya devlet hayatında kariyerlerinin üst seviyelerinde bulunan sivillerin bir tweet mesajlarıyla görevlerinden alınmaları, ABD devlet akli tarafından pek kolay hazmedilemedi.

Trump baktı ki, Cumhuriyetçi partinin stratejik düşünen eğitimli kesimlerini kaybediyor, bunun yerine kendisine yakın Internet haber siteleri  üzerinden çoğunlukta doğru olmayan ve propaganda tarzı haberler ile  Amerika da Sosyo ekonomik açıdan daha alt düzeyde olan bölge oylarına yöneldi.

Bu kesim genellikle orduya asker olarak yazılıp Afganistan, Irak ve Suriye gibi cephelerde savaşmaya gidenlerden oluşmakta. Düşünün ki, bu ailelerde mutlaka  Amerika’nın dışında dünyanın bir diğer ucunda yapılan savaşlarda , şehit düşmüş veya gazi olarak dönmüş kişiler vardır. Bir kısmı da savaştan büyük travmalar ile geri dönmüştür.  Çoğunlukta eğitim düzeyi de düşük olan bu kişilere, Milliyetci söylem ve sloganlar ile  yaklaşıp, Temiz Vatanseverlik duygularını , bazı çıkar gruplarınca, manipülasyon aracı haline getirerek kamplaşma , şiddet ve kutuplaşma yönünde etkilemek zor olmadı.
Bunların içerisine, ABD toplumuna adapte olamamış, ve hayatından memnun olmayıp aşırı uçlarda çözüm arayan göçmenleri de   katmamız gerekiyor.  İşin ilginç yanı bu kesimlerin içinde Türkiye’yi sevmeyen, ABD’ye de tam uyum sağlayamamış biraz ortada kalmış Turk-Amerikalıların da olduğunu biliyorum.
Bir deyim vardır; Papa’dan daha fazla Katolik olmak. İşte bu kişiler Trump ’dan daha fazla Trump’cı olmuşlardır.

Trump’ın bu sosyal tabanı,  belirli sosyal medya araçları üzerinden birbirleriyle iletişimi sağlıyorlar, Trump ne derse inanıyorlar. Sonuç olarak Trump sosyolojik açıdan çok iyi bir açık buldu. Halkın milliyetçi ve muhafazakar açığını  kullanarak bugünlere geldi ve son seçimlerde de inanılmaz bir şekilde 70 milyonun üzerinde bir oy aldı ve kendisini azil surecine getiren noktaya gelindi. Bu güçlü oy tabanı Cumhuriyetçi partiyi bile bölebilir.

Bakalım önümüzdeki aylar bu konuda ne gösterecek?
Trump biliyorsunuz, devletin kurumlarını ve Parlamentoyu dikkate almayan bir yönetim tarzını destekledi. Bu düşüncesine karşı çıkanları da teker teker görevden aldı ve anayasaya bağlılık yerine,  kendisine bağlılığı ön plana çıkarmaya calıştı. Kızını uzun bir süre Pence’in yerine başkan yardımcısı yapmak istedi. Pence ile yaşadığı ilk gerginliğin kaynağı buydu. Damadını Orta Doğu’daki kazançlı işlere yönetti, iki oğlunu da bakanlıkların kazançlı islerine yöneltmeye çalıştı.  Karşı çıkanları dinlemedi ve görevlerinden azletti. Bu da tabi ki ABD’nin devlet yönetim sistemi ve anayasasıyla uyuşmadı. Trump elinden geldiğince zorlamaya çalıştı ama bir türlü tam olarak istediğini yapamadı.

Tabi gecen bu 4 yıl süre içinde  devletin kurumlarının dengeleri de bozuldu. İşte Trump sonrası dönemde tüm bu dengelerin yeniden yerlerine oturtulması gerekiyor ve bu hiç de kolay olmayacak.

Sonuç olarak, ABD toplumunda kutuplaşma çok tehlikeli boyutlara ulaştı. Bu kutuplaşmanın önüne geçilmesi gerekiyor. Kısaca Biden’in işi hiç de kolay olmayacak.

SORU: Biden ile Türkiye- ABD ilişkilerini nasıl bir iklim bekliyor?,  Türkiye, ABD ilişkilerinde nasıl bir dönem başlıyor? Türkiye nasıl bir tutum sergilemeli?

ABD VE TÜRKİYE ARASINDA ÇOK SAYIDA FİKİR AYRILIĞI VAR

KAAN SOYAK: ABD ve Türkiye arasında bugün itibarıyla çok sayıda fikir ayrılıkları var. Bunların bir çoğu Trump ve ABD devlet politikası arasındaki farklılıklardan da kaynaklandı. Trump’ın birçok yerde Türkiye’yi yanlış yönlendirdiği Biden’a yakın ekip tarafından çeşitli yerlerde dillendirildi.

Washington’da birçok yerde Trump’in S-400 ler veya Suriye konularında Türkiye’yi yanlış yönlendirip arkası dolu olmayan sözler verdiği konuşuluyor.

İşte tüm bu farklılıklar , Biden döneminde çok daha eğitimli, Devlet akli ile hareket eden yetkililer ve kurumlar tarafından ele alınacaktır. Gerçek ABD devlet aklı Türkiye ile muhatap olacaktır.

Ikili ilişkilerdeki bütün bu olumsuzluklara rağmen,  avantaj,  Biden’in Türkiye’yi çok yakından tanıyan ve Türkiye’nin önemini çok iyi bilen bir lider olması. Biden dönemi ile Türk-ABD ilişkileri çok farklı ve çok daha iyi yerlere gelebilir. Öncelikle her iki tarafında kırmızı çizgilerini açıklıkla masaya yatırması ve karşılıklı şeffaf şekilde konuşmaları gerekiyor. Aradaki farklılıkların  güvenilir ve etkin “back channel” yöntemleriyle resmi kişilerin olmadığı ortamlarda da rahatlıkla konuşulması gerekiyor.

Hatta bu tür ilişkilerin teşvik edilmesi gerekiyor. Ankara’da ABD-Türkiye ilişkilerini kim elinde tutacak rekabetinin derhal bitmesi gerekiyor. En büyük zararı Türkler birbirine veriyorlar. Her türlü konunun Washington’daki Büyükelçilik bilgisi dahilinde yürümesi gerekiyor. Büyükelçi bazı toplantılara bizzat  katılır veya katılmaz  ancak mutlaka bilgisi dahilinde olması gerekiyor. Elimde yetki var, Türkiye’de de şu kişiye veya bu kişiye yakınım  diyen her kişinin Washington sokaklarında dolaşması ABD tarafından yanlış anlaşılıyor. Kaldı ki, bu tür seyahatler geçmişte kayıt altına alınıp bir çok kişinin bu konuda sorunlar yaşadığı biliniyor. Bunlar dikkat etmemiz gereken çok önemli noktalar ve bu konularda hata yapılmaması gerekiyor.

ABD’nin kendi çıkarları var, bunlar daha global çıkarlar, Türkiye’nin de kendi çıkarları var ve Türkiye bölgesinde güçlü bir ülke. Ben Biden dönemiyle beraber ABD ve Türkiye arasında yepyeni bir sayfanın açılabileceğine inanıyorum. Her iki tarafta bu fırsatı iyi değerlendirmeli düşüncesindeyim.

SORU: ABD’deki değişim dünyada nasıl bir kelebek etkisi yaratır? 

KAAN SOYAK: Bu konuda şimdiden bir kısım hareketlenmeler görünmekte. Trump usulü   Başbakan veya başkanlık ile yönetilen yerleri zor günlerin beklediği konuşulmakta.

Örneğin Israil’de Netanyahu’yu zorlu bir seçim bekliyor. Muhafazakar Musevi oyları kontrol eden Netanyahu’nun karşısında artık liberallerin de olduğu güçlü bir blok var ve 2021’de kendisini zorlu bir seçim beklemekte. Benzer şekilde Birleşik Arap Emirlikleri de hemen, Demokratlara yakınlığıyla bilinen Katar yönetimiyle masaya oturdu ve anlaştı . Suudilerde onları izledi. Ingiltere’de Boris Johnson durumunu iyice değerlendirmeye ve hata yapmamaya çalışıyor. Gelişmeleri yakınen izliyor.  İtalya’da Geleneksel muhafazakar katolik kurumlar durumu değerlendirmeye başladılar. Cizvit Katolikler ise şimdilik daha rahat çünkü Demokrat ve Liberal düşüncelere daha yakınlar. Rusya ve Azerbaijan’da huzursuzlukların  olduğu ve “back channel” ilişkileri arayışlarına başladıkları duyuluyor. Ermeni diasporasiyla daha yakın ilişkileri olan Demokratlar ile Azerilerin bir orta yol bulmaları gerekiyor.

Ayni şekilde Rusya’da Putin özellikle tüm hesaplarını yeniden gözden geçirmekte. Çünkü Biden yönetiminde önemli pozisyonlara gelen kişilerin çoğunluğu 2016 seçimlerinde Rusya’nın ABD seçimlerine karışmasını araştıran Rusya uzmanı  kişilerden oluşuyor.  Ayrıca ABD-Birleşmis Milletler, ABD-NATO, ABD-AB ilişkileri de eski düzeylerine en kısa sürede çıkartılacak. ABD’nin Dünya Sağlık Örgütü ve iklim değişmesiyle ilgili Trump’ın kararıyla çıktığı tüm kurumlara geri dönmesi planlanıyor.

Biden yönetimi Milliyetçi ve ırkçı söylemleri sevmeyen kişilerden oluşuyor. Diplomasi, diyalog, ortak ekonomik çıkarların  bulunması gibi başlıklar ön planda olacak.

Bu donemde Dünya üzerinde önem kazanacak kavramlar olarak, entegrasyon , bölgelerin,  ülkelerin birbirleri ile karşılıklı çıkar ve bağlılıkları ( Interdependency) görülebilir..
SORU:  Yakın dönemdeki ABD-Türkiye arasındaki en önemli problem nedir?   Bu konuda ne yapılmalıdır?

KAAN SOYAK: Öncelikli görülen problem, CAATSA isimli yaptırım kararıdır. Her ne kadar en düşük seviyede uygulanmaya başladıysa da, bu kararın ortadan kaldırılması ikili ilişkilerde en önemli başlama noktası olabilir. Bu yaptırım neden geldi, S-400 lerden dolayı geldi. Hiç kimse Türkiye’nin bu alımın doğru olup olmadığını tartışmamalı. Tam tersine bu alımın NATO sistemlerine söylendiği gibi sakıncası var mıdır, varsa ortaklaşa nasıl bir çözüm bulunabilir, tüm bu konular masaya yatırılmalı ve samimiyetle ele alınarak çözülmelidir. Basın üzerinden problemlerin konuşulmasının önüne geçilmelidir. Demokratlar ülke liderlerinin zaman zaman iç siyasetleri gereğince sert demeçler vermeleri gerektiğini bilirler ve anlayışla karşılarlar ama bunun daha önce kullanılan yöntemler ile yapılmasının daha doğru olduğunu düşünürler. Demokratlar basın üzerinden yapılan tekliflerden ve görüş alış verişlerinden hoşlanmazlar. Masada diyalog yöntemi ile her şeyin konuşulmasını isterler.  Türkiye’nin askeri konularda askeri back channel oluşturması çok yerinde olabilir.

Sivil konularda ise konunun ne olduğuna bağlı olarak uzman ekiplerin oluşturulması görüşmelerin çok daha etkin olmasını sağlar. Demokratlar bir de diyaloglarda  Milliyetçi tavırlarin öne çıkartılmasından ziyade  ülkelerin karşılıklı ekonomik çıkarlarının da ön planda olmasına önem verirler.

SORU: Türkiye yeni dünya düzeninde Amerika’ya bağımlı olmak yerine;  bağımsız,  herkes ile işbirliği yapabilme yeteneğine sahip olmayı seçti. Ki dünya da artık tek kutuplu değil. Mesela Çin, Asya Birliği, Türk Birliği gibi seçenekler de var artık.  Peki Amerika hala kendisini tek güç olarak mı görüyor? 

ÇİN ABD İLE SESSİZCE YENİ İLİŞKİ ARAMAKTA

KAAN SOYAK: ABD’nin kendisini tek bir güç olarak görme iddiasını duymadım.  Bu sanırım Amerika dışında dillendirilen bir söylem.  ABD’nin kendi çıkarları var, onları planlayıp uyguluyor. Burada saydığınız  ülke ve bölgelerin hepsi dışarıya bağımsız söylemler verirlerken bile su anda  Washington’da sessizce yeni ilişkiler aramakta. Örneğin Çin, su anda hem Demokratlara çok yakın,  Cizvit katolikleri ile ve hem de istihbarat ve devlet yapısı son derece stratejik olan Vatikan ile yakın çalışmaya başladı.

Cizvit Katolikleri ile Çin arasındaki ilişkiler,  1552 yılına kadar gider ve özel bir tarihi ilişkileri vardır. Yaklaşık 10 milyon katolik Çin’de yaşar ve Çin’deki Kiliselerin papazları bile Vatikan’ın onayıyla seçilir. Türki Cumhuriyetleri su sıralarda Washington’da güçlü  ilişkiler aramakta. Bu Türki Cumhuriyetleri Trump döneminde Rusya üzerinden Trump ile bağlantıları kurmaya çalışıyorlardı.  Şimdi ise kendi başlarına arayışlarını sürdürmekteler. Rusya ‘da da yönetimin Washington ile derin ilişki arayışları başladı. Bu konu en çok rekabet edilen konuların başında geliyor. ABD de Rusya ilişkilerini , Rusya’da da ABD ile ilişkileri elinde tutmak son derece önemli ve stratejik.

Aslında bütün bu ülkeler ve bölgeler bağımsız görünüyorlar ama bir de işlerin perde arkaları var.. Bir yandan siyasi işbirliği yolları aranırken diğer  yandan da ekonomik rekabet  sürecek mi?  Tabii ki evet. Örneğin Afrika’da Türk inşaat firmalarını sokmamak için Çin elinden geleni yapmaya devam edecektir. Türk Müteahhitler Birliği de bu konuda Japon Müteahhitler Birliği ve ABD ihalelerini alan ABD firmalarıyla işbirliğine girerek büyük işler alabilecektir. Libya’da yeni Biden yönetimiyle işbirliği yapacak bir Türkiye’nin ekonomik kazanımları çok daha fazla olabilir.

SORU:Biden politikaları bölgeye özellikle Ortadoğu’ya nasıl bir yeni dönem getirecek? Neler değişir? Nasıl değişir? Türkiye’ye bu noktada nasıl bir bakış açısı var?

KAAN SOYAK: Biden yönetiminin öncelikle Filistin konularına daha duyarlı kişilerden oluşması bekleniyor. Trump dönemindeki Filistinlilerin yok sayıldığı dönemin bittiğini  düşünüyorum. Bu konuda Biden yönetimi ile Türkiye arasında işbirliği yapılabilir. Hatta bu işbirliğinin içerisine daha ılımlı bir İsrail ve Doğu Akdeniz’in diğer ülkeleri de katılabilirler. Trump kendi döneminde Kıbrıs, Mısır, Suriye, Irak, Lübnan, Libya gibi ülkeler ile ilgilenmiyordu. Biden yönetimi tam tersine yakinen ilgilenecek. Sert ve milliyetçi söylemlerin halklara ekonomik getirisi olmadığını gören eğitimli Biden ekibi,  öncelikle halkların ekonomilerinin ve refahlarının on planda olduğu bir yaklaşımı masaya getirmeyi isteyecektir. Tabi ki Biden yönetiminin önünde ABD de de büyük sorunları vardır, özelikle ilk 6 ayda kendi iç işleriyle de çok meşgul olacak  Biden yönetimine, bölgenin uzmanı olan Türkiye bölgesel konularda yardımcı olmaya başlarsa bunun Türkiye’nin ekonomik çıkarlarına yardımcı olacağı kanısındayım. Örneğin Suriye ve Irak ‘taki Kürt guruplarıyla ekonomik alanda çalışmalar başlatan bir Türkiye’nin, Biden yönetiminin elini bir hayli rahatlatacağı düşünülüyor. Kafkaslarda Azerbaycan, Gürcistan ve Ermenistan ‘ı da içine alan bir büyük ekonomik açılım başlatacak bir Türkiye , Biden yönetiminden bu konuda çok destek görecektir düşüncesindeyim. Demokratlar ile yakın olan Ermeni Diasporasının Doğu ve Güney Doğu Anadolu’ya turistik amaçlı gezileri teşvik edilebilir.  Azerbaycan’ın son savaş sonrası varılan anlaşma dahilinde tüm işgal altındaki topraklarını geri alması, Türkiye -Ermenistan sınırının kapalı  kalması sebebini de ortadan kaldırdığı için , bu gibi adımlar,  hem dış politikada Türkiye’nin Bölge dahilinde olumlu bir açılımı,  hem de Bölgenin entegrasyonu ve sosyo ekonomik kalkınması  için çok yararlı bir adimi olarak algılanabilir.  Azerbaycan yeni Biden döneminde çok daha yumuşak bir siyaset izleyeceği izlenimini vermeye başladı bile. İşte bu noktada Türkiye Kafkaslardaki ekonomik açılıma öncülük edebilir.
Biden yönetimi ile İran arasında ilişkiler çok daha iyi olacaktır. Yaptırımlardan kurtulma şansı olan bir Iran ile ekonomik açılımlar en çok Türkiye’ye yarayabilir.

SORU: Erdoğan- Biden ilişkileri de Trump-Erdoğan dostluğu kadar sıkı olur mu?

KAAN SOYAK: Neden olmasın? Tabi ki olur ve içi daha da dolu bir ilişki olur. Ancak bunun için söylemlerin ve siyasetlerin karşılıklı yeniden gözden geçirilmesi ve daha uyumlu hale getirilmesi gerekiyor. Biden yönetimini iyi tanıyanların hep söyledikleri, Milliyetçi sert söylemli kişiler ile Biden yönetimi arasında iyi bir ilişki kurulmasının çok zor olduğu yönündedir. Biden yönetiminin,  Türkiye’nin tüm komşu ülkeleri ve halklarıyla ekonomik işbirliklerini geliştirme çabalarını destekleyeceğini düşünüyorum. Tabi ki, bunları yaparken Türkiye’nin gelişmesini istemeyen kesimler sert söylemlerin devamını isteyebilirler. Ama Demokratlar inanıyor ki,  Türkiye çok kolaylıkla yalnızca kendi halkına değil ama kendi bölgesindeki tüm ülkelerin halklarının eğitim, ekonomi ve sağlık konularının gelişmesi için işbirliklerine öncülük edebilir.
Biden hem Türkiye’yi hem de Erdoğan’ı yakinen tanıyan bir lider. Büyük bir açılıma hazır olduğunu düşünüyorum. Bu ilişkide kimlerin görev alacağı ve kurulan kanalların içeriklerinin neler olacağı çok önemli. Her şeyi Biden yönetiminden beklemek yerine, Türkiye’de kendi ekiplerini iyi eğitimli kişiler arasından belirlemeli ve bu ekipler hazır hale gelmelidir.

KAAN SOYAK KİMDİR?

1997’de dönemin Cumhurbaşkanı Süleyman Demirel’in talebiyle Türk-Ermeni ilişkilerinin gelişmesi için çalışmalara başladı. Türkiye ve Ermenistan ile Türkiye ve Ermeni Diasporasındaki çalışmaları yürüttü ve halen de yürütmekte. Bu arada bu çalışmalarda 10 yıl Ahmet Ertegün ile birlikte nerdeyse günlük bazda çalışmalar yaptı.
Birlikte uzlaşamayan ülkelerde halkların birbirleriyle bir araya gelmeleri üzerinde birlikte çalıştılar. 1997-1998 yıllarında Ahmet Ertegün ile ikili toplum ilişkilerinin yumuşatılması  hedeflenen çalışmalarda kültürel, müzik, spor vs alanlarda bir çok çalışma başlatıldı.  Bu çalışmalar raporlar haline getirildi ve  “Kamu Diplomasisi” çalışmalarına  çevrildi ve bu çalışmalar baz alınarak ABD Dış İşleri Bakanlığı’nda 1999 yılında Kamu Diplomasisi bölümü oluşturuldu.
Soyak, daha sonra Ertegün ile birlikte Türk-ABD, Türk-Yunan, Türk-İsrail ilişkilerinin yakınlaşması çalışmaları yaptı. Bu arada Ertegün ile birlikte ABD devlet aklı ile de yakın çalışmalar içine girdi. ABD’de şu anda Demokratlar ile Cumhuriyetçiler arasındaki güvenilir “backchannel “  iletişim kanallardan birisi olarak da tanınıyor.
Şu sıralarda da Dıs Politika Enstitüsü Başkanına Uluslararası konularında danışmanlık yapıyor.

Visits: 189

FPI CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

Covid 19 brought some significant changes into our lives. In academic world one of the main changes is the rise of online meetings and webinars. Foreign Policy Institute took that opportunity to increase its educational capabilities. Currently, FPI is organizing 5-6 week long webinars in various subjects mostly related to Turkey and world politics. The participants of these programs are facing a group of highly experienced academicians who follow world politics closely. Each week participants have the opportunity to attend 2-3 webinars organized by FPI. At the end of successful participation to all the webinars during the program, FPI issues a certificate to the name of the participant.

To learn the details of the beginning dates of the programs you may contact with us through email: fpi@foreignpolicy.org.tr, or follow us from twitter: @foreignpolicyi1

A sample of most recent webinars in one particular program is as follows;

 

2ocak 5ocak 7ocak 9ocak 11 ocak 12ocak 13 ocak 22aralık 24 aralık 30aralıkcert1x1 certx2certx3

 

 

Visits: 310

DEĞİŞEN DÜNYA DENGELERİ PROF. DR. HÜSEYİN BAĞCI VE PROF. DR. TARIK OĞUZLU

Dış Politika Enstitüsü Başkanı Prof. Dr. Hüseyin Bağcı ile Prof. Dr. Tarık Oğuzlu arasında Değişen Dünya Dengeleri ve Türkiye’nin Konumlanışı üzerine olan sohbeti aşağıdaki linkten izleyebilirsiniz.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KFNiNUgDJc

Visits: 67

FPI ZOOM MEETING ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY: CHALLENGES, EXPECTATIONS AND SOLUTIONS

President of Foreign Policy Institute Prof. Dr. Hüseyin Bağcı and Prof. Dr. Stefan Fröhlich met on 19.12.2020 at the zoom meeting titled ‘German Foreign Policy: Challenges, Expectations and Solutions’.

Find the video link of the whole webinar below;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiKfHWKqMpI

Visits: 413

Peeling Turkey Away from Russia’s Embrace: A Transatlantic Interest

From a European and transatlantic standpoint, it is as troubling as it is counter-intuitive: a de facto partnership has developed between Russia and Turkey, surrounding Europe. Paradoxical as it may be, the trend is now clear and represents a thorn in the side of European and transatlantic interests.

The paradox lies in the fact that Turkey and Russia are historic rivals. From the Ottoman-Russian wars to Turkey’s NATO membership as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism, the Turkish-Russian relationship has never been easy. The post-Cold War period is no exception, nearing outright military confrontation only five years ago, when a Turkish F-16 jet shot down a Russian aircraft near the Turkish-Syrian border.

Taken together, there is no region in and around Europe where Turkey and Russia see eye to eye. Be it in Central Asia where Moscow has stymied Ankara’s pan-Turkic dreams; in the Balkans where the two have taken different sides during war and peacetime alike; be it in North Africa and the Middle East where they have stood at loggerheads in the clash over political Islam; or in the Caucasus where Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan has mirrored Russia’s religious affinity and security bond with Armenia, Ankara and Moscow are rarely, if ever, on the same page.

Yet the pattern is clear: in every open conflict, Turkey and Russia have managed to find an entente that is as uneasy as it is real. In Syria, the clash could have tipped into outright confrontation, but after the near miss in 2015, Moscow and Ankara walked back from the brink, notably with the launch of the Astana process in which both have been deeply involved. Tensions have heated up again from time to time. With the prospect of Bashar al-Assad’s onslaught on Idlib in 2019, Turkey called Russia’s foul, but eventually the Turkish-Russian understanding held. In northeastern Syria too, where Turkey intervened militarily against the Syrian Kurds in 2016 and again in 2019, Moscow could have prevented Turkey’s offensive given its anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) footprint on the Syrian airspace, but chose not to.

In Libya, Turkey and Russia have rallied for opposite sides of the civil war. Notably, Russia, with its Wagner mercenaries, provided crucial backing to Khalifa Haftar’s military offensive against the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Weighing in alongside the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France, the Wagner group’s stepping into the Libyan quagmire almost tipped the scales, with Haftar’s advance towards Tripoli becoming ever closer in early 2020.

When the GNA risked falling, Ankara stepped in, providing military backing to a government the international community had spared no words in backing while doing precious little in practice. Turkey’s military intervention flipped military fortunes and created that mutually hurting stalemate that brought the parties to an uneasy ceasefire in the summer of 2020. Turkey remains deeply involved militarily in Libya, and Russia’s military presence in the east, from being a “nice but not necessary” tool to deploy, is now entrenched. Notwithstanding the ongoing political dialogue process, Libya risks partitioning militarily along the Sirte-Jufra line, with both Turkish and Russian presence consolidating in the country.

The resumption of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan after twenty-six years of unstable ceasefire around Nagorno Karakakh and its adjacent regions became the third potential Turkish-Russian flashpoint that never was. When Azerbaijan kick-started the war to recapture the territories lost to Armenia in the 1992-94 war, much of the international media spotlight turned to Ankara.

Turkey, in fact, was the only external power that did not call for a ceasefire, but rather egged Baku on in its military campaign. There was much talk of Turkey’s drones and Syrian jihadis, the role of which was likely overplayed, but nonetheless significant. For its part, Russia activated itself to broker a ceasefire. While repeatedly stepping in to mediate humanitarian ceasefires, it implicitly allowed the war to rage on for six long weeks, in which Azerbaijan gradually recaptured much of the seven regions surrounding Nagorno Karabakh. It was only when Azerbaijani forces made inroads into Karabakh itself, that Moscow blew the whistle.

The peace deal brokered by Moscow was an all-out win for Russia, as well as Azerbaijan. Along the line of contact in Nagorno Karabakh and the Lachin corridor, a contingent of almost 2000 Russian troops are being deployed for the first time since the end of the Cold War. This gives Russia not only unprecedented leverage over the constitutional fate of Nagorno Karabakh, but also over domestic politics in Azerbaijan and above all Armenia. However, to a lesser extent Turkey gained too. Ankara for the first time won the possibility of sending observers to the region, and, most significantly, with the reopening of a direct connection between Azerbaijan and its exclave Nakhichevan, Turkey obtained direct access to Azerbaijan proper and the Caspian Sea.

In each of these conflicts, Turkey, a NATO ally and, at least theoretically, an EU candidate country, has pursued incontrovertibly its national and often nationalistic interests. It has done so in ways that have certainly not coincided with those of the European Union or of the United States. However, it would be mistaken to argue that Turkey’s interests have been diametrically opposed to those of the West.

In Syria, Turkey’s assault on the Syrian Kurds generated a Western outcry – in words rather than deeds – while its ambiguity towards and support for different incarnations of the Islamist opposition to the Syrian regime sowed mistrust, notably at the height of the ISIS threat in the Middle East, Europe and the world. However, Turkey, unlike Russia and Iran, and alongside the West, has been a sworn enemy of the Syrian regime, ever since the protests degenerated into civil war in late 2011. In the reconstruction and refugee return phase of the Syrian conflict, the EU and Turkey will grapple with similar policy challenges.

In Libya too, Turkey has clearly pursued its interests and is now consolidating its military, political and economic presence in the country. In Libya, Turkey is there to stay. Yet there too, Western and Turkish interests are not totally incompatible. Ankara stepped into the war to prevent the fall of Sarraj’s GNA that Europe and the US also backed in theory. Both Turkey and the EU have an interest in the stabilization of Libya and the prevention of its de facto partition into two blocks.

Finally, in Nagorno Karabakh, Turkey has certainly sung from a different hymn sheet from the Western cry for an immediate ceasefire. However, no European country nor the US has ever objected to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Furthermore, Turkey’s inclusion amongst the observers in Nagorno Karabakh should be looked upon with favour by Europeans in a context in which the OSCE Minsk Group has been sadly outmaneuvered and Russia would otherwise monopolize the show.

Notwithstanding the fact that divisions between Turkey and Russia are infinitely more tangible and acute than those between Turkey and the West, relations between Turkey and Russia are consolidating into a de facto partnership, while those between Turkey and the West are edging towards sanctions. Why?

The easy part of the answer lies in domestic politics in Russia and Turkey. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has long abandoned even the narrative of democracy, heralding itself as one of the leaders of a post-liberal world. The Russian President has used foreign policy to gain strategic edge over the West, and stoke nationalism at home, distracting public attention from domestic woes. Turkish President Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan has taken Putin’s cue, and over the last year, has regained some domestic political traction after the Justice and Development Party’s electoral annus horribilis in 2019.

By intervening militarily in Libya, escalating tensions in the East Mediterranean and reentering the Caucasus, Erdoğan has done what many, if not most, Turks would read as a welcome reassertion of national interests redressing past wrongs. In doing so, Erdoğan has distracted public opinion from his ailing domestic economy. In other words, Russia and Turkey’s leaders pursue similar tactics: they “get each other” and that understanding instils a degree of reciprocal respect even when interests diverge.

There is certainly truth is this explanation, which is the one most commonly heard in the West. However, it is also a convenient truth for the West to put forth, leaving in the shadow another, complementary, but far more uncomfortable reality.

Another explanation is that Russia and Turkey have found pragmatic ententes because they have had to do so. They are both deeply engaged in each of these conflicts in a way in which Europeans and Americans are just not. Turkey and Russia are far more prone to intervene militarily in conflicts than Europeans always were and Americans are becoming.

More broadly, be it in Syria, Libya or the Caucasus, the US and the EU have abdicated much of their responsibilities and shied away from risk. In the vacuum, Russia, Turkey and other regional players, have stepped in, learning to come to terms with one another. The US, for its part, can retort with good reason that this is not the part of the world where it will do the heavy lifting. We should expect that in different forms and manners, this will continue to be the tune played by the Biden administration.

Europeans instead have only themselves to blame. It is may well be too late for Syria and probably also for the Caucasus. However, when it comes to Libya, Europeans should do much more. Germany has invested significantly in the Berlin process, and diplomacy is certainly a key piece of the peacebuilding puzzle. But unless Europeans take greater risks to consolidate peace on the ground in Libya – and not simply at sea – they will continue to be passive by-standers of the de facto external control of the country by Turkey and Russia. As Libya’s political dialogue unfolds, Europeans should engage far more actively in peacebuilding, with greater readiness to be present on the ground.

While taking greater risk and responsibility, Europeans should think through a strategy that makes due distinction between Turkey and Russia, avoiding further entrenchment of the unnatural partnership between the two, from which Europeans and Americans can only lose. In particular, we should not be blinded by the commonalities we see between Putin’s Russia and Erdoğan’s Turkey domestically, and become better able to distinguish between their foreign policy behaviour.

On foreign policy, Russian and Turkish positions and ambitions differ in important ways. Beyond annexing Crimea and upending the European security architecture, Putin’s Russia vies for leadership of a sovereignist world. In no way does it see itself as part of the West, and is often scathing of the alleged ineffectiveness, cowardice, arrogance and moral bankruptcy of Western liberal democracies. Russia has acted to the direct detriment of Western democracies by interfering in electoral processes, spreading disinformation and allegedly engaging in cyber-attacks. We should of course “selectively engage” with Russia, but with eyes wide open as to the context in which our engagement takes place.

Turkey, for all its faults, not only is and remains a NATO ally, but continues to express an interest in closer relations with the European Union, beginning with a modernized customs union. Ankara’s sincerity would need to be verified, but to do so it is the Union that must make the first move. Likewise, the EU and the US should actively seek opportunities to work with Turkey on foreign policy questions on which interests do not fundamentally diverge. With Syria and Nagorno Karabakh further away from Western reach, Libya would be the place to start. The space for manoeuvre, here too, is shrinking fast. As Libya’s political dialogue unfolds, time will be of the essence.

All this does not imply that the EU and the US should stay put and refrain from using the stick with Turkey as the case may warrant. Be it over the S400 debacle with NATO or Turkey’s actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the threat of restrictive measures will remain on the table. Less still does it mean that the EU and the US should drop the ball on Turkey’s democratic backsliding. With an administration in Washington that will once again take genuine interest in democracy, human rights, rule of law, a renewed transatlantic focus on Turkey’s domestic dynamics is imperative.

However, in addressing whether, when and how to react to Turkey’s foreign policy moves, Europe and the US should factor in the broader strategic context in which we operate. The purpose of our actions should be to peel Ankara away from Moscow, rather than push it deeper in its embrace.

* Nathalie Tocci is Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and Honorary Professor at the University of Tübingen.

Visits: 243

Democracy or Plutocracy? – America’s Existential Question

Kishore Mahbubani is a Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore. This essay contains excerpts from his latest book Has China Won? (2020). You may follow him on Twitter @mahbubani_k.

 

Is the United States of America still a functioning democracy or has it become, for all practical purposes, a plutocracy? And why is this question important? It’s important because the answer to the question of whether America has a dark or shining future will depend on whether it’s a democracy or plutocracy. Indeed, this question may well be the most existential question America has to address.

Let’s begin to answer this question from the very beginning. What is the actual difference between a democracy and a plutocracy? In a democracy, the masses broadly determine their future. Equally critically, in terms of the economy, society, and political system there is a level playing field where the working classes, middle classes, and affluent elites compete. The term “level playing field” is absolutely critical here. Many Americans believe that their economic and political systems create a level playing field in which the poor and disadvantaged can rise to the top. This is also why there is no social resentment of billionaires in America. Most Americans believe that they have an equal opportunity to become billionaires. So the first big question we need to address is this: is there a level playing field for the poor and rich?

The honest answer is no. Today, when working class or even middle class Americans have to compete with the affluent elites, they are not competing on a level playing field. They have to run uphill to score goals. By contrast, the affluent elites run downhill as the playing field is tilted in their favor. Writing in the Financial Times in June 2019, Edward Luce provides one statistic to drive home this point: “Studies show that an eighth grade [i.e. a 14-year-old] child from a lower income bracket who achieves maths results in the top quarter is less likely to graduate than a kid in the upper income bracket scored in the bottom quarter. This is the reverse of how meritocracy should work.”

There is no shortage of data to drive home the point that there is no longer a level playing field in America. Anand Giridharadas, a former New York Times columnist, has documented in great detail in his book Winners Take All (2018) how the dream of the American middle class has effectively evaporated. As he says:

A successful society is a progress machine. It takes in the raw material of innovations and produces broad human advancement. America’s machine is broken. When the fruits of change have fallen on the United States in recent decades, the very fortunate have basketed almost all of them. For instance, the average pretax income of the top tenth of Americans has doubled since 1980, that of the top 1 percent has more than tripled, and that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than sevenfold—even as the average pretax income of the bottom half of Americans has stayed almost precisely the same. These familiar figures amount to three and a half decades’ worth of wondrous, head-spinning change with zero impact on the average pay of 117 million Americans.

Giridharadas claims that the American people are beginning to “feel” that the system is unfair:

Thus many millions of Americans, on the left and right, feel one thing in common: that the game is rigged against people like them. […] There is a spreading recognition, on both sides of the ideological divide, that the system is broken, that the system has to change.

Giridharadas is right. To create a level playing field, the system has to change. But it will not change. Why not? What are the obstacles to change? And, if there are obstacles, why hasn’t the world’s freest media, the American media, revealed these obstacles? This is where the story becomes complex. We also have to venture into politically controversial territory to understand the obstacles to change.

Main Obstacle to Change

The main obstacle to change is a myth. An example from history will help. For centuries, European serfs accepted a feudal system in which they were second-class citizens (if not slaves) in a system dominated by feudal lords. Why didn’t the majority of serfs overthrow the minority of feudal lords? A huge myth was created to generate a belief that this system was just. The kind and gentle feudal lords reinforced the myth. At the risk of quoting a politically controversial philosophical concept, let me mention a term used for this phenomenon: false consciousness. According to Daniel Little, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor of Philosophy at University of Michigan-Dearborn, “false consciousness” is a concept derived from Marxist theory of social class. […] Members of a subordinate class (workers, peasants, serfs) suffer from false consciousness in that their mental representations of the social relations around them systematically conceal or obscure the realities of subordination, exploitation, and domination those relations embody. Marx asserts that social mechanisms emerge in class society that systematically create distortions, errors, and blind spots in the consciousness of the underclass. If these consciousness-shaping mechanisms did not exist, then the underclass, always a majority, would quickly overthrow the system of their domination.

Yet, even if contemporary Americans were to accept that there was “false consciousness” in the feudal era, they would contest the possibility of it emerging in modern American society, where the unique combination of the world’s freest and fiercely independent media, the best universities, the best-funded think tanks and the spirit of open and critical enquiry would expose any big “myth” that enveloped American society. Many Americans would assert no myths can survive in the robustly open environment of American society. Only facts survive.

To be fair, many American writers have written about the several dimensions of plutocracy in American society. In addition to Giridharadas, who was cited earlier, distinguished American writers like Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich have documented, for example, the growing inequality in America. In his brilliant May 2011 Vanity Fair article entitled, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” Stiglitz opines that it’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.

Yet what most of these articles emphasize is the growing “inequality” in America. And if the problem is “inequality,” then fortunately the problem can be solved. As America has the world’s most robust democratic system, where the broad masses elect the leaders who in turn take care of the interests of the broad masses, any problem of “inequality” could eventually be fixed. In short, if America has a problem, it also has a solution: democracy.

This brings us to the heart of the argument of this essay. To put it simply, the solution has become part of the problem. While all the democratic processes remain in place, with Americans going to the polls every two or four years (depending on the elected office) to select their leaders (who will in theory take care of them), the results of all those processes is that Americans elect leaders who will take care of the 1 percent, not the 99 percent.

How did this happen? How did America, which on the surface still functions as a democracy, become a plutocracy, which takes care of the interest of the 1 percent? [Note: the term 1 percent is used metaphorically here. The real reference is to a tiny elite that benefits from a non-level playing field]

There was one great American who anticipated the effective hijacking of the American democratic system by the very affluent. He is America’s greatest political philosopher of recent times, John Rawls. Rawls warned that “if those who have greater private means are permitted to use their advantages to control the course of public debate,” this would be the corrupting result:

Eventually, these inequalities will enable those better situated to exercise a larger influence over the development of legislation. In due time they are likely to acquire a preponderant weight in settling social questions, at least in regard to those matters upon which they normally agree, which is to say in regard to those things that support their favored circumstances.

This is precisely what has happened over the past few decades: the affluent have gained “preponderant weight […] in regard of those things that support their favored circumstances.” There has been a relative transfer of wealth and political power from the vast majority of America’s population to a privileged super minority.

The practical effect of transferring power to a super minority is that the political system responds to the needs and interest of the top 1 percent, not to the 99 percent. Fortunately, there have been strong, peer-reviewed academic studies that confirm this political reality. Two Princeton University professors have documented how ordinary American citizens have lost their political power and influence. Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page studied the relative influence that the views of average Americans and mass-based interest groups have on policy outcomes versus the views of the economic elite in 1,779 cases. They found that: economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. […] When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy. […] Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of “affluent” citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do. […] In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule—at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. ]

They reach the following alarming conclusion:

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

In the past, the broad middle classes of America had a strong say in determining the fundamental direction of American society. Today, they no longer do. The decisions of the U.S. Congress are not determined by the voters; they are determined by the funders. As a result, America is becoming functionally less and less of a democracy, where all citizens have an equal voice. Instead, it looks more and more like a plutocracy, where a few rich people are disproportionately powerful.

These conclusions have been reinforced by other academic studies. A 2018 study by scholars Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol, and Jason Sclar of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University further argued that since the mid-2000s, newly formed conservative and progressive donor consortia—above all the Koch seminars [founded by brothers Charles and David Koch] and the DA [Democracy Alliance]—have magnified the impact of wealthy donors by raising and channeling ever more money not just into elections but also into full arrays of cooperating political organizations. […] The Koch seminars […] allowed donations to be channeled into building a virtual third political party organized around AFP [Americans for Prosperity], an overarching political network able not only to electorally support the Republican Party but also to push and pull its candidates and office holders in preferred ultra-free-market policy directions. […] To the degree that wealthy donor consortia have succeeded in building organizational infrastructures, they have shifted the resources available for developing policy proposals, pressing demands on lawmakers, and mobilizing ordinary Americans into politics. […] When plutocratic collectives impose new agendas on political organizations seeking to attract financial resources, the funders reshape routines, goals, and centers of power in U.S. politics well beyond the budgetary impact of particular grants.

To that end, Figure 1 illustrates (please see following page) the hundreds of millions of dollars that wealthy donors have raised annually within the donor consortia to finance their political interests. The authors thus conclude:

Our analysis of the Koch and DA consortia highlights that a great deal of big-money influence flows through mechanisms other than individual or business donations to the electoral and lobbying operations. […] To understand how the wealthy are reshaping U.S. politics, we need to look not just at their election and lobbying expenditures but also at their concerted investments in many kinds of political organizations operating across a variety of fields and functions. Only in this way can we account for the stark inequalities in government responsiveness documented by [various] researchers.

So what triggered this massive transfer of political power from the broad masses to a tiny elite in America? This question will be hotly debated by political scientists and historians for decades. Yet it is also clear that one seminal ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court made a huge difference. In a landmark ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) as well as in other decisions, many of the legislative restraints on the use of money to influence the political process were overturned.

A report by the Center for Public Integrity reported that: “The Citizens United ruling, released in January 2010, tossed out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. It gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.” The impact of this and other Supreme Court decisions was monumental. Effectively, they ended up transforming the American political system. Martin Wolf says that “the Supreme Court’s perverse 2010 Citizens United decision held that companies are persons and money is speech. That has proved a big step on the journey of the U.S. towards becoming a plutocracy.”

Now, Martin Wolf is one of the most influential columnists in the world. He also describes himself as being fiercely pro-American. In a column written in 2018, Wolf said “the U.S. was not just any great power. It embodied the causes of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. This made [my father] fiercely pro-American. I inherited this attitude.” America is an open society. Therefore, when major voices like Martin Wolf and Joseph Stiglitz describe America as having become a “plutocracy,” the logical result should have been a major public debate on whether this claim is true.

Instead, the opposite happened. This comment by Martin Wolf was buried. The psychological resistance in America to use the term “plutocracy” is deep. Leading newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post do not use it. Leading columnists like Richard Cohen and Paul Krugman do not use it. Nor do distinguished historians like Simon Schama mention plutocracy. Certainly no American politician uses it.

So, what is in a name? Shakespeare once famously said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I sometimes doubt this piece of wisdom. If someone were to change the name of “rose” to “skunk-flower,” we might approach a rose with some caution. Choosing the right name makes a huge difference. As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

The sad reality about the U.S. is that, functionally, there is absolutely no doubt that the political system has gone from functioning as a democracy (a government of the people, by the people, for the people) towards becoming a plutocracy (a government of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent). Yet, while this political reality is undeniable, it is also unspeakable.

Just and Unjust Inequality

What is the real danger that flows from this refusal to describe the American political system as a “plutocracy”? Many dangers! Firstly, it perpetuates the myth that American society has a “level playing field.” Anybody can succeed. Hence, if a person fails it is because of his individual defects. It is not because the social environment is rigged against the person. Secondly, by refusing to describe it as a plutocracy, the fundamental difference between “just inequality” and “unjust inequality” falls to the surface.

The term “just inequality” may seem to be an oxymoron. Yet, it was John Rawls who highlighted this difference. It was he who said that inequality was not the problem. The fundamental question was whether rising inequality resulted in an improvement or deterioration of the living conditions of the people living at the bottom. He states this clearly and categorically: “the higher expectations of those better situated are just if and only if they work as part of a scheme which improves the expectations of the least advantaged members of society.”

The best way to illustrate the difference between “just equality” and “unjust equality” is to compare concrete examples. Both the United States and China have about the same level of inequality. By the latest estimates, the gini coefficient in America is 0.41 and in China is 0.39. There is no significant difference here. However, there is a significant difference between how the bottom 50 percent have fared in America and China. America is the only major developed society where the average income of the bottom 50 percent has declined over a 30 year period from 1980 to 2010, as documented by my colleague of the National University of Singapore, Professor Danny Quah. By contrast, the bottom 50 percent of the Chinese population has seen the greatest improvements in their standard of living in recent decades. Indeed, the past 40 years of social and economic development that the Chinese people have enjoyed have been the best 40 years in four thousand years of Chinese history.

The story here is not just about economic failures and economic successes. These economic failures and successes have profound effects on the state of psychological and social well-being of societies. In America, this stagnation of income has also resulted in a lot of human pain and suffering, as documented by two Princeton University economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton. The white working classes of America used to carry the American dream of getting a better life in their hearts and souls. Today, as Case says, there is a “sea of despair” among them. She and Deaton conclude: “Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high-school-educated working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline.” The detailed study of Case and Deaton documents how poor economic prospects “compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity, and other pathologies.”

In China, the situation is almost exactly the opposite. A Chinese-American psychology research from Stanford University, Jean Fan, visited China in 2019. She observed that “China is changing in a deep and visceral way, and it is changing fast, in a way that is almost incomprehensible without seeing it in person. In contrast to America’s stagnation, China’s culture, self-concept, and morale are being transformed at a rapid pace—mostly for the better.”

One obvious counter-argument to the different social conditions of America and China is that the American people are still better off because they enjoy freedom while the Chinese people do not. It is true that the American people enjoy political freedom. This is undeniable. However, it is also true that a person from the bottom 50 percent of American society is more likely to lose their personal freedom and end up in jail. The chance of being incarcerated in America (if one is born in the bottom 10 percent, especially among the black population) is at least five times higher than China. America sends 0.655 percent (or 2.12 million) into jails. By contrast, China sends 0.118 percent (or 1.65 million) into jails. A 2019 study tried to understand which ethnic group in America had the greatest percentage of individuals with family members in jail or prison. The average figure for all Americans was 45 percent. The figure for whites was 42 percent, Hispanics 48 percent, and blacks 63 percent.

Any American who has doubts about the dangers posed by plutocracy should pause and reflect on these figures. Let’s repeat the figure: 45 percent of Americans have family members in jail or prison. These high levels of incarceration did not happen because the American people have psychological characteristics that make them more likely to become criminals. This is a result of the socio-economic conditions of the bottom 50 percent that have steadily deteriorated.

If it is manifestly obvious that the American political system is facing a crisis, why is there no consensus on the American body politic on what has gone wrong? Surely the best newspapers and universities, and the best-known students and professors in the world, should be able to arrive at a clear consensus on the real problems faced by American society?

In the year 2020, we can understand why there is no consensus. The liberal elites are distracted by one major issue: the reelection of Donald Trump. They believe that it would be a disaster if Donald Trump is reelected. They also believe that many of America’s problems would be solved if Joe Biden wins. I share the hope that Biden will win. Yet, even if he wins, the systemic issues that led to the development of a plutocracy in America will not go away. Money will still dominate the political system.

If anyone doubts this, the following data from an important 2018 study written by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman that appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Economics confirms this very clearly: First, our data show a sharp divergence in the growth experienced by the bottom 50 percent versus the rest of the economy. The average pretax income of the bottom 50 percent of adults has stagnated at about $16,000 per adult (in constant 2014 dollars, using the national income deflator) since 1980, while average national income per adult has grown by 60 percent to $64,500 in 2014. As a result, the bottom 50 percent income share has collapsed from about 20 percent in 1980 to 12 percent in 2014. In the meantime, the average pretax income of top 1 percent adults rose from $420,000 to about $1.3 million, and their income share increased from about 12 percent in the early 1980s to 20 percent in 2014. The two groups have essentially switched their income shares, with eight points of national income transferred from the bottom 50 percent to the top 1 percent. The top 1 percent income share is now almost twice as large as the bottom 50 percent share, a group that is by definition 50 times more numerous. In 1980, top 1 percent adults earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50 percent adults before tax, while they earn 81 times more today.

There are two ways of viewing this great divergence. It could be a result of the fact that the top 1 percent of Americans are becoming smarter and the bottom 50 percent of Americans are becoming less smart. Or it could be a result of the fact that America has become a plutocracy where there is no longer a level playing field. All the evidence points to the latter conclusion. Many Americans sense that the system does not work for them.

Deteriorating socio-economic conditions mean that people will suffer. All this is brought out by the latest Social Progress Index which was released in September 2020. Quite astonishingly, out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, America, Brazil, and Hungary are the only three countries where people have become worse off. The index collects several metrics of well-being, including nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education, and others to measure the quality of life in a country. America slipped from number 19 to number 28 in the world. Writing with reference to the aforementioned results, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof corroborates deteriorating quality of life with “rising distress and despair.” Quite shockingly, Kristof describes how one quarter of the children with whom he went to school on the same school bus are now dead from drugs, alcohol, and suicide. His personal experience mirrors what Case and Deaton have documented on the “sea of despair” among white working classes.

Tyranny of Money

Clearly something has gone fundamentally wrong with American society. Many Americans are also beginning to sense that the system isn’t working for them. Marvin Zonis, a University of Chicago economist has written an article which describes how “the American system is facing a crisis of legitimacy.” The level of confidence that American people have in their key institutions has been declining. Confidence in the U.S. presidency has fallen from 52 percent in 1975 to 37 percent in 2018. Confidence in the U.S. Congress has plummeted more sharply from 42 percent in 1973 to 11 percent in 2018. The explanation that Zonis gives for this declining confidence is credible. As he says, “the central factor in the growing lack of trust and confidence in our institutions has been the realization that our American democracy does not function commensurately with the ideals of the founders or the Constitution. Money has become the key to American political life.”

The key word he uses is “money.” If money dictates outcomes in politics, it means that a society has become a “plutocracy.” After documenting how the amount of money spent in a U.S. presidential election year has gone from $3 billion in 2010 to $6.5 billion in 2016, Zonis adds that the “contributors of those many billions expect a return on their investments—and they usually get it. Congressional action on gun legislation, sugar subsidies, policies towards Israel, drug pricing, and countless other issues is best explained by the financing of political campaigns and not by the political preferences of ordinary voters, or even of members of Congress.”

Please read the above paragraph again, carefully. It says clearly that the decisions of the U.S. Congress are decided by “contributors of billions” and not by the “political preference of ordinary voters.” This observation confirms what Gilens and Page documented earlier. In short, there is no doubt that functionally America has become a plutocracy. Yet, equally significantly, Zonis does not use the term “plutocracy” once in his article.

In Denial there is an old fashioned adage that says: one must call a spade a spade. Similarly, one must call a plutocracy a plutocracy. The reluctance to do so brings out the key problems facing American society. If America refuses to accept that it has functionally become a plutocracy, how can it possibly find a way out of this challenge? Just as no oncologist can cure a patient of cancer if he or she refuses to submit himself or herself to treatment, similarly America cannot be cured of its plutocracy problem if it remains in denial that such a problem exists.

All this means that there are two possible outcomes. The first is a revolution against the establishment in Washington, DC. Paradoxically this may have been what the working classes thought they were doing when they elected Trump in 2016. They wanted to elect someone outside the establishment and one who would shake up the establishment. When Hillary Clinton responded in 2016 by calling Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables” it showed that she, together with the rest of the Washington establishment did not understand what the broad masses of Americans were trying to convey. Unfortunately, in electing Trump, the working classes voted in a plutocrat. In office, Trump acted like a plutocrat. He cut taxes for the rich again. The conditions for the bottom 50 percent didn’t improve.

The second possible outcome is for the arrival of enlightenment. At some point in time, the top 1 percent in America must come to realize that if they are going to protect most of their personal economic gain in America, and not make an effort to improve the conditions of the bottom 50 percent, they will only damage the very body politic—American society—that is enabling them to become so wealthy.

Fortunately, many wealthy Americans are coming to realize this. Ray Dalio is one of them. Dalio runs the largest, most successful hedge fund in the world, which has succeeded through rigorous empirical research. Dalio has now applied this research to understanding poverty and inequality in America. On his LinkedIn page, Dalio spells out the dramatic decline in the living standards of the majority of Americans and points out that “most people in the bottom 60 percent are poor” and cites “a recent Federal Reserve study [that showed that] 40 percent of all Americans would struggle to raise $400 in the event of an emergency.” Worse, Dalio notes that “they are increasingly getting stuck being poor […]. [T]he odds of someone in the bottom quintile moving up to the middle quintile or higher in a 10-year period […] declined from about 23 percent in 1990 to only 14 percent as of 2011.”

The data on social deterioration in America is undeniable. It undercuts the claims that America is a society where hard work brings rewards. For most people, the rewards have dried up. The platitude that “virtue is its own reward” turns out to be grimly and limitingly true.

Five Hard Steps Forward

Yet, even if the top 1 percent in America, which includes Dalio, were to wish that American society return to its condition of the 1950s and 1960s, when the broad mass of American society was also lifted up as America’s economy grew, what should they do? Is there a magic button they can press? Is there a simple “silver bullet” solution to America’s problem with plutocracy? Sadly, there are no easy solutions. There are only painful solutions. This article will therefore conclude by suggesting what some of them might be. The first step would be for the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to be reversed. As Martin Wolf said, this court decision started the slippery slope towards plutocracy in America.

The second step would be for America to emulate the example of its fellow democracies in the European Union and impose strict limits on the amount of money that can be spent on elections. Fortunately, the American people also want to limit the influence of money. A Pew Research Institute survey in 2018 found that “an overwhelming majority (77 percent) supports limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on political campaigns and issues. And nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) say new laws could be effective in reducing the role of money in politics.”

The third step is to change American ideology in a fundamental way. It should go back to the wisdom of its founding fathers. The founding fathers of America were all disciples of great European philosophers of the Enlightenment period (including John Locke and Montesquieu) and emphasized both Freedom and Equality—as did the aforementioned Rawls. Of late, however, American politicians, starting with Ronald Reagan, have emphasized Freedom and not mentioned Equality in the same breath.

The fourth step is to acknowledge that market forces alone cannot create a level playing field for all Americans. Government must step in to redress major social and economic inequalities. Therefore, Americans should openly declare that Reagan was totally wrong when he said, “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” Instead, Americans should accept the wisdom of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen who said that for societies to progress they need the “invisible hand” of the free market and the “visible hand” of good governance. Americans have not used the “visible hand” in recent decades, especially since the Reagan-Thatcher revolution.

Fifthly, the American government should declare that the main goal of American society is to go from being number 28 on the Social Progress Index towards becoming number one on this index. Hence, instead of trying to become the number one military power (and wasting trillions fighting unnecessary wars) America will spend its trillions improving the living conditions of Americans measured in the Social Progress Index.

The bottom line is that solutions are out there, and they’re available. But these solutions will only work if Americans agree on what the problem is. And the problem is, quite simply, plutocracy.

Visits: 76