Welcome Back to Kissinger’s World


Neoconservatism has died, and liberal internationalism is discredited. Perhaps it’s time to return to the ideas of one of the last century’s greatest realists.

You can hate Henry Kissinger and think him evil. What you can’t do is ignore him—especially now. So argues Barry Gewen in his incisive new intellectual history of Kissinger and his times, The Inevitability of Tragedy. Indeed, not only can we not ignore the old statesman, who turned 97 in May, but we need him more than ever. To be precise, we desperately need Kissinger’s ideas and instincts about how to muddle our way through a world that, we now realize, isn’t working very well—and probably never will.

The world, from Washington’s perspective especially, has gotten Kissingerian again. America’s crusades are over or at best are corroded and crumbling at their derelict foundations. The Wilsonian crusaderism that transformed sensible Cold War containment into a futile and delusional battle against the myth of monolithic communism, ending horribly in Vietnam; and then reawakened in the post-Cold War era as a neo-Reaganite call to end “evil” regimes, finishing tragically in Iraq, has all but exhausted itself. No one wants anything to do with transforming the world anymore—so much so that Americans put a frank neo-isolationist, Donald Trump, in the White House so that he could shut the country off from the world.

The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World, Barry Gewen, W.W. Norton, 452 pp., , April 2020
The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World, Barry Gewen, W.W. Norton, 452 pp., $30, April 2020
The coronavirus crisis has accelerated Trump’s agenda, inspiring a new wave of “America First” isolationism, as his trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, argued in a recent essay calling for a reversal of U.S. economic offshoring in response to China’s “predatory trade and economic policies” and deceptions over the origins of the pandemic. The Trump administration is even invoking the power blocs of previous eras, mulling the creation of an “Economic Prosperity Network” of like-minded countries that would detach themselves from China. With the 2020 presidential race in full swing, Democrats too are sounding more and more like Cold Warriors toward China, with the party’s presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, hammering Trump for his occasional praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping. And as a party, Democrats are questioning as never before liberal internationalist institutions that came out of their own tradition, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO)—largely because of a growing sense of grievance that China has exploited and violated WTO rules to rob middle-class Americans of their jobs.

The United States is not ready for any of this. Certainly, U.S. diplomats have not figured a way out of it. To be sure, the liberal international order and the system of alliances that emerged out of World War II three-quarters of a century ago still exist, thankfully, and we’ll continue to make use of them. But mistrust among allies is high, cooperation all but nonexistent, and each country seems inclined to go its own nationalist way. Global institutions like the United Nations and WTO have become meek poor relations at the table, pleading for policy scraps, while Washington, Beijing, and Moscow jostle for a seat at the head. Among nations the great ideological struggles are over—or at least in deep hibernation. Over the course of the past century or so, we have witnessed the debunking of monarchy, authoritarianism, fascism, communism, and totalitarianism, each of them tried and tested to destruction. And now, to a degree, we are also experiencing the failures of democracy, which in so many places seems polarized into paralysis, as in Washington, drowning in memes of misinformation and hacked by malign external forces like Russia. We have also seen how capitalism—though it bested Cold War communism in terms of ownership of the means of production—has proved grossly unequal to the test of producing social equity. The world’s chosen system is prone to continual collapse.
Just as significant, American prestige and power are as low as they’ve been in living memory, especially following Trump’s divisive, polarizing first term, which culminated most recently in international condemnation of his brutal approach to the protests that erupted following the killing of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis. Beyond that, the president’s puerile jingoism and fumbling coronavirus response have only completed the road to reputational ruin begun under President George W. Bush. It is difficult now to remember how high American prestige was less than two decades ago, as recently as Sept. 10, 2001—that post-Cold War unipolar moment when the Yale University historian Paul Kennedy observed that the lone superpower had surpassed even ancient Rome in economic and military dominance—and how quickly that went off course. In what was possibly the worst strategic misdirection in U.S. history, Bush and his neoconservative abettors (who are all in hiding now, conceptually speaking) turned what should have been a globally unifying struggle against the international community’s remaining criminal holdouts, Islamist terrorists, into an exhausting imperialist game of invasion and whack-a-mole, exposing in the process America’s worst vulnerabilities on the ground and in the air. Then Bush did commensurate damage to the U.S. economy, ending in the Wall Street crash and Great Recession. China, meanwhile, rose and spread its monied influence across the world, Vladimir Putin preened and plotted, and the Viktor Orbans, Narendra Modis, and Jair Bolsonaros went their own ways. And Americans, disgusted with how badly they’d been misled, responded first by electing a freshman senator (Barack Obama) who rose to prominence by calling Iraq a “dumb war” and who then vacillated for eight years over U.S. involvement overseas and finally by embracing America First populism.

All this brings us directly back to Kissinger, the great realist Hans Morgenthau (who was his mentor), and the fierce geopolitical urgency of now. Global anarchy beckons, and proliferating great-power rivalries demand savvy, hardheaded strategic diplomacy of the kind that Morgenthau conceived in theory and Kissinger mastered in practice. This appears to be the main message of Gewen’s book, which demands to be studied, especially at a moment when Sinophobia is surging and Beijing is giving back as good as it gets. For China today, Gewen writes, is “the Apatosaurus in the room.”
The answer to the future of U.S.-China relations—and the global peace and stability that largely depend on getting them right—may lie in the past, Gewen suggests. It’s no small coincidence that Kissinger and his philosophy had their moment in the sun at a time of U.S. weakness, during the Vietnam War, civil unrest, Watergate, and the stagflation of the 1970s, when diplomats had to find common ground and a balance among the major powers. Because a weakened and disordered Washington may be in an analogous place today vis-à-vis China, Kissinger’s favorite subject and the focus of his greatest diplomatic triumphs. In particular, Washington needs a reversion to tried and tested realpolitik that will be deft enough to turn great-power rivalry into a stable and peaceable modus vivendi. As former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a scholar of China who has watched Beijing’s rise up close, wrote in a recent essay about the coronavirus pandemic in Foreign Affairs: “The uncomfortable truth is that China and the United States are both likely to emerge from this crisis significantly diminished. Neither a new Pax Sinica nor a renewed Pax Americana will rise from the ruins. Rather, both powers will be weakened, at home and abroad. And the result will be a continued slow but steady drift toward international anarchy.”

Yet it is just this likelihood of mutual weakness between the two great world powers that may provide a way out. The answer begins by recognizing and accepting what we face today—which is a permanently gray world. This is hard to accept for Americans, who for several generations since World War II and in the triumphalist aftermath of the Cold War have grown used to unquestioned world dominance. But it is largely this chaotic 21st-century world that Morgenthau, though largely forgotten now except in academia, presciently described in the ur-text of modern realism more than 70 years ago, Politics Among Nations, and which Kissinger expanded on in his diplomatic career, as Gewen brilliantly documents in his book. Morgenthau anticipated the present breakdown in the belief about the progress of human society when he said that the rationalists who pined for perfection in human governance and society denied the “inevitability of tragedy,” to pick up Gewen’s main theme. That is what every great statesman has known—that the “choices he faced were not between good and evil … but between bad and less bad,” writes Gewen, a longtime editor at the New York Times Book Review (who, full disclosure, has occasionally assigned me reviews). This describes much of Kissinger’s career, including the opening to China, the 1973 truce in the Middle East, even the chaotic and bloody end to the Vietnam War and the thousands of lives lost Kissinger must have on his conscience.

Kissinger’s ideas have more resonance now because we are clearly in a place similar to the American weakness in the ’70s, when foreign-policy elites weren’t thinking of triumph but just survival.

Kissinger, it is true, is not an easy man to restore to good public opinion, as Gewen notes in considerable detail. Kissinger and Richard Nixon oversaw the brutal campaign to force Hanoi to the table, dropping more bombs on Cambodia than all the bombs Allies dropped in World War II, ultimately leading to hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths; that policy, along with their indifference to the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh and apparent support of the coup in Chile, helped provoke a generation of prominent liberals from Seymour Hersh to Christopher Hitchens to label Kissinger a paranoiac and a war criminal. There was always a duplicity about his beliefs and shrouding of his motives—he knew that Americans weren’t going to fight to, in his words, “preserve the balance of power.” (Gewen notes that Kissinger had concluded as early as 1965, after a visit, that Vietnam was unwinnable but still supported the war.) Gewen tries to place Kissinger in the lineage of German Jewish thinkers who escaped the Holocaust and were haunted by the failures of Weimar democracy, along with Leo Strauss and Hannah Arendt—though he’s not entirely persuasive here, given that some of Strauss’s often-obscure ideas later inspired the neocons and another such European refugee from Hitler, Madeleine Albright (nee Korbel), ended up a passionate hard-power Wilsonian.

But Kissinger’s ideas have more resonance now because we are clearly in a place similar to the American weakness in the ’70s, when foreign-policy elites weren’t thinking of triumph but just survival, as they should be now, especially when America’s internal problems are arguably as enervating as they were back then. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Gewen’s book is that after spending hundreds of pages delving into the biographical and historical sources of Kissinger’s nuanced, Hitler-haunted realism, the author doesn’t apply it much to the present—and only fleetingly to China. Because there is no greater vindication of Kissingerian realism than what has happened in China during the first decades of the 21st century. After a quarter century in which it became fashionable in Washington to think that co-opting China into the post-Cold War system of global markets and emerging democracies would gradually nudge that country toward Enlightenment norms—what Kissinger once archly called “the age-old American dream of a peace achieved by the conversion of the adversary” —such illusions have faded away. All we have left is an emerging superpower that fits Kissinger’s hardheaded view of a country he visited some 100 times, dating back to his first talks with Mao Zedong. And if Kissinger’s analysis is correct—as it probably is—the United States and China can find accommodation if they work at it, with preaching kept to a minimum.
What the post-Cold War triumphalists didn’t understand, Gewen writes, is that after the collapse of the Soviet Union we confronted “a world without ideology, in which transcendent prescriptions for democracy were no answers to the problems at hand.”

Indeed, it has become far worse than that. We should frankly confront the postmodern reality that all hopes for the perfectibility of society and governance have fallen short; there is no longer any Great Cause to launch a revolution over. Thomas Jefferson’s “ball of liberty,” which Americans once expected to roll unfailingly across the globe, has ended up in a gutter. The recent Nations in Transit report from Freedom House documents a “stunning democratic breakdown”—in particular pointing to failures in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, saying that there are “fewer democracies in the region today than at any point since the annual report was launched in 1995.” History will trundle on, weak Afghan-like states will continue to fail, and democracies and autocracies like the United States and China will remain in contention with each other. But no one should delude themselves any longer that this clash of wills will yield some Great Teleological Outcome—a resolution in favor of one form of social and political organization over another.

For decades, the country managed to avoid most problems suffered by dictatorships. Now Xi Jinping’s personal power play risks undermining everything that made China exceptional.

As a result, as Kissinger once explained, “Almost every situation is a special case.” The new rise of nationalism, he wrote, might seek “national or regional identity by confronting the United States.” This is what Xi’s China has done. Indeed, many of today’s nationalists are responding to Washington as the Soviets once did, consolidating national control by playing up the threat from foreign enemies. And neonationalism across the globe should be dealt with in the same jujitsu manner George Kennan recommended against the Soviet Union: Reduce the perceived threat from the United States, and authoritarian systems like China’s are more likely to wither on their own. (Even now Xi may be facing a serious internal challenge; Rudd, in his Foreign Affairs essay, writes that Xi’s coronavirus response “has opened up significant political dissension within the Chinese Communist Party, even prompting thinly veiled criticism” of his “highly centralized leadership style.”) As Gewen notes, Kissinger observed in his 2011 book, On China, that even Mao, the Marxist revolutionary responsible for the deaths of millions of Chinese, was no ideologue like Lenin but a “China-first” nationalist and represented a country that had its own sense of exceptionalist insularity—like the United States—but unlike the Americans the Chinese regime saw little need for missionary zeal and proselytizing abroad. China today is buying influence everywhere. But creating so-called debt colonies around the globe is a lot less threatening than outright conquest.

The key is not to overreact. And the choice is stark for both countries, Gewen writes. “One way or another, either through an intellectual evolution that accepts limits and diplomatic compromise or through the wholesale shedding of blood, they will have to give up their cherished exceptionalism for a Westphalian system of international diversity and a more modest, if uncomfortable, equilibrium.” Moreover, Washington and Beijing will need to bring in other major world powers to accept this new balance of power.

In particular, Kissinger—perhaps the most profound student of the centurylong peace that began with the Congress of Vienna and ended in August 1914—worries about the pre-World War I descent into aggression, an especially scary prospect in a nuclear age.

Kissinger anticipated much of this outcome, Gewen writes. Decades ago he foresaw that the Reagan era and the Cold War’s end would not prove a new beginning for American-style liberal democratic capitalism, as the neocons believed and liberal internationalists hoped, but was more “in the nature of a brilliant sunset.” While Kissinger conceded, as always, that Wilsonian idealism would continue to define the heart of U.S. foreign policy, he wrote that even in the triumph of the Cold War—which he admits was partly won by the primacy of human rights in the debate (especially its role inside the Soviet bloc)—U.S. leaders would have to articulate a new balance of power “to preserve equilibrium in several regions of the world, and these partners can not always be chosen on the basis of moral considerations alone.”

China too is engaged today in a self-searching debate about how far it can go in global dominance, and the country’s long history of geopolitical caution (in deed if not always in word) is encouraging. Amid all this self-doubt and mutual probing of “limits”—one of Kissinger’s favorite words—lies the possibility of common ground, even if the two economies decouple in terms of supply chains and financial codependence. For without smart, aggressive diplomacy to find a new balance of power, there is the possibility of a catastrophic, even world-ending misstep. In particular, Kissinger—perhaps the most profound student of the centurylong peace that began with the Congress of Vienna and ended in August 1914—worries about the pre-World War I descent into aggression, an especially scary prospect in a nuclear age. Like many in Washington and Beijing today, Europe’s leaders back then blithely thought “risk taking was an effective diplomatic tool,” Kissinger wrote.

Now Beijing is lining up armies of bots and billions of dollars against U.S. democracy, and many in Washington are recklessly calling for a new cold war to confront “the imperialists in Beijing” who are “a menace to all free peoples,” in the words of Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, a rising star in the Republican Party. First task of this dangerous new agenda: withdraw from the WTO, under which China has “bent and abused and broken the rules of the international economic system to its own benefit” and cost 3 million American jobs, Hawley said in a May 20 speech.

Left: Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Kissinger at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2018. Right: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Kissinger in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Oct. 10, 2017.

The stakes for solving the issues between Washington and Beijing are hard for Americans to digest but in their essentials fairly simple: The two sides need to agree to disagree about certain fundamental beliefs, Kissinger says. The Americans will never give up their commitment to human rights and personal freedom, and the Chinese will never stop being mostly focused on maintaining stability in their vast populace, thus giving short shrift to human rights and freedom. On moral and cultural grounds, this is an irreconcilable stalemate. On economic grounds too, there is only the prospect of diplomatic compromise. China has flagrantly stolen U.S. intellectual property and exploited open U.S. markets by flooding them with state-subsidized cheap products—another great failure of the George W. Bush administration was neglecting to invoke WTO “anti-surge” rules to blunt this—and Trump’s trade war has made no headway against such practices. The way forward? Muddle through. Or, as Kissinger put it, find a “pragmatic concept of coexistence” not unlike Cold War-era detente, when a Vietnam-embogged and stagflation-encumbered America was also in no shape to conduct ideological crusades and instead got into bed with Beijing while negotiating arms restraint with Moscow. Keep the pressure on diplomatically but fudge the fundamental issues, as smart diplomats have always done. Because the alternative—constant conflict and war in the South China Sea that could potentially go nuclear—is unthinkable. “Ambiguity,” Kissinger said, “is sometimes the lifeblood of diplomacy.”

Another issue that both Kissinger and Morgenthau foresaw is that the more populist democracy becomes, the less able it is to conduct reliable foreign policy. Morgenthau, who later broke with Kissinger over his opposition to the Vietnam War, especially saw the effect popular democracy would have on professional diplomacy—an impact that is all too apparent in the Trump administration but also affected the ever dithering Obama and Bush administrations. Kissinger picked up this theme in his 2001 book, Does America Need a Foreign Policy?, and in a 2018 article in the Atlantic that Gewen describes as his “final lesson as a self-appointed educator of the American public.” In the growth of cyberspace, Kissinger perceived a “growing anarchy, which he equated with a Hobbesian state of nature in which the prospect of world order receded ever further from view … and in his mind the computerization of the world encouraged a kind of irresponsible thinking that was deleterious to rational judgment at best, disastrous at worst.”
In making this assessment, Gewen writes, Kissinger revealed a side of himself that his many detractors would find hard to believe: Kissinger the humanist. The algorithms and amassing of data in cyberspace—some of it sound, much of it not—threatened to undermine or even destroy good common sense. “[T]he successful conduct of foreign policy demands, above all, the intuitive ability to sense the future and thereby to master it,” Kissinger argued. Anticipating future pitfalls, and relying more on pragmatic common sense than providence, is something Americans have to keep relearning. Even the deistic Founders saw Providence on their side, and later American leaders like Ronald Reagan believed themselves to be doing the will of God. Kissinger admired Reagan for his principled stand against the Soviets, but he also ironically referred back to a quote from the proto-realist he so admired, Otto von Bismarck, who said, “The best a statesman can do is to listen to the footsteps of God, get hold of the hem of his cloak, and walk with Him a few steps of the way.” Kissinger appealed not to God but instead to a “metaphysical humility,” Gewen writes, “an understanding that mere humans would never know all they needed to know as they engaged in the dangerous game of international affairs.”

That lack of certainty sounds squishy, but what is worse is to be too hard and unyielding—in a word, arrogant. Hubris, a lack of humility, and an excess of moralizing led to the worst disasters in modern U.S. foreign-policy history, the invasions of Vietnam and Iraq. A close review of the debates leading up to Vietnam, which Gewen delivers in some detail, and the Iraq invasion reveals the lamentable extent of overconfidence among U.S. policymakers in the God-given righteousness of America’s cause. (The infamous phrase with which Bush made his final case for the Iraq invasion was, “The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.”) Did Reagan win the Cold War, as many conservatives believe? Even Kissinger has acknowledged that Reagan’s confrontational approach, as opposed to detente, “had much to recommend it.” But mainly Reagan was lucky; he was the man who was in the room when 40 years of strategic patience—the policy of containment—paid off. (Reagan himself must have known how lucky he was, since he was still desperately trying to negotiate arms reduction with Moscow, much to the consternation of the hard-liners in his own second term, even as the Soviet system was collapsing internally.) Kissinger himself foresaw as well as anyone that slow and steady would eventually win the Cold War race, and even Kennan, the father of containment, once remarked that Kissinger “understands my views better than anyone at [the State Department] ever has.”

In the end, the choice in front of us is not as difficult as we may think. Kissinger lamented Wilsonianism’s excesses but conceded that it still formed the bedrock of American foreign policy. And a consensus is possible if the Wilsonians accept that American sovereignty and hard power will always be sacrosanct and the America Firsters accept that the liberal international order the United States created, flawed as it is, will remain far more a protector than an antagonist, not least because it has gained majority consensus in the world and helps take the raw edge off Washington’s still dominant military power, preventing would-be rivals like Beijing and Moscow from forming alternative power blocs. Striving openly for U.S. hegemony just won’t work, Kissinger has written, because no international order can survive if it isn’t viewed as just: “The dominant trend in American foreign policy thinking must be to transform power into consensus so that the international order is based on agreement rather than reluctant acquiescence.” Ragged though its dominance is, the United States, as chief author of this international order, still has the upper hand here. Or as Kissinger wrote: “Our goal should be to build a moral consensus which can make a pluralistic world creative rather than destructive.” The task is all the greater today.

Visits: 140



Here is the article about that development from turkheritage.org

Depending on the structure of the international system at different time periods, Turkish foreign policy interests, security definitions, alliance relationships, maneuvering capability and diplomatic practices evinced variations. The time period between 1923 and 1939 had a multipolar international and regional environment with none of the great powers having the ability to set the course of international developments, let alone imposing their will onto others through unilateral and coercive means. During this period, Turkey’s maneuvering capability was high and Turkey pursued a multi-directional foreign policy. Developing closer economic and strategic relations with the communist Soviet Union went hand in hand with establishing friendly cooperative relations with western European powers. Turkey’s regional activism was also noticeable in the Balkans and the Middle East. The formation of Balkan Entente in 1934 and the Saadabad Pact in 1937 became possible through Turkish diplomatic efforts. Despite the fact that Turkey had just left behind its war of independence and its material power capabilities were not match of key regional and global powers, the multipolar character of the international system presented Ankara with opportunities to muddle through its way. Turkey’s foreign policy choices during this period mostly reflected internal political concerns, of which completing the radical transformation process at home stands out. Many foreign policy initiatives undertaken during this era aimed at creating a conducive regional environment so that Turkish decision makers could focus their attention on domestic reforms.

During the Second World War, Turkey continued the multi-directional foreign policy stance of the interwar period and pursued the so-called active neutrality foreign policy. Rather than siding with one side of the warring parties, Turkey tried to benefit from the geopolitical rivalries between the axis powers on the one hand and the allied countries on the other. Turkish decision makers, particularly President Ismet Inonu, conducted tough negotiations with their counterparts in both camps and tried to do their best to keep Turkey outside the great war. The multipolar character of the time period allowed Turkey to play one power off against the other.

The time period between 1945 and 1960 corresponds to a bipolar international structure in which a high level confrontation existed between the US-led western liberal democratic countries on the one hand and the communist countries of the Soviet camp on the other. Turkey felt itself under Soviet threat and wanted to join the western international community in such a way to counterbalance the existential threat to the north. Following its admission to NATO in 1952 and given the increasing tension between the two power blocks, Turkey had to pursue a predominantly pro-western foreign policy course. The rigid atmosphere of the early Cold War years did not offer Turkey the ability to adopt neutrality and pursue an independent/non-aligned foreign policy course. Turkey’s maneuvering capability was extremely limited during this era. This era is considered in the literature as the most pro-American era in Turkish foreign policy.

For about twenty years between 1960 and 1980, Turkey shifted to a more multi-directional and multi-dimensional foreign policy stance as the so-called détente caused a softening of the bipolar confrontation between western and eastern blocks. Turkish rulers came to the conclusion that the pursuit of extremely pro-western foreign policy stance of the previous era did not yield expected benefits. As the United States and the Soviet Union began to search for ways to live in peaceful co-existence, Turkey felt more capable of charting its own ways through regional activism. It is within such an atmosphere that an internal debate on Turkey’s membership in NATO ensued. Critics of NATO argued that membership in Alliance carried the risk of turning Turkey into an American satellite as well as antagonizing the Soviet Union unnecessarily. Even Finlandianization was suggested as an alternative foreign policy course.

During the 1980s, Turkey had to discover the importance of the strategic relations with the Western world once again as the change of regime Iran and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan increased the tension between the two blocks. The second arrival of the Cold War era confrontation helped increase Turkey’s geopolitical significance in western eyes. During the 1980s Turkey predominantly followed a pro-western foreign policy stance despite the emergence of some problems in relations with western countries.

Turkey’s maneuvering capability in its foreign policy radically improved with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. No longer feeling the pressure to the north, Turkey could pursue active and assertive policies in the Balkans, Caucasus, Central Asia and Middle East. Even though the evaporation of the Soviet threat contributed to the erosion of the strategic bond between Turkey and its western allies, membership in NATO and the prospective membership in European Union preserved their primacy in Turkey’s strategic thinking. The pro-western stance in Turkish foreign policy was also enabled by the US-led unipolar structure of the international system, the growing appeal of the constitutive norms of the western international community as well as the perception of Turkey in the west as a successful role model for the countries that regained their independence in the post-Soviet geography. The 1990s could be seen as a period in which Turkey tried to strike a balance between pursuing a more independent/multidirectional foreign policy stance on the one hand and increasing its efforts to solidify its presence in the western international community on the other. While the end of the Cold War seems to have increased Turkey’s maneuvering capability, the gradual erosion of Turkey’s strategic value in the eyes of western/European allies absent the common communism threat pushed Turkish leaders to help reassert Turkey’s western/European identity through NATO and the European Union.  This time period between 1991 and 2008 attests to the global primacy of the United States as well as the growing appeal of the US-led globalization process. The appeal of the EU membership was also high in the eyes of Turkish decision makers. Hence, the golden years of Europeanization in Turkish domestic and foreign policies.

The shift to a more multipolar system over the last decade, particularly following the global financial crisis in 2008, and the spectacular increase in Turkey’s material power capabilities seem to have encouraged Turkish rulers to follow a more multi-directional and multi-dimensional foreign policy stance. During this era Turkey has been in search for more strategic autonomy. The relative decline of western powers, the questioning of the western model across the globe, the concomitant rise of non-western powers in global politics and the onset of the Arab Spring seem to have all caused a shift of axis in Turkish foreign policy away from the West to the East. Turkey acting as a ‘central country’ and pursuing a ‘Eurasianist’ foreign policy stance became quite visible during this era. The multipolar character of the emerging world order will likely continue in the post-Covid-19 era in which Turkey’s search for strategic autonomy and balancing foreign policy practices will strengthen.

By THO Contributor, Tarik Oguzlu

Visits: 178

Presentations at METU Panel “International Relations and Area Studies” June 17 2015

Presentations at METU Panel “International Relations and Area Studies”

June 17 2015

– Introduction to the Panel Discussions

Seyfi Taşhan

In this panel we will be studying part of the efforts of the Foreign Policy Institute in the field of area studies. According to US academic circles area studies are a form of translation and particularize seeking through analysis  of conditions and developments in the cultures  ans policies of other countries through a multi-disciplinary lense. Indeed this description of area studies will be quites relevant for the academic and government needs of such globally importtant countries like the US for develeoping their policies. In the case of Turkey, there is a different outlook. The need for area studies has changed both according to international conjuncture as they affect Turkey and for foreign policy needs.

During the Cold War years, Turkey was a marginal country in the mids of continents and Turkey’s main concern was how to secure its indeefendence and and bounderies. While it was threatened by a global power, it succeeded to establish an alliance with Europe and US through memberships in Council of Europe and NATO. During this period academic area studies were not much needed as Turkey’s  need for development of policy relied on its diplomatic network and alternative sources were looked upon.

However, the end  of the Cold War highly increased Turkey’s need for knowledge in newly created former Soviet countries and renwed interest in the Middle East and the Balkans. Particularly with regard to new Turkic Republics who looked  upon thşis country for friendship, assistance and guidance, the need for knowledge was highly critical for policy function. All through the Cold War, the Foreign Policy Institute was the unique private think-tank engaged in policy and area studies. Following the end of the Cold War, many new centres became involved in strategic and area studies.

During the Cold War and immediately before,Turkey’s main concern was security. Turkey was encircled by hostile group of nations all around. That was the Soviet Bloc that had territorial aims on Turkey and Turkey had sought alliance links to balance the Soviet power and succeeded  through  cooperation with the U.S. and eventually  an alliance with NATO. So, during the  Cold War if we look at our immediate neighbourhood we have  Greece and Bulgaria in the West. Bulgaria was dominated by Soviet Union and Greece we had problems. In the East we had Iran with which we had correct, serious but not necessarily warm relationship that has come through history. Moreover, developments in its Southern neighborhood also necessitated  particular focus on them.Relevant states,  Iraq and Syria were dominated by other factors that prevented good relations with Turkey as Baath parties were conducting policies close to the Socialist camp. Baath nationalism was also an obstacle to develop friendly relations with Turkey. On the other hand, the everlasting conflict  in Cyprus had negative impli,cations   on our rwelations with Greece. Regional problems when they up now and than, we look them from a reginal perspective. We could deal with developments in Greece through contacts within the European security arrangements. Beyond this immediate neighbors we reach  Russia itself, and than Moldova,Ukraine and Romania and in the south, to Eastern Medittarrenean  and certainly to North Africa.

The rest was coceived within the European context covering mainly 2 groups. m One is The Council of Europe when we became members in 1949 it was only 12 members and then the start of Turkey’s EU membership process  when we signed  the Ankara treaty in 1963  there were only 6 members. It was such an area fairly hostile, fairly unknown and we did not know what to focus our studies on. Ambassador Oktay Aksoy will deal with area studies we have conducted at this region. But let me tell you, this neighborhood now  numbers  20 which is fairly large for Turkey’s capacity to handle  the know-how required at the time and what we can study in these areas. And I say from the academic point of view that there practicaly was no sufficient contact with most of those countries. Academically they were living in another world, we were living in another world. We were more pro-european, our education system was  pro-euro-oriented  and  our main sources of study originated from Western University and Western think-tanks. Well, under these conditions Turkey relied on knowledge from these sources. Fortunately, we have an excellent diplomatic service. This diplomatic service provided ambassodors  such as  Mr.Hazar who was part of this diplomatic service until recently. They both can tell you their experiences much better than I do and this diplomatic service provided the Foreign Ministry and also the policy makers of Turkey with detailed reports about countries, their economies, their policies, their cultures where ever they served, their daily living, their education systems and every area they covered and send reports to Turkey. One regretable situation is that these reports, by nature, were confidential and could not be reached by the academia. Moreover, high government officials did not colloborate with think-tanks, in fact during Cold War years there were practicaly no think-tanks except the Foreing Policy Institute which started to function in early 1970s and this situation changed after the end of the Cold War. When we look around we see at least 20 countries that were suddenly opened to us. And then opening of our economy to other parts of the world provided need for Turkey to obtain wide ranging  area studies.

Central Asia was included in addition to our immediate neighbourhood. Relations with European countries was carried through EU and Council of Europe which increased its membersip opening to new countries in the European copntinent and the Eurasian geography. Later on, we started to look at Africa and  even to Latin America and Far East Asia. There are other areas that we will discuss. Ambassador Hazar will speak today on the ECO countries.  Now we have think-tanks dealing with Africa, that deal individually with Europe. One regretable thing is that these studies do not rely themselves on the excellent reports of our diplomatic representations in many parts of the world.They study these reports as they interest the Turkish foreign policy. They are not communicating it to the academia, unlike the Americans who cooperate with the think-tanks. In the U.S. I see when we have a round table meeting focused on a certain area, on a certain subject we see a diplomat sitting in those discussions, member of the State Department or Defence Department as the case sitting there explaining what the official point of view is  and how they can help the think-tanks organize their studies. Unfortunately, in Turkey it is not habitual to  benefit from this valuable source of activity and compilation of information.Well, I do not want to delve into this any further. It is a short introduction to our panel discussions. But all I can say to you is, during the Cold War we have organized seminars over specific area subjects, we have done a lot. I will request  Ambassador Aksoy to tell us what the Foreign Policy Institute have been doing.

Area focused activities of Foreign Policy Institue

Oktay Aksoy

Curiosity is behind the urge to discover new lands, to find out the other peoples and to get hold of the riches others possess.The rulers of empires have sent envoys, encouraged and even financed travellers to other lands.You need to have strategic objectives or ambitions to go beyond your own limited borders.That is how Marco Polo was financed by the Venitian Doge to reach the lands of Kubilai Khan, ruler of the East at that time.That is why countries like Holland, England, France, Russia, Poland and Hungary have established Oriental Studies Centres. That is why King of Sweden was presented by the dragoman at the Swedish Embassy in Constantinople,  Mouradgea d’Ohsson (nee Muradcan Tosunian) who later became the Swedish Envoy to the Sublime Court with a two volume book, “Tableau General de l’Empire Othoman”  narrating in detail the state of the Ottoman Empire in late 18th century, the habits and social structure of the Turks.

You may call these as early attempts for area studies, even though in some of them  it may not be easy to distinguish myth and reality.It has become more of a multidisciplinary research and study effort with the US getting more and more involved with the rest of the world, becoming more of a global power after the Second World War. They must have realized their ignorance of the developments in other regions and other countries. With the establishment of international relations departments in many universities they were also preparing the cadres for their foreign service, for their intelligence institutions, sometimes even for the media trying to feed the hunger of the public in world affairs.

Contrary to this curiosity and strategic ambitions of the Western powers, rulers in the Orient were hardly interested to know what the rest of the world was doing or even to learn more about the vast geography they were ruling. They were content with their possessions envied by the others.Ottomans were no exception. They were interested to learn of the  designs of the other rulers threatening their security. But not so much about  the other countries beyond their reach. Rare incidents are in 16th and 17th centuries when we see Evliya Çelebi (1611-1682) with his “Seyahatname” (travel book) telling in detail the cities and peoples the Sultan ruled. There was a famous scholar, Katip Çelebi (1609-1659) with his “Cihannuma” (a geographical ensyclopedia) writing about the other countries. And of course,  Piri Reis (1465-1554) with his “Kitab-ı Bahriye” narrating the many ports and cities he had reached and also drawing a world map including the newly discovered Americas. Rumour is that when he presented this map to the Sultan, the Sultan tore the map into half and kept the part of the map of the lands he was ruling for himself and strangely the other half, including the Americas was discovered in the Topkapı Palace library only in 1929 by a foreign scholar (Paul Kahle). We also have reports of the envoys, “sefaretname”, but not sufficient to be called an early area study.

Turks had more or less isolated themselves from the rest of the world until restructuring  eventually as a republic.And even than Turkey was more interested with its immediate neighborhood – leading to the Balkan Pact and the Sadabad Pact. Soviet Union was also a main interest and concern.

During the Cold War years Turkish interest beyond its borders were limited. It relied more on the studies made by its allies to whom it depended for its defence and security.After the Second World War choosing the side of the adversary of the Soviet Union for understandable reasons, Turkey felt the comfort of being a NATO member and closely following the general line of politics of the Western Powers during the Cold War years to the extent of spoiling relations with Egypt, lacking understanding of their nationalistic fervor and also not showing sufficient solidarity with the Algerian and Tunisian peoples’ strugle for independence from a colonial power.

Some academics and concerened intellectuals (including Mr. Seyfi Taşhan) had been publishing the journal “Dış Politika-Foreign Policy”, at first in Turkish and English since 1971 to increase awareness for international developments. But in 1974 the Foreign Policy Institute was established in an attempt to bridging the world of the academia and the policy practioners in foreign and securities policy and strategic issues.

When established, the need for area studies was not a priority and that would have required enormous funds beyond the Instute’s means. The aim was not to start an ambitious area studies programme but more so  to provide information from Turkish perspective to those foreign institutes, politicians and media interested in developments in Turkey. However, over the years it has prepared works on its neighborhood, it has organized round table meetings on specific issues related with Turkish foreign policy and included articles in its journal on countries and regions Turkey needed to focus.

With the Turkish intervention in Cyprus to defend the rights of its ethnic kins and as a result of being confronted with an arms embargo from the US, its chief ally, Turkey realized the urgency to get into closer contact with other countries beyond its alliance partners and explain its differing policy priorities.

Even then, as Mr. Seyfi Taşhan just mentioned, it was not to start programmes to study these countries but to convey the message that Turkey should not be considered on the same line with its allies who had a colonial past and have a role in power politics.

End of the Cold War opened a vast geography for Turkey previously under Soviet rule – the immediate neighborhood to the East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.And the configuration in the global scene provided new vistas for Turkey as its industry had been developing and need to expand its trade was urgently felt.

Therefore, our Institute started to organize new meetings and made publications focusing on Turkey’s new interest areas. In the 35 th anniversary issue of our Journal we had a selection of articles we had consentrated over the years. During the Cold War years our relations with the US was most important. Developments within the Atlantic Community, as well as strengthening the political cohesion in the Atlantic Alliance was of priority interest. Also relations with the EEC, developments in the Middle East and as always relations with Greece, particularly with the dispute over the Aegean were highly valued subjects. On Cyprus we had articles by the late Nihat Erim who had been involved in the preparations of the Zürich and London Agreements reminisceing the early efforts to overcome the dispute, by the late Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş presenting his views on the conflict and by Prof. Haluk Ülman narrating the Geneva Conference proceedings after the Turkish intervention in the Island in 1974. During the final years of the Cold War we had articles focusing on the policy of detente aand future of the Atlantic Alliance, reflecting on Turkey’s international status changing from marginality to centrality and also proposing a federal solution for Cyprus. Post-Cold War years we see articles on effects of the ending of the Cold War on Turkey’s intertnational position, on Turkey’s military doctrine, on Turkey’s stand on the Gulf crisis, on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, on the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as on the effects of the progress in Cyprus-EU relations to the search for a solution. In a more recent period the articles are again on developments of Turkish-US relations, on the beginning of a new conjuncture after September 11, on the impact of globalization on Turkey’s security, on Turkey_EU relations, as well as the Middle East and of course Cyprus.

I will just point out at some of our important activities and publications during the last 15 years.

“Turkomans of Iraq as a Factor in Turkish Foreign Policy: Political and Demographic Perspectives” by Tarık Oğuzlu, when published in 2001 it was one of the first studies on our recent discovery of the Turkomans of Iraq. It was  published at a time of brewing turmoil in Iraq.

We organized a symposium on March 22-23, 2004 on what should the new Iraqi constitution contain with participants not only from Turkey but also from the US, England and Germany as well as academics from Iraq who undertook the many difficulties reaching Ankara partly by bus! The proceedings of the meeting was published as “Iraq on the way to its new constitution”. The Institute was also asked by the Foreign Ministry to prepare a draft constitution, which we did, emphasizing  a secular and cantonal structure to avoid dismemberment of the country but the US led politicians in Iraq came out with a religiously based constitution with  all its present day deficiencies.

Cyprus has always been of interest for us. One publication was “Cyprus and International Law” in 2002 tackling the conflict from different perspectives of international law and a booklet in Turkish “Cyprus: from Independence to Present Day – with documents” printed in 2010.

“Turkey and the European Union – 2004 and beyond” was a book we published in colloboration with the Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies in 2004.Another book published also in 2004 was “The Europeanization of Turkey’s Security Policy: Prospects and pitfalls”.

We had a special issue of our Journal on a EU related Conference we had organized in 2006.Another publication was “Turkey’s Neighborhood” we did in collaboration with the Polish Institute of International Relations in 2008. We focused on Ukraine, Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

“Caspian Energy Diplomacy since the end of the Cold War” by Tuncay Balanlı was printed in 2006.A book on “Transatlantic Relations: A Political Appraisal” by Gökhan Akşemsettinoğlu published in 2005 studied this important relationship at a time of crucial changes in international politics.

“Eastern Mediterranean” published in 2009 covering Israeli-Palestinean conflict, Cyprus, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Greece and Turkey’s maritime issues as well as contributions on US policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe and the Mediterranean and also Russia and Eastern Mediterranean.

NATO’s new strategic concept was thoroughly tackled in our special issue of 2010. And we had a special anniversary issue for Turkey’s 60 Years in NATO both  in English and Turkish.

Lately in our Journal we have had some articles on Turkey’s relations with Africa by different authors as the focus on that continent has increased.




– Growing interest of Turkey in ECO region

Numan Hazar

Turkey has always had a particular interest, throughout the Republican history,  in the regional peace and security. The Sadabat Pact signed in 1937 by Turkey, Iran,Irak and Afghanistan  is an example of this Turkish approach in its foreign policy.  The Sadabat Pact was a treaty of non-agression. It is meaningful that it was concluded at the time of Atatürk. We observe a continuity in Turkish approach when the Baghdat Pact was concluded in 1955. The Baghdad Pact was formed by Turkey,Iran and Irak due to security concerns at that time in view of a perceived threat from the Soviet Union. The United Kingdom joined the Organization at a later stage. The US did not participate as full member taking into consideration sensitivities of Arab countries in the region. It took its place in the organization,however,with observer status. The Baghdad Pact had its place in the chain of alliances namely NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization) created by the West within the context of the containment policy against the Soviet threat.


The headquarters of the Baghdad Pact was in Irak. Nevertheless,  the Republic of Irak was withdrawn from the Pact  following a coup in 1958 against the royal régime. In 1959 the Pact changed its name to Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and its headquarters moved to Ankara.


Regional members of the CENTO, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, decided  to develop economic and technical relations and cooperation among themselves and they created in 1964 the Organization of  Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD). As a matter of fact, RCD realized some technical, economic  and cultural projects. During the Cold War period in the bipolar era, the leaders of these countries believed that historical,cultural, religious and geographical bonds will be enough to realize closer cooperation among the member countries to contribute to their efforts to ensure economic development and to raise their living standards. This plan was supported by the West in general and by the US in particular in order to prevent Soviet influence in a strategically important region.


Nevertheless, in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution in Iran all activities of the Organization were suspended. RCD was dissolved in 1980 and it ceased to exist as an international organization.

The member states of the RCD which have been aware of the significance of the organization taking into account great potentialities already existing in a number  of areas, decided to reactivate it. Thus,in 1985  the Organization was renamed  as Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) when the Treaty of İzmir was concluded. In 1992 the Organization was expanded to include Afghanistan,Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.[1] Since that time ECO has become an international organization with 10 member states and acquired international recognition and prestige.[2]


It is meaningful that Afghanistan and the new independent states joined the organization following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.


After this  historical introduction we can explain why the ECO is an important grouping by referring to various advantages the Organization has possessed. [3] We can summarize advantages of the ECO as a significant organization with great  potentialities and particular characteristics as follows:[4]


-The ECO comprises an area of 8 million square kilometers with a population of 450 million people. It is geographically  vast and also a contiguous territory.


-In addition  to human resources , it is a region rich in natural resources , for example  the existing oil and natural gas reserves.


-The ECO region is situated centrally among three continents of the Old World -Europe,Asia and Africa (collectively known as Afro-Eurasia)- and thus it has great strategic value , as put forth by the well known theorist of strategy Sir Halfort MacKinder, within the context of his view to dominate the world through the domination of pivotal area. As a matter of fact, it was an area of competition for big powers throughout history.


-The ECO also symbolizes a region functioning like a bridge between the East and the West: Asia and Europe.


-The possibility of having access to the Indian Ocean,the Persian Gulf,the Mediterranean Sea  and the Black Sea exists.


-Another significance of ECO is the proximity to big powers such as the European Union, Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.


-There are highways, maritime routes and railways linking one country to another.


-More important than all these factors, there is a historical and cultural affinity among member states.


As regards the cultural and historical particularity of the ECO member states as  a whole, it is possible to compare it with the European Union. This particular character of ECO has even drawn the attention of Samuel P.Huntington who put forth the thesis of the clash of civilizations.When he explained that countries with similar cultures were choosing the option of economic integration, he mentioned also the ECO as an example.Huntington refers to regional economic organizations as an indicator of civilizations’ strengthening against  nation-state and claims that precondition of economic integration is cultural affinity. He underlines the fact that ”the success of these efforts has depended overwhelmingly on the cultural homogeneity of  states involved.”[5]


Together with the cultural affinity and close cultural interaction among member states, historical ties are also significant. In the ECO region there exists thousands of common words even with those which are linguistically different. As Professor Halil İnalcık, the dean of living Turkish historians indicates, historical researches confirm the fact that cultural affinity between Turkey,Iran and Pakistan is much closer and stronger than cultural affinity of Turks with Arabs.[6] Obviously, when we take into consideration all member states of ECO this fact becomes more apparent. On the other hand, prominent Turkish historian Professor İlber Ortaylı underlines the influence of Iranian civilization on Turkey and Turks.[7]


After the recognition that ECO represents an organization based on cultural affinity, we must also underline that all these elements are indicative of an Organization which has  a significant infrastructure and important potential to deliver a successful performance.


At this point, however, I would like to emphasize that the ECO is a technical organization. In this respect it is different from the European Union. As is known, the EU had the purpose to reach political union at the final stage through economic integration at the beginning. Nevertheless, this particularity of the ECO does not constitute an obstacle for an exchange of views on actual political and global affairs during summit meetings or meetings of the Council of Ministers. On the contrary,an opportunity is always created for such  consultations.


Before entering into details of what ECO has been doing, I would like to provide some information about its organizational structure:


-Summit meetings which are held every two years (Heads of state or government).These meetings give opportunity for consultations and general guidelines at highest level.


-Council of Ministers is the highest policy and decision making body at the level of Foreign Ministers,


-Council of Permanent Representatives which is composed of diplomatic representatives of member states accredited in Tehran, headquarters of the Organization. It is responsible to carry out policies and to implement decisions of the Council of Ministers.


-Regional Planning Council which comprises heads of the Planning Organizations It evolves programmes of action along with a review of past programmes and evaluations of results achieved to be submitted to the Council of Ministers.


-Secretariat which is headed by the Secretary Gcneral and his staff.


-Specialized Agencies and Regional Institutions in specific fields of cooperation.The number,nature and objectives of the agencies and institutions are determined by the Council of Ministers such as Cultural Institute,  Science Foundation, Educational Institute, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Trade and Development Bank, Reinsurance Company, Consultancy and Engineering Company etc.


-ECO also have expert committees in a host of areas: Economy and Trade, Agriculture,Transport and Communications, Science,Culture and Education etc. They summit reports to Regional Planning Council.


On the other hand ECO realized various agreements to promote economic cooperation and integration. ECO Trade Agreement is aimed at reducing tariffs among member states. Member states also concluded a Transit Transport Framework Agreement.There are also various agreements formulated by the ECO such as Encouraging and Protecting Investments, Cooperation among Cooperative Sectors, Establishment of ECO Smuggling and Customs Offences Data Bank etc.


Before trying to make an evaluation of ECO’s performance, we should go back to RCD, its predecessor. Despite the fact that RCD carried out some important projects, it is stated as root of its failure  in general  ”unwillingness of the member states to comprise their own individual interests as one of the requirements of the development of regional cooperation. This was the main obstacle for the implementation of RCD plans”. [8]


As far as ECO is concerned it is observed that it could not deliver a successful performance, despite already existing potentialities. There have always been painstaking efforts and various positive initiatives.Nevertheless, the Organization could not produce good results as compared to expectations.


In order to give an example, it could be indicated that there has always been an ambition to increase trade between the member states. In 2005, intra-trade was 6 per cent of all trade  and in 2010 it  increased to 7 per cent. This state of affairs could be characterized as a failure. As a matter of fact, in the ECO Vision 2015 document prepared by independent experts  of the member countries, the goal of internal trade for the year 2015 was indicated 20 per cent of all trade. When we take into consideration that the internal trade of the European Union is 65 per cent of all trade, we can see a low performance from the point of view of the ECO’s success. Undoubtedly, it will be useful to eliminate all existing obstacles in this area. Nevertheless, principally, it is important that all member countries first sign  the ECO Trade Agreement and implement  it.


There are also several structural or institutional difficulties which prevent the ECO to become a well-functioning international organization.


Turkey has always attached particular importance to a well-functioning, efficient and dynamic ECO. In the eyes of Turkey, a successful and more active ECO would best serve  interests of all member states.


In light of this evaluation, during the Summit Meeting  held in Istanbul in 2010 where Turkey assumed the task of Chairman in Office of the Organizaiton, the then President of the Republic of Turkey, Abdullah Gül proposed the establishment of an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to provide recommendations to enhance the dynamism, efficiency and visibility of the Organization. This proposal, approved by Heads of State or Government, was included in the Final Declaration of the Summit Meeting. [9]


The Eminent Persons Group (EPG) was established in-mid 2011 and it started its works towards the end of the year. The EPG was composed of ten independent experts from each member states. It was assisted in their works by the Secretary General and his staff.


This EPG was the third EPG created up to now by the ECO, The Second EPG prepared ”2015 Vision Document for the ECO” and proposed a host of measures in this context. This Document was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2005. In this Document Foreign Ministers declared that they wish to adopt a vision of ECO taking into account opportunities and challenges of the globalization process, the rapid social,economic,political and technological developments in the world and prospects in the decades ahead which need to be addressed adequately through a common and collective approach. With these aims, Foreign Ministers agreed on many commitments for a better functioning organization. [10]


The Third EPG  carried out intensively its works in 2012. According to its terms of reference, the EPG, was given the task to examine all documents  and the 2015 Vision Document in order to  propose amendments to basic agreements, to  interview the staff of the Secretariat, Specialized Agencies and Regional Institutions in order to submit its recommendations contained in a Report  to the Council of Ministers. It was decided that the EPG would remain, if need be, in contact with the Council of Permanent Representatives (CPR) composed of  Ambassadors of member countries in Tehran. The Secretariat would be providing facilities and services for EPG meetings for its well functioning. [11]


The EPG accomplished its mission in 2012 and the Chairman of the EPG presented the Report of the EPG to the Council of Ministers  on the occasion of the ECO Summit Meeting held in October 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The EPG Report which contained in detail several recommendations including  the strengthening of the Secretariat, selection of the staff on the basis of merit, increase in the budget, amendment in the decision-making mechanism which created some difficulties in the past for well functioning  of the Organization.


Turkey did not only propose the establishment of the EPG, but also provided the necessary financing.


The submission of the EPG Report  has a particular significance, due to the fact that in 2015 ECO Vision Document prepared by the Second EPG should be revised and a new Vision Document for  the next Decade 2016-2025 is to be worked out. In this regard, the EPG Report is very much timely as a guide. The results of the works of  EPG, as of 2013, would furnish basic elements of a new Vision Document. This new document was also expected to be prepared by the  EPG .


As it is referred  above, according to the decisions of the 20th Council of Ministers’s Meeting held in Baku in 2012, the Ministers, asked the Secretary General to prepare a roadmap for the implementation of the EPG Report, and to submit it to the Council of Permanent Representatives. The Paragraph, in the decisions of the Council of Ministers, related to the EPG’s Report is as follows:

‘’  20) The Council appreciated the Report of the 3rd Eminent Persons Group (EPG), established pursuant to the Istanbul Declaration 2010 (Istanbul, 23 December 2010) and the decisions of the 19th Council of Ministers Meeting (Istanbul, 22 December 2010) to study  and review the work of the Organization  including the ECO Vision 2015, and asked the Secretary General to prepare a roadmap for implementation of the  recommendations of the EPG and submit to CPR for consideration. The Council also authorized the CPR to take action on behalf of the COM in this regard. ‘’

Right after the Meeting of the Council of Ministers the Final Communiqué of the Summit Meeting of Heads of State and Government held on 16 October 2012 included the following Paragraph on the EPG Report:


‘’ 31. Appreciated the work done by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) established on the initiative of the Republic of Turkey, which undertook performance appraisal of the Organization, identified major challenges and recommended ways to improve ECO’s efficiency, dynamism and visibility.’’


The EPG, proposed in its Report, the organization of  national conferences in each member state  with the participation of government and private sectors representatives, members of the media, think tanks and academicians. In these conferences, views, assessments and expectations of the member countries would be presented . The results of these conferences would be reviewed in a meeting of the EPG and at the end its evaluation will be considered in the preparation of the new ECO Vision Document for 2016-2025.


As unequivocally indicated by the instructions of the Council of Ministers, some of the recommendations of the EPG are to be implemented by the Council of Permanent Representatives on behalf of the Council of Ministers. It means that these recommendations do not need the approval of the Council of Ministers. Some others, by their very nature  require the approval of the Council of Ministers. Certain recommendations can be implemented in short term. Some others have inevitably a long term perspective.


As identified by the EPG Report main impediments and shortcomings are as follows:

-Lack of efficient decision-making mechanism,

-Minimal participation by Member States in the activities of the Organization.

-Non-implementation of the decisions adopted by the decision-making bodies.

-Lack of financial resources and insufficient budget.

-Inadequate capacity of the Secretariat due to existing recruitment measures.


Turkey, supported all recommendations made by the EPG to overcome these impediments.


On the other hand, the Communiqué of the Tehran Ministerial Council held in November 2013 referred to the reform process of the ECO on the basis of EPG’s Report in the following terms:

‘’ ( Foreign Ministers and Heads of Delegations ) Building on the two decades of experience, decided to take forward the reform process of ECO on the basis of recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) and instructed the ECO Secretary General to arrange, in cooperation with the Member States, the timely conclusion of  the said process for enhancing the dynamism, efficiency and visibility of the Organization. The Council instructed the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) to finalize and approve the roadmap for the implementation of the recommendations of the EPG by August 2014 with a view to its earliest implementation. ‘’


They also agreed that the reform process shall address, inter alia, the regulatory, institutional, budgetary and other requirements of the organization putting in place a reliable and durable cooperation framework for ECO region.


Despite the fact that  three years already passed, the Organization has not yet unfortunately been able to realize the implementation of some recommendations. It is now three years that the Third EPG completed its works. As a matter of fact, Third EPG’s Report containing recommendations aimed at enhancing dynamism,efficiency and visibility of the Organization was presented to the Council of Ministers in 2012.


As explained above, the Council of Ministers gave instructions to the Committee of Permanent Representatives to take action on its behalf concerning the recommendations of the EPG. The Summit Meeting, the highest body of the Organization has approved the decision of the Ministers. Nevertheless,  works of the Committee of Permanent Representatives for the implementation of the EPG’s recommendations, have not yet been completed.


On the other hand, interestingly, a new rhetoric started to the effect that the Organization needed a more comprehensive reform process. Apparently, it may be an effort aimed at  diluting EPG’s recommendations.


At this point, we must also once again draw the attention to the fact that every effort made to enhance the dynamism, efficiency and visibility of the Organization will only serve best interests of all member states.


The Secretary General and the Secretariat of ECO are making sincere and painstaking efforts in order to start the process for the implementation of the EPG’s recommendations. Within this context an in-depth analysis of the EPG’s recommendations has already been realized by the Secretariat.


The Council of Permanent Representatives of the ECO is also involved in expediting the finalization of efforts aimed at the implementation of the EPG’s Report.


It is hoped that a substantial progress concerning the implementation of EPG’s Report could be made before the next Meeting of the Committee of Ministers as well as the Summit Meeting.


The EPG Report underlined that all member states should have a high level political will in order to adopt necessary dispositions aimed at ensuring the ECO to become a well functioning international organization. It seems, at present, a strong political will is still needed to have a well functioning ECO.


In the Millenium Goals of the World Summit held in 2005, a special importance was attached to regional organizations. This is something that may encourage all member countries to demonstrate the necessary political will aimed at realizing a well functioning ECO.


[1] Economic Cooperation Organization, ECO at  a Glance, ECO Secretariat, Tehran, 2012 p.5 .

[2] Elaheh Koolaee and Hormoz Dawarpanah, The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Achievements and Prospects, University of Tehran, Tehran, 2010,  pp.2-8.

[3] Numan Hazar,  The Future of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), ECO will have a bright future when it gains dynamism, visibility and efficiency, Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), Report No. 108, February 2012, Ankara, pp. 8-10.

[4] Numan Hazar,  ”ECO: a significant regional organization for economic development and integration”, Today’s Zaman, 27.01.2013.

[5] Samuel P.Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the New World, Simon&Schuster UK Ltd, London,1996,p.351.

[6] Halil İnalcık, Rönesans Avrupası Türkiye’nin Batı Medeniyeti ile Özdeşleşme Süreci Renaissance Europe and the Process of Identification of Turkey with Western Civilization), Türkiye İş Bankası Yayınları, Istanbul,2011, p. 351.

[7] İlber Ortaylı, Türklerin Tarihi (History of Turks),TİMAŞ Yayınları Istanbul, 2015, pp. 91-97.

[8] Elaheh Koolaee and Hormoz Dawarpanah, The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Achievements and Prospects, pp. 10-11.

[9] Numan Hazar,Economic Cooperation Organizaton (ECO) and Eminent Persons Group (EPG),  Uluslararası Ekonomik Sorunlar Dergisi (Review of International Economic Issues-an unofficial publication of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), July 2012 Year 12, No.44,Ankara, pp.11-20.

[10] Economic Cooperation Organization Treaty of Izmir ECO Vision 2015, Tehran 2009,pp. 21-32.

[11] Numan Hazar,Economic Cooperation Organizaton (ECO) and Reform Process,  Uluslararası Ekonomik Sorunlar Dergisi (Review of International Economic Issues-an unofficial publication of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), August  2014 Year 14, No.47,Ankara, pp.25-32..

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