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.

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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: 161

Another Turning Point in the EU and Turkey Relations?

On 10-11 December, the leaders of the EU countries come together in Brussels last time in
this chaotical year. In addition to the fight against COVID 19 pandemic and EU-UK relations,
the tension between Turkey and two EU member states, Greece and Cyprus, in the Eastern
The Mediterranean will be one of the main discussion topics.
In the previous Council meeting of the EU in October, the EU leaders declared their full
solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, while the sanction calls against Turkey did not find
unanimous support within the Council. At the same time, the EU also tried to keep the
dialogue with Turkey by launching a positive political EU-Turkey agenda, which includes an
international conference for the Eastern Mediterranean, updating the Customs Union
an agreement, the revival of visa liberalization negotiations, and the renewal of the migration
Nevertheless, European sanctions against Turkey seem right now more likely than ever.
Above all, Greece and Cyprus insist on though EU sanctions as Turkey’s natural gas
explorations still continues in the disputed Eastern Mediterranean waters. Foreign Minister
of Greece, Nikos Dendias, described Turkey’s actions in the region as "revisionist" and
"destabilizing" and he is also sure that this time " it will not be easy for Turkey to fool the
EU; Similarly, French President Emmanuel Macron pushes for sanctions on Turkey. The
dispute between France and Turkey over Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean and the
Nagorno-Karabakh War has seriously deteriorated the mutual relations in the past couple of
months. According to French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Turkey’s; soothing
declarations; are not good enough to overcome these disagreements. Finally, the European
Parliament has recently called for the Council to impose tough sanctions on Turkey as well.
In the meantime, Turkey showed some positive steps on the eve of the EU council meeting.
First, President Erdoğan declared his intentions to work with the EU by stating that; We see
ourselves as an inseparable part of Europe and we want to build our future with Europe; these words have arguably been the clearest message to the EU in recent years. Second,
ahead of the EU summit, Turkey withdrew its seismic research vessel, Oruç Reis. Third, Presidential Spokesman and Chief Advisor to President, İbrahim Kalın, visited Brussels in the last days of November. During his meeting with high-level EU officials, he expressed once again that working with the EU is a strategic priority for Ankara and added Turkey still aims
to protect peace and stability in the region.

Like the previous meeting, the most critical actor in the process will be Germany. In October,
Germany, which holds the rotating Council presidency, opposed sanctions and initiated the
positive agenda strategy. However, more recently, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that
the relations between the EU and Turkey did not reach the point that they wanted. Also, she
described Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean as; aggressive; and; provocative; In the meantime, she mentioned that Turkey deserved great respect for hosting significant numbers of Syrian refugees.
In this situation, the most crucial question remains still the same: Will the EU impose
sanctions on Turkey? Actually, the answer is still not clear. On the one hand, France, Greece, and Cyprus will probably find this time more support from the other EU members, as there is no sign of progress about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and it can easily get out of control. On the other hand, as the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep
Borrell stated that there are some willing and at the same time still more reluctant EU
countries about sanctions on Turkey. The diplomatic sources said especially Hungary is
Repeatedly rejecting possible sanctions by thinking of Turkey’s role in preventing illegal refugee
passages to the EU. Moreover, Spain and Italy seem not so contended about France’s increasing activities in the Mediterranean.
Then what we should wait for this critical meeting?
It seems that German decision-makers have still not decided on their next steps. That means
it is not very likely to see tough sanctions on Turkey as Greece, Cyprus, and France wanted.
Instead, we see probably a; last strong warning" from the EU to Turkey or a limited package
of sanctions. Without a doubt, both sides will try to strengthen their positions until the last
minute, and Chancellor Merkel will play once again a decisive role.


Dr.Başar Şirin

Visits: 118

The EU’s “New Pact on Migration and Asylum” is missing a true foundation

On September 23, the European Commission launched the “New Pact on Migration and Asylum,” proposing to overhaul the European Union’s long ailing policies in this area. European Union Vice President Margaritis Schinas likened the pact to a building with three floors, comprised of: an external dimension (“centered around strengthened partnerships with countries of origin and transit”), “robust management” of external borders, and “firm but fair internal rules.” The commission proposal must still make its way through the legislative process in the European Parliament and European Council.
The problem is: The pact needs a foundational basement, in the form of recognizing that an overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries. Without a basement, the whole edifice is undermined. The EU must incorporate policy ideas from the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) to rectify this.

The pact’s external dimension — which calls for strengthening partnerships with countries of origin and transit in the EU’s immediate neighborhood and beyond — is its ground floor. The second floor relates to policies to fortify and improve the management of the EU’s external borders. The third floor proposes rules to resolve the long-standing challenge within the EU to achieve a more balanced distribution of responsibilities and promote solidarity among EU members in dealing with asylum seekers and refugees.

At all three levels, the pact has faced intense push-back. With respect to the third floor, the commission has been criticized for catering to the priorities of the more conservative and anti-immigrant member states such as Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. The pact allows members to opt out from participating in the relocation of asylum seekers and refugees within the EU by offering them the possibility to instead provide administrative and financial support to other member states. Serious doubts have been expressed about the viability of this scheme.

On the second floor, the big concern is that — once again — border security has been prioritized over access to asylum. While emphasizing the principle of “non-refoulement” as enshrined in international refugee law, the pact at the same time introduces measures that are clearly meant to complicate the possibility that individuals fleeing persecution and conflicts can seek or obtain protection in the EU. A former director of the Center for Refugees Studies of Oxford University sees these measures as aiming “to harden and formalize the ‘Fortress Europe.’ Migrants and refugees were to be kept out of Europe at all costs.”

The emphasis on protecting Europe’s borders becomes most evident at the ground floor. Here the pact calls for revamping partnership with third countries and reflects the EU’s long-standing policy of externalizing the cost and responsibility of managing its external borders. Tying policy issues such as development assistance, trade concessions, security, education, agriculture, and visa facilitation for third-country nationals to those countries’ willingness to cooperate on migration management has long been criticized as asymmetrical. The pact takes this relationship to a new coercive level by suggesting the possibility of “apply[ing] restrictive visa measures” to third countries unwilling to be cooperative.

Time will tell whether these problems on each floor will be addressed as the commission proposal makes its way through the legislative process. However, there is a deeper structural problem to the pact, resulting from the missing basement. This is because the pact fails to account for two major global realities confronting the EU.

The first problem is that the pact is so inward-oriented that it fails to recognize the policy implications of the dire state of forced migration globally. The number of forcibly displaced persons has increased dramatically, reaching almost 80 million. According to the U.N. Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees alone has gone up from roughly 15 million a decade ago to 26 million today. And 77% of the refugees find themselves in a protracted situation — defined as having remained displaced without a durable solution (such as voluntary return to their home countries following the resolution of conflicts, resettlement, or local integration) for more than five years. Because of persistent conflicts, only 3.9 million refugees were able to return to their homes between 2010 and 2019, compared to roughly 10 million between 2000 and 2010 and 15.3 million in the 1990s.

The Consequences of Chaos

By Elizabeth G. Ferris and Kemal Kirişci 2016
Secondly, the pact makes little allowance for how the COVID-19 pandemic is going to impact EU’s migration and asylum policies. The pandemic has profoundly affected the capacity of host countries to manage the presence of refugees and ensure their protection. Already fragile health infrastructures are stretched in helping local populations, let alone refugees. The pandemic has also eroded income from trade, tourism, and crucial revenue from remittances. The pact should recognize the dire forced migration picture, the impact of COVID-19, and the associated expected rise in poverty. The Economist and the U.N. have noted that the pandemic risks undoing the gains made against poverty in the past two decades. Most affected will be developing countries, according to the World Bank, where more than 85% of these refugees are hosted.

This picture is likely to erode the capacity of these countries to cope with the presence of refugees and manage public resentment as competition for scarce resources between refugees and locals intensifies. Under these circumstances it would not be unrealistic to expect pressures for secondary movements towards the EU to build up, reminiscent of the ones that occurred during 2015 and 2016. The EU has an interest in recognizing the reality presented by the basement floor, and should supplement policies on the first floor and above accordingly.

The pact hardly makes any reference to the GCR, as a former UNHCR official points out, but it could be an inspiring source of policy ideas. The idea of the GCR emerged from the September 2016 U.N. summit in New York that was held to address the challenges resulting from the European migration crisis. Adopted in December 2018, the GCR recognizes that the traditional refugee protection system based on the 1951 Geneva Convention is under duress, if not broken. Against this reality, it calls on the international community to work together — in the spirit of burden- and responsibility-sharing — to improve the self-reliance of refugees and the resilience of their host communities, as well as help hosts transform refugees from being a humanitarian burden to a development and economic opportunity. All EU member countries, apart from Hungary, have endorsed the GCR.

Though the pact fails to acknowledge the GCR, Vice President Schinas promises to seek “global solutions and responsibility-sharing” with international partners on migration, as well as proposes to establish a “Union Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission Framework Regulation [that] would provide a stable EU framework for the EU contribution to global resettlement efforts.” These reflect at least the spirit of the GCR. However, the EU needs to go beyond this, and heed to the GCR’s call to “promote economic opportunities, decent work, job creation and entrepreneurship programs for host community members and refugees” in refugee hosting countries. Only than can the EU enjoy a solid basement floor for the rest of the pact.

The GCR offers a rich array of innovative policy suggestions that the EU can take into consideration when negotiating partnerships with countries hosting large numbers of refugees. One such policy idea calls for a more active involvement of the private sector in supporting self-reliance of refugees through decent and sustainable employment. In its partnership agreements, the EU could include terms incentivizing companies to offer such opportunities for refugees. This could be enabled by extending preferential trade arrangements for countries hosting large numbers of refugees, which is something the GCR mentions. Such partnerships with the EU could be conditioned to refugees being offered sustainable employment opportunities.

The advantage of all this is that the resulting economic growth would also benefit host communities, support social cohesion, and help empower already fragile economies coming out of a COVID-19-induced economic recession. It would also give the partnerships that the EU is advocating for at the ground floor of the pact a much more solid foundation, based on a cooperative spirit rather than the current formulation. In this way, the New Pact would help create a win-win-win outcome benefiting refugees, host countries, and the EU.

This article is received from

This article is written by Kemal Kirişçi, M.Murat Erdoğan and Nihal Eminoğlu

Visits: 148

Nagorno Karabakh conflict and EU-Turkey relations: Options ahead

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s demands to include Turkey in the Nagorno-Karabakh solution process should be taken seriously by the EU, so as to provide a fresh start to cooperation with Turkey.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which was ignited by Armenia’s adventurist territorial claims against the sovereignty of Azerbaijan, began in the late-1980s. It comes as no surprise that Nikol Pashinyan, the prime minister of Armenia, remains firm in his rights-refusing attitude against the Azerbaijani people. Turkey, as one of the most stable countries in the region, invariably stands by the Republic of Azerbaijan and the dignified citizens of Azerbaijan. Turkey’s resolution to relieve the outstanding problems emanating from the illegal Armenian occupation in 1993 remains unabated. Although Turkey’s status as a reliable interlocutor and strategic partner for the Southern Caucasus countries has already been emphasized in many media outlets, Turkey’s role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a European Union (EU) candidate country as well as the influence of the Turkish stance in this conflict on EU-Turkey relations are yet to be addressed.

Legal insights into the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

As noted, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has been on the agenda of the regional countries, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, since the 1980s. First and foremost, the main legal instrument that must be considered is the constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Article 78 of the Constitution clearly stipulates a mutual agreement between Soviet republics for altering the borders between them. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan notes that this provision was also incorporated into the constitutions of the then Soviet Republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The judgment of the Supreme Council of the USSR (1988) is also highlighted by the Ministry.

Following its blatant violations of the Constitution of the USSR, Armenia attempted to legalize the secession of Nagorno-Karabakh and illegally declared the so-called “Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh” in the territories of Azerbaijan. This action is undoubtedly illegal and illegitimate because, once again, it is a clear violation of the Constitution of the USSR. Regarding the existing public international law framework, it should be noted that the legal and political notion of “territorial integrity” overweighs the right to self-determination, and self-determination (right of secession) does not constitute a rule of customary international law, which is one of the primary sources of international law. Indeed, a possible declaration of independence in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region was not based upon a natural right and peremptory norm stemming from international law, yet it could have been possible had a referendum been held under transparent conditions in accordance with the aforementioned constitutions.

Ever since the dissolution of the USSR, the just cause of the Azerbaijani people has been orchestrated through an astute diplomacy, thanks to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions 822, 853, 874, and 884. What these resolutions affirm is the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the groundlessness of the Armenian secessionist claims. Assoc. Prof. Cavid Abdullahzade, a scholar of international law at Ankara University, defines Armenia’s violation of international law and international humanitarian law as a “continuous crime”, which is a notion used to define crimes consisting of continuous series of acts and offenses. [1] Since the late-1980s, Armenia has been attempting to legalize its occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Bearing in mind the recent armed attacks on civilian targets in the Azerbaijani city of Ganja and in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which constitute crimes against humanity, we can safely assert that the Armenian officials have once again demonstrated that they will never shy away from committing continuous crimes against humanity.

Turkey: A Brother of Azerbaijan and an EU-candidate country

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey has been aiming to strengthen the independence and sovereignty of the countries in the Southern Caucasus, namely Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. It would not be wrong to say that Turkey’s deep-rooted historical and cultural ties with the region enhances the spirit of regional cooperation. As the first country to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan in 1991 and a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, Turkey stands by the righteous party, Azerbaijan, whose rightfulness has been repeatedly affirmed by the UNSC Resolutions. Undoubtedly, the unwavering solidarity and brotherly relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan sheds light on the settlement of the dispute through peaceful means.

Interestingly, setting aside its decades-old political and legal confrontations with Armenia, Turkey was also one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Armenia in 1991. Although this diplomatic gesture is generally attributed to Turkey’s perpetual pursuit of peaceful settlements in the Southern Caucasus, Turkey’s foreign policy preferences prioritizing Armenia’s integration with regional and Euro-Atlantic organizations, such as the EU, prevails in this respect. Turkey’s invitation for Armenia to join the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) as a founding member is an example of a constructive effort crystallizing Turkey’s European and Western integration agenda from a different point of view. Furthermore, with a view to normalizing its bilateral relations with Armenia, Turkey drew particular attention to the Zurich Protocols signed between the two parties in 2009. Yet, it ought to be stressed that Armenia, unfortunately, spurned the bona fide endeavors to normalize relations, by suspending the ratification process of the protocols.

Notwithstanding Armenia’s irrational foreign policy choices, the EU must consider Turkey’s strong commitment to support the European and Western integration processes of the countries in the Southern Caucasus, including Armenia. If embraced, this well-established perception would possibly actualize the “win-win strategy” offered by Turkey, in order to maintain European peace and stability. The Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy may constitute the backbone of this strategy.

Options ahead

The EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) was established to ensure Europe’s security through initiating several missions. Briefly, the CSDP is based on a trilateral problem-solving mechanism: crisis prevention, crisis management and rehabilitation. Although currently the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not on the agenda of the CSDP of the EU, the fragile security environment in the region continues to threaten the European security and the Union may launch necessary initiatives to deploy CSDP instruments to Nagorno-Karabakh.

In this respect, the EU’s imminent CSDP mission in Nagorno-Karabakh will not bear its fruits unless Turkey is involved in the said mission. Turkey, as a European NATO ally, continued its support to the CSDP in its prior and ongoing missions in accordance with its accession process and its strategic ends to preserve European security. Recalling Prof. Huseyin Bagci, a scholar of international relations at the Middle East Technical University, and Ugo Gaudino’s statements on the CSDP missions in the Balkans [2], some Western countries would reap benefits from Turkish contributions to the CSDP missions. Regarding the possibility of a CSDP mission in Nagorno-Karabakh, the EU should consider Turkey’s capacity to ensure stability. Paying regard to Turkey’s aim of establishing a common area of prosperity in the region, the Union must involve Turkey in its CSDP missions more. But before this, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s demands to include Turkey in the Nagorno-Karabakh solution process should be taken seriously by the EU, so as to provide a fresh start to cooperation with Turkey.

The opinion is taken from

Writer: Deniz Ünsal

[ The writer is a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in International and Comparative Law candidate at Trinity College Dublin. He is a 2019-2020 European Union (EU) Jean Monnet scholar. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in law and minor degree in political science from Bilkent University. His main focus areas are Turkey-EU relations, Eastern Mediterranean and contemporary debates in Turkish foreign policy. He has a special interest in public international law, EU law and Late-Ottoman era legal-political developments. ]

[1] Cavid Abdullahzade, ‘Ermenistan-Azerbaycan Dağlık Karabağ İhtilafı: Bölgesel Barış ve Güvenliğe ve Komşuluk İlişkilerine Bir Tehdit’ (2014) Avrasya İncelemeleri Merkezi [40].

[2] Huseyin Bagci and Ugo Gaudino, ‘Involving Turkey in EU Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policies’ (2020) Eurasian Research Journal [9]

Visits: 360

China in Balkans from the EU Perspective


In the early 2000s, China started to take an active role around the world. On the other hand,
we see that it started to be active in the Balkans after Xi Jinping’s examination of the Belt
Road Project, which extends from Asia to the Balkans, was announced in 2013. Subsequently,
67% of the Greece-Piraeus Port, which is the second-largest port of the Mediterranean, was
acquired by China in 2016. With the acquisition of this port, China took the task of
transporting the goods coming to Piraeus to Europe via the Balkans.
Although China seems to be very active in trade in the Balkans, its share of trade with
Balkan countries is only 5%. Only half of this percentage is with Serbia. Also, although the
EU gets worried about this situation, China is not an opponent of the EU. However, the
president of the EU Commission Ursula Von der Layen defended that the Balkans are not a
stop on the Silk Road but a part of Europe, and she emphasized that China’s presence in the
Balkans causes three difficulties: making countries dependent on itself by confining them in
debt, preventing the environmental standards demanded by the EU, and the continuity of
If we examine the above-mentioned effects of China in the Balkans, it is firstly defended by
the EU that China has an active role in the region through borrowing. They explain this as
China’s fast and cheap meeting of infrastructure needs in the Balkans, providing loans to
Balkan states and thus increasing its political influence in the Balkans. An example is the
selection of a Chinese company for the highway project in Montenegro, and Montenegro’s
high debt to China. As a result of these situations, Montenegro, which has made many legal
regulations, has been under the influence of China and is also in a debtor position and has
difficulties in granting EU membership. Secondly, the environmental regulation conditions
signed as Energy Treaty are not applied. While the use of fossil fuels should be reduced and
the use of renewable energy sources should increase, China started investing in coal power
plants in the Balkans. Finally, the Anti-Corruption Reform was prepared in order to ensure the
democracy deemed necessary for the membership of the Balkans to the EU, to accept the rule
of law and to adopt respect for human rights; however, this reform is not implemented and it
is claimed that China also supports this situation. In addition, China’s biggest problem with
this issue is that it is not transparent in the Belt and Road Project.
In addition to the three main reasons mentioned above and defended by the EU, one of the
reasons why China is effective in the Balkans is the good use of its soft power. With the

Confucius Institutes opening, China provided cultural transfer for the public of the Balkans.
Besides, China’s ability to hold on so tightly in the region is that it uses its development model
with its capital and brings wealth to the Balkans. Accordingly, the public is against the
attitude of the EU towards China. On the other hand, if we look at it historically, the main
reason why China took its place in the Balkans so easily is the power vacuum created by the
EU in the Balkans by seeing the Balkans as inferior and inadequate. Combined with the
Euroskepticism that emerged in the 2010s, China took a step and made progress. However, all
these have not prevented the EU from giving up its fundamental interests in the Balkans
today, and the need for the unification of the Balkans and Europe was discussed.
In summary, China started to be active in the Balkans in the 2010s and started this with the
Belt and Road Project. Although China used trade afterward, its main point was that China
brought wealth to the Balkans by using its soft power and capital effectively and quickly.
However, China’s activism has emerged that three major shortcomings from the EU’s
perspective in the Balkans: borrowing and dependence on China, low environmental
standards, and the continuation of corruption. According to the EU, all these consequences
prevent the Balkans from joining the EU, on the other hand, the EU does not want to give up
its fundamental interests in the Balkans. The President of the EU Commission and the
presidents of the EU Commission member states made statements and expressed that they
want the Balkans to join the EU fully and to reduce the influence of China due to the
problems created in the region. But how likely is this to happen?


“AB Komisyonu Başkanı von Der Leyen: Batı Balkanlar’ın Yeri AB’dir, Bununla Ilgili Hiçbir

Şüphe Yok,” Euronews, May 6, 2020,

“Von Der Leyen: Western Balkans Are Part of Europe, Not Just a Stopover on the Silk Road,”
European Western Balkans, September 16, 2020,

Gamze Ayan Çakmak, “Batı Balkanlar’da Çin-AB Rekabeti,” Diplomasi ve Strateji Dergisi The
Journal of Diplomacy and Strategy, n.d.,
Robin Emmott Aleksandar Vasovic, “EU Aims to Counter Chinese, Russian Influence at Balkan

Summit,” Reuters, May 6, 2020,

This article is written by Buse Bakkaloğlu

Visits: 143

Statement of European Union Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell: The Old Empires Are Coming Back

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep
Borrell Frontelles made a speech at the European Parliament on 15 September. The EU’s

Foreign affairs chief, Mr.Borrell made a statement concerning the Eastern Mediterranean and
Turkey’s foreign relations at the meeting of the European Parliament. In his speech, he said,
“The old empires are coming back. Three of them are Russia, China and Turkey. These are
the great empires of the past. And Turkey is one of these elements. This situation offers a new
environment for us … ”
In recent months, Turkey has increased oil and gas exploration activities in the Aegean-
Eastern Mediterranean. This case has led to strong reactions especially  from Greece and
Cyprus. EU foreign affairs chief, Borrell, reported that Turkey has been attempting to revive
the empire considering Turkey’s policy towards Libya and Syria.
Mr. Josep Borrell’s other relevant remarks regarding Turkey are as follows: “Turkey is an
important neighbor for EU. We can’t change the geography and Turkey will continue to be
partners on many important issues, including immigration. For example, we know that
immigration flow is difficult without the help of Turkey. However, Turkey’s actions create a
question mark for the future of our relations and the urgent need to find answers to these

This article is written by Hülya Yıldırım

Visits: 1264

21st September EU Council

On September 21st 2020, the day has been addressed many issues in the actual European
Commission in Brussels: Belarusian crisis, Turkey Eastern Mediterranean issue, Venezuela,
Libya civil war, the European Union-China relations, the Russian issue, Lebanon, the
European Union, and African Relations.
The election was lived on 9th August 2020 in Belarus, and it has been demonstrated that
there was a fraud in the elections and that Alexandr Lukashenko did not receive 80 percent of
the votes and accordingly the EU did not recognize his legitimacy. Also, the President of the
European Parliament, David Sassoli invited Tikhanovskaya (strong opposition leader in
Belarus) to this Council in Brussels. At the end of the meeting between the two, Sassoli
requested the release of those detained in the demonstrations. In addition to this, Borell, the
High Representative of the EU for Foreign Relations and Security Policies, will stand by the
EU in determining Belarus’ destiny; however, he stated that no sanctions can be imposed at
the moment due to the obstacle by Southern Cyprus. According to Southern Cyprus, Turkey
has to be punished by the EU because of the Eastern Mediterranean issue. On the other hand,
at the end of the conference, taking further steps to de-escalate to Turkey was said on that
When the current events were examined, there was a speech about the results of the last
meeting of Venezuela and the International Contact Group, and the ministers agreed that the
international community should mobilize all efforts to help Venezuelans find a peaceful and
democratic solution to the ongoing crisis and to meet the immediate needs of the population.
Moreover, the sanctions imposed on the Head of the House of Representatives in Tobruk,
Akile Lakih, and Nuri Ebu Sehmen on Libya were lifted, and it was decided to impose
sanctions on companies that violate the arms embargo by sending arms from Turkey, Jordan,
and Kazakhstan to Libya.
Ministers of the EU Council was informed about the EU-China Leaders Conference held on
September 14, focusing on the progress of the Comprehensive Investment Agreement
negotiations and the human rights situation by the High Representative. Moreover, on the
Russian issue, it was said that an urgent international investigation, in full transparency and
cooperation, was needed to poison High Representative Navalny and the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In addition to these, for the difficult situation that occurred
as a result of the earthquake in Beirut, the needs of the people in Lebanon and the speedy

formation of a new government was talked. Lastly, the EU made discussions on developing
economic and political relations with Africa in the medium and long term. As a result of this
interview, it was stated that strategic priorities should be determined for the 10-year European
Union-Africa Union.
To sum up, in the 21st September 2020 EU Council meeting Belarusian crisis, Turkey
Eastern Mediterranean issue, Venezuela, Libya civil war, the European Union-China
relations, the Russian issue, Lebanon, the European Union, and the African Relations were
discussed. The results of this discussion can be summarized like that: they could not get a
decision on the Belarus crisis, because of Southern Cyprus’ veto, Turkey was warned for
taking further steps to de-escalate, ministers agreed that the international community should
mobilize all efforts to help Venezuelans find a peaceful and democratic solution for
Venezuela, because of supporting weapons to Libya, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Jordan got
sanctions; Comprehensive Investment Agreement negotiations and the human rights situation
between the EU and China were told; there will be opened an investigation for poison High
Representative Navalny; because of the Beirut earthquake, people’s need will be supplied in
Lebanon; and the EU and Africa will develop their relations through economically and politically.

This article is written by Buse Bakkaloğlu

Visits: 387

EU Neighborhood Policy towards Eastern Neighbors

EU Neighborhood Policy
Considering the history of the EU’s Neighborhood Policy, it can be seen that it emerged
with the steps taken in the 1990s. The most important of these is the signing of Partnership
and Cooperation Treaties with Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine, along with other
Central and Eastern European countries (other than the Belarus agreement, which was
suspended by the EU due to authoritarian political conditions under Lukashenko, had entered
into force). In addition to these countries, the financial mechanism of cooperation with those
in the East was carried out through the TACIS program. TACIS also covered three South
Caucasus countries under the European Neighborhood Policy, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and
In terms of chronology, the importance of strengthening relations with neighbors in the
East and the South of the Mediterranean to maintain stability and partnership with Europe was
mentioned in the December 2002 Copenhagen European Summit and we see the results of the
studies carried out in 2003 and 2004 in the European Security Strategy Document. In this
document, it was stated that the problems of the EU increased with the enlargement policy
and that steps should be taken for arrangements and cooperation in the Mediterranean and the
East in the name of a solution. In addition, commissions were organized and countries in the
east and south were determined. Besides, in the second commission report, the relationship
between Russia and the EU, apart from the European Neighborhood Policy, will be in a
bilateral framework and it was announced that they will carry out in line with the agreement
reached the St. Petersburg Summit.
Depending on the developments experienced, it was put forward by the EU commission in
2004 to establish friendly relations with the countries bordering the EU. In this context,
agreements were made with Mediterranean countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya,
Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria) in 2008 and Eastern countries (Moldova,
Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia) in 2009. Since the aim is not to join the EU,
the EU membership perspective has not been presented. However, with those who argue that
this may be unmotivated, the economic advantages of increasing commercial and economic
relations, facilitation in the visa procedure (especially for business, scientific research,
education, tourism, and official visits), assistance in resolving regional conflicts, and disputes,
within the framework of EU programs contributions to the citizens of the countries, such as

providing more education and research opportunities in Europe were taken into agenda.
Moreover, Johannes Hohn was chosen as the person responsible for these matters.
Looking at, what can be shown to cause the EU to take such steps? Is it just to have good
relationships and peace? Of course not. When viewed mainly, the reasons can be examined
internally and externally. Looking at the reasons internally, it can be seen as helpful in solving
the problems of illegal immigration, drug and women trafficking and energy deficit, which the
EU is exposed to; Externally, it can be said to expand the EU’s sphere of influence and to
have a voice in global balances and to ensure stability in neighboring countries. Namely, The
European Neighborhood Policy has emerged to find solutions in four important issues we
touched on (immigration to the EU (illegal or legal), the use of women and children as sex
workers, drug trafficking, and energy shortages). While the first three problems we mentioned
are related to geopolitical location, the last issue is due to the insufficiency of available energy
resources together with the increasing population as a result of immigration. Three important
countries on the Caspian Sea and North African countries have gained importance in terms of
energy resources. With the North African countries, Euro-Med has emerged and 20% of
Europe’s energy needs have started to be met here1

. Also, oil or natural gas reserves in North
Africa, Russia, and the Caspian Region will become a priority for the EU, as the Persian Gulf
and the Middle East prioritize China and its surrounding region in sending energy. In
addition, Ukraine is a country that should be distinguished due to the fact that it has the
second-largest natural gas storage capacity in Europe after Russia and it has the strategic port
of Odess for distributing Caspian natural gas to Europe via the Black Sea. Considering the
steps and regulations taken on this issue, it has been one of the strategic promises in the
European Neighborhood Policy that, while organizing their relations with the countries on a
one-to-one level and according to their performances, the regional cooperation efforts among
these countries will be supported. In other words, every country which was thought could
contribute to these internal reasons and structuring was made for solutions. When we look at

what the EU has done to increase its global influence, first of all, regional crises (Palestine-
Israel conflict, the tension in Western Sahara) and internal problems-crises of countries (such

as Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, Karabakh problems between Armenia and
Azerbaijan) will be able to expand the maneuver space in foreign policy by approaching more
and more effectively. Also, this policy was used as a strategic tool to make the EU influence

1 Yrd.Doç.Dr.Hakan SAMUR, “AVRUPA KOMŞULUK POLİTİKASI VE AMAÇLARI,” Elektronik Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi
8, no. 27 (2009): 18–35.

felt in a wide area by cooperating not only with neighboring countries but also among
neighboring countries.
East Partnership of the European Union
In June 2008, by using the EU Neighborhood Policy of the European Council, with the
states in the East for strategic purposes (both to find solutions to the internal problems of the
EU and to ensure the peace and stability of the surrounding countries), the Eastern Partnership
Treaty signed with Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in May
2008 and its founding summit was held in Prague in May 2009.
While targeting the points mentioned above with this partnership, what is also planned is to
ensure the development of bilateral relations, advanced and gradual economic integration with
the EU, increasing mutual interaction through visa facilities, strong cooperation on energy
security, and supporting economic and social development. Regarding the steps taken in line
with these plans, Eastern countries were asked to join the World Trade Organization. After
this participation was achieved, the Free Trade Agreement was signed and the liberalization
process lived and the money transfer was made easier by making arrangements on tax issues.
On the other hand, while providing convenience in the name of tourism with the “Travel and
Security” agreement, regulations were made to open the workforce supply. Even if we come
to the plans regarding energy, it has been considered to make agreements to secure the EU for
supply and transit transportation. Finally, it is aimed to increase regional financial support and
cooperation in order to support economic and social development.
If we look at Russia’s attitude on planning the Eastern Partnership and taking action on this
issue, it has caused difficulties in its relations with the EU. When we look at it, Belarus and
Armenia, which are the countries with which an agreement is to be made, have always had
good relations with Russia and preferred Russia to the EU on the Customs Union. In addition,
Russia has caused trouble in almost every state to create difficulties for the EU. Moldova can
be given as an example of this subject at first. The Gagauz Turks in Moldova caused a
referendum on the regulations in the labor market and being from Russia in the Customs
Union, and the result was what they wanted. In addition, although Ukraine is a country that
has good relations with both NATO and the EU and Russia, it has become closer to Russia
upon the change of Russia’s Crimean policy while having closer relations with the EU. Apart
from these, Georgia has established and maintained good relations with the EU with the
economic assistance of the EU after the 2008 Russian conflict. In other words, there are

certain problems in all of them except Georgia and the most important factor in this is the
success of Russia’s relationship with these states.
In 2013, almost every state had a problem, Belarus signed the Customs Union agreement
with Russia and Kazakhstan; Armenia had said no to the Association Agreement with the EU
long ago; After the conflicts in Ukraine, Ukraine announced that it suspended relations. And
this situation continued until the summit in May 2015. During the time of this summit,
conflicts were continuing in Ukraine, and relations with Russia were strained; It can be said
that this situation has been exploited. Moreover, the EU administration of Ukraine, Moldova,
and Georgia was expected to revise the Riga Declaration and recognize the European
perspective for the Eastern Partnership countries. It is thought that bilateral steps were taken
especially in visa and economic cooperation issues (visa liberalization was introduced for
Moldova but not others) and regulation was requested in this regard. Four summits are made
every year, and today although all of these states have regulations about that partnership, this
can not be seen enough.

This article is written by Buse Bakkaloğlu

Visits: 555

Turkey-EU relations: What is the Matter?


Throughout the years, Turkey’s relations with the European Union has had
fluctuations, and it has been the nature of all human-involved relationships. However, in the
last 24 years, it might be right to say that it is only getting worse. Özdem Sanberk (R.
Ambassador), in his online article, classified problems as tensions with Greece, the European
Union’s unnecessary attitude towards Turkey, and lack of empathy as well as a compromise
not coming from both sides. Even it is possible to widen the causes of decremental
characteristics of the relation between Turkey and the EU, this essay aims to stay in the
predetermined frame provided by former Ambassador Sanberk.
Turkey’s application to the Union is dating back to 40 years. Even though, the
membership application had been reflected as a progressive one, considering the long time
and rare improvements: This process is not an advancing one. On the one hand, Customs
Union is an achievement for both sides, belongs to the 24 years ago, and on the other,
promised membership status had never been acquired by Turkey.
Greek Cypriots’ application, many years after Turkey’s, was admitted despite “they
rejected the UN and EU peace proposals in a referendum” (Sanberk, 2020). Moreover, there
was not a made-agreement on the divided island accordingly. Since then, Greece has acquired
the full-member status and use its ‘veto right’ against Turkey continuously.
Whilst Greece membership creating one of the causes of tension between Turkey and
Greece, the second one is perceived as arbitrary map designs coming from Greece on the
issues such as seabed issue and exclusion of Turkey in energy agreements according to
Sanberk (2020). According to Greece-made maps, Turkey’s seabed rights are narrowed as if
it is a ‘narrow strip’ along the southern coasts, which is an unsubstantial design on the
Turkish side.
In addition to the former issue, exclusion of Turkey from energy trades taking part in
the eastern Mediterranean is no better for Turkey. This thought blockade towards Turkey is
quite hostile and not logical. Sanberk (2020) argues that gas line passing through Turkey “
would be the cheapest and most effective route” whereas the planned alternatives such as
‘EastMed’ -for gas- and ‘EuroAsia Interconnector’ -for electricity- would extract Turkey
from the route could be the “by far longest coastline” (Sanberk, 2020).
The bigger picture and the main issue here is the contribution of the European Union
on each topic. Neutral years of EU on the political developments between Turkey and Greece
were stated as the 1950s and ’60s. After Greece’s full membership on January 1st,1981
transformed the EU’s attitude towards Turkey negative and being against Turkey namely
every situation took place. Acting with the assumption of “community solidarity” and
presumed supremacy – as Merkel did in her latest statement about eastern Mediterranean-,
European Union provoked “consequences could be with us for centuries” (Sanberk, 2020).
As for the unimaginable seabed rights and blockade over energy issues, the EU again stood

up for Greece by denigrating Turkey’s noncompliance with given issues. This fairly “single-
sided exclusionary policy of EU” received Turkey’s angry reaction naturally.

What can be done is extracting tensions between Greece and Turkey by negotiating
in a peaceful and compromising attitude for both sides, and the Union should reward a
conciliatory manner while punishing otherwise (Sanberk, 2020). Trade negotiations and visa
conditions must be enhanced and practiced. Turkey’s criticized recent policies should be
rethought with an “act of empathy” and responded accordingly. Turkey also should not burn
the bridges between her and the EU, and continue to improve herself in every branch both
domestically and internationally, to become one of the developed countries.


This article is written by Ayça Süngü

Visits: 576

The old transatlantic relationship ain’t coming back

This article written by Paul Taylor

Even if Joe Biden replaces Donald Trump as US president, Europe will have to learn to carry its share of the burden.

With those four words, uttered at the 2019 Munich Security Conference, Joe Biden warmed the hearts of Europeans despairing at the erratic, indifferent and at times openly hostile foreign policy of U.S. President Donald Trump.

But even if the Democratic presidential contender wins the election (an increasingly likely “if” should Biden prove able to maintain his advantage in the polls), it’ll take more than warm feelings to get the transatlantic relationship back on track.

With or without a reliable partner in the White House, the European Union and Europe’s leading powers will have to learn to live in a world in which Washington may still be the ultimate guarantor of the Continent’s security, but won’t have the bandwidth to fix all the region’s many problems. And in which they will be required to do more to prove the utility of the transatlantic partnership.

Like Trump, Biden will expect Europe and NATO to carry more of the security burden in the Middle East.

“We can’t just wait till Biden arrives. We need to have a plan,” says David O’Sullivan, who was the EU’s ambassador to Washington until last year. “What’s our offer? The United States is our indispensable partner for the foreseeable future. It is in our interest to bolster American leadership rather than undermine it. What price are we prepared to pay to achieve a balanced agenda?”

In his speech in Munich, Biden called for a reform of NATO to meet threats unique to the 21st century and promised “serious coordination and consensus-building.” In recent speeches and articles, he has vowed to return on “day one” of his presidency to the Paris accord on fighting climate change and to the World Health Organization. He has also pledged to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal torn up by Trump if Tehran resumes full compliance, and to reaffirm unequivocally NATO’s mutual defense clause.
All that will be welcome news to European policymakers looking to rebuild one of the most successful partnerships in history and respond to global challenges alongside the U.S., instead of reacting defensively to pre-dawn Twitter storms from the irascible tweeter-in-chief.

But while a Democratic administration in Washington can be expected to consult allies more, be more active diplomatically and be more supportive of international institutions, a Biden presidency will not mark a return to the post-World War II era in which Europe could afford to live comfortably under the American umbrella.
Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to Washington, argues that Trump’s nationalist isolationism is not an aberration. On the contrary, he says it is deeply rooted in historic U.S. suspicion of foreign entanglements. And whoever ends up in the White House in 2021, there will be no return to liberal interventionism or to global American hegemony.

“Trump is following in the footsteps of [former U.S. President Barack] Obama, who understood the exhaustion of the American people with overseas involvements,” Araud wrote in his book “Diplomatic Passport,” published late last year.

“Style matters, and [Trump’s] approach is brutal, unilateral and non-cooperative, but the common thread of a relative disengagement from the international scene is probably irreversible.”
Would a Biden administration be more willing to step in if Turkey used force to press its continental shelf claims in the gas-rich eastern Mediterranean? If Lebanon descended into civil strife and famine after the Beirut port catastrophe, prompting a flood of refugees? If the proxy war in Libya pitting the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia against Turkey and Qatar escalated? Or if Russia intervened in Belarus to crush protests following a disputed election?

Washington’s strategic pivot toward East Asia and away from Europe and the Middle East, which began under Obama, entails a permanent redeployment of military power and economic focus in response to China’s accelerating ascent as the main challenger to U.S. global dominance.

Like Trump, Biden will expect Europe and NATO to carry more of the security burden in the Middle East. European governments might be more inclined to help if U.S. policy on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reverted from Trump’s unilateral pursuit of regime change in Tehran and of a peace deal overwhelmingly slanted toward Israel. But whether the Europeans have the means or the political will to tackle any of these challenges is highly doubtful.

The real litmus test of U.S.-European cooperation under a Biden administration is likely to come over China, on which the Europeans are far from united among themselves but are eager to avoid being dragged into a new Cold War by Trump.

Tony Blinken, one of Biden’s senior foreign policy advisers, says how to handle Beijing is the most important question a Democratic president would face.

“There’s no more important relationship in the world than U.S.-China. We have to work together to get it right,” he told a recent Chatham House videoconference. A Biden administration would approach it by working with allies and “showing up in institutions instead of going AWOL.”

Given this new reality, it will take more than hope or wishful thinking, which abound in the corridors of Brussels, to put the transatlantic partnership back in gear. In short, Europe needs to stop treating the U.S. as a protective Big Brother it can always count on to scare away the neighborhood bullies — and more like an equal in a partnership in which both sides carry the burden.

If Biden makes good on his day-one promises, Europeans should be ready to respond with “deliverables” of their own, to borrow the ghastly bureaucratic terminology.

A more self-confident Europe should offer a President Biden a grown-up partnership, but not subservience.

They should offer to work with Washington to reform the World Trade Organization and renew transatlantic trade talks with new flexibility on agriculture and aerospace subsidies if Washington scraps punitive tariffs on EU goods.

European countries, including France, should agree to hold off on implementing digital taxes if the U.S. reengages in a good faith negotiation of corporate taxation principles at the OECD with a fixed deadline. They should also step up their common defense efforts to complement NATO with a stronger European pillar, and get firmer with China by insisting on investment reciprocity and the protection of critical infrastructure and technology.

The EU should also suggest a permanent transatlantic consultative forum on sensitive issues of technology transfer and investment — open to partners such as Canada, Japan and Australia.

In exchange, it should seek a U.S. commitment to forgo the kind of extraterritorial secondary sanctions used by the Trump administration that weaponize the dollar’s dominance of the international payments system to penalize foreign companies accused of breaching U.S. national sanctions against Iran or other targeted countries.

It is not certain that Biden would be willing or able to end this constant irritant in transatlantic ties, which is often spearheaded by Congress. But EU governments should make clear that this is a condition for good faith cooperation among allies in addressing the strategic challenge of China and others.

A more self-confident Europe should offer a President Biden a grown-up partnership, but not subservience. In a dangerous and uncertain world, rebuilding transatlantic ties after Trump’s wrecking spree must be the foundation for the post-COVID recovery, which is the top priority on both sides of the Atlantic.

This article taken from

Visits: 111

“Turkish Foreign Policy in an Age of Uncertainty”

Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim KALIN was a guest of todays’ webinar where
Turkey’s strategic position against the European Union(EU) and its’ relationship as an entity
with each one of the European countries like Greece and France, or the Greek Cypriot
Administration of Southern Cyprus was discussed. As we know, Turkey plays and has a crucial
role within the international system due to its’ geopolitical location, economic capacity along
with its immense military power. Along with Turkey, Greece is also one of the main key actors
in this regional framework giving an additional importance to our bi-relations and multi-lateral
relations which should not be neglected or ignored by our decision-makers. In addition, like
Mr. KALIN highlighted very correctly; Turkey has a great traditionally rooted cultural
background which carries some similar characteristics in common with the Greece. Both
countries have a similar culture shaped by the historical events mainly caused by the Byzantine
Empire and the Ottoman Empire both ruling on the same soil since they shared borders, islands
and parcels over the years. However, these common shares resulted with certain disputes to
occur which as a result lead to sanctions.

Turkey has been working for decades to become a full member of the European Union
to achieve certain economic and strategic advantages. Despite the fact that the official
negotiations started in 2005, the EU countries did not approve and vote for Turkey to reach a
conclusion in its efforts to become a member of this union. Primarily because of Germany,
Austria and Belgium which are considered to be the locomotive countries within the EU,
Turkey’s EU membership process developed and proceeded inefficiently nearly coming to a
breaking stage. Furthermore, due to the impact of events in history, Greece has slowed this
process as much as possible by provoking the EU against Turkey and following certain policies.
Today, one of the new reasons contributing to the conflict woven historical relationship between
Turkey and Greece was caused by the treaty called “Exclusive Economic Zone Agreement”
which was declared between Turkey and Libya. As a result; every time Turkey sends an oil rig
to find oil in the Exclusive Economic Zone; Greece in return immediately informs the EU to
enforce certain sanctions against Turkey. The official response to this comes immediately from
the Presidential Spokesman Mr. KALIN who officially gives an answer like “we do not accept
any sanctions and inducement of EU by Greece.”

However; including the locomotive countries mentioned above the majority of the
European Union countries with no exception always produce excuses with the final aim of
preventing Turkey from becoming a full member of the club and putting certain barriers on the
road to leading to the full membership in the EU. A good example to this would be “the Customs
Union Agreement”. Turkey with the expectation of getting and enjoying the privileges granted
by the Schengen Visa as a result of the “Schengen Agreement” signed in the city of Schengen,
ended up with “the Customs Union Agreement”. This agreement had an end effect on behalf of
the EU enabling the EU to improve its’ wealth and capacity of trade. As we can see the EU
mostly broke the promises it gave to slow down the process. The bottom line is; like Helmut
SCHMIDT who once formulated in his memoirs; The EU officially does not want to enlarge
its borders towards the middle east region and become neighbors with especially Iran, Iraq and
Syria. Becoming a full member especially meant that the EU would have to take the full
responsibility of the security of the borders of Turkey as well as economically and socially. We
can see that very clearly from the events which take place every day for the past few years.

This article written by Yaşar Bora Togo

Visits: 654


By THO Contributor, Tarik Oğuzlu

The dynamics of security relationship between the European Union and Turkey have been closely informed by the dynamics of security relationship each has with the United States. The role that the United States might potentially play in the context of EU-Turkey relations is strongly informed by the nature and quality of transatlantic relations. The historical records show that whenever the transatlantic relations were in good shape, the lobbying efforts of American administrations across European capitals on behalf of Turkey’s prospective EU membership struck a sympathetic chord. No matter the current Trump administration views the liberal international order and its quintessential institutional platforms, such as the European Union and NATO, through skeptical eyes, the United States has continued to view Turkey’s eventual transformation in the image of European norms and values, let alone its full membership in the EU, in its national interests. A Turkey, that turns its face towards the European Union and adopts European practices in its internal and external politics, would not only shun assertive and aggressive policies in the name of becoming a regional hegemon but also adopt a more rational and predictable foreign policy stance. Such a Turkey would align its national interests with those of the European Union and contribute to peace and security in the larger Middle East and North Africa region. Besides, the ability of the United States to have leverage on Turkey’s policies would likely increase should the latter adopt a pro-European/western national outlook. Such a Turkey would also act as a role model for the European/western transformation of predominantly Muslim nations across the wider Middle East. This is surely in American national interests.

Supporting Turkey’s European transformation and potential EU membership is the United States’ dominant strategy, no matter Washington views Brussels and leading European capitals as partners or rivals/challengers. In case the United States views the EU as a rival and challenge, Turkey’s membership in the EU would help weaken the union from within as Turkey’s strong state identity and realpolitik security culture would put a brake on EU’s transformation into a single-voice powerful international actor. Turkey’s presence inside the Union would help the Americans play the time-tested divide-and-rule game. On the other hand, should the United States view the European Union as a strong partner, Turkey’s eventual accession to the Union would fast transform the Union into a strong international actor that could undertake more responsibility in maintaining peace and security in its neighborhood so that the Americans could channel their limited capabilities to other locations where threats to American security interests are more visible and imminent, such as the Indo-Pacific region.

Looking to this trilateral relationship from the perspective of the European Union members, one comes to a similar conclusion. Turkey’s transformation in European image, let alone its eventual accession to the Union sometime in future, seems to be EU’s dominant strategy. In case, the EU views the United States as acting against the letter and spirit of the liberal international order by transforming into a global rouge state, then strengthening of Turkey’s European credentials as well as Turkey’s coming closer to the European Union in defining its national foreign and security policy interests would likely add up to European Union’s leverage over the United States. With Turkey coming much closer to the European Union each passing day, the chances of the European Union to become a powerful international actor with a strategic mindset will certainly increase. Should the European Union see the United States as its number one ally and strategic partner, then Turkey’s European transformation will be a gift to the United States, for a strong trilateral relationship between the United States, European Union and Turkey will tremendously strengthen the resolve of the transatlantic community to deal with the Chinese challenge in the emerging post-western multipolar international order.

Even though Turkey’s European transformation and coming closer to the transatlantic community seems to be the dominant strategy of Europeans and Americans, the picture from Turkey’s perspective is a little bit more complicated than meets the eye. Conventionally speaking, developing closer relations with westerners in general and Europeans in particular and transforming into a more European polity each passing day has long been among Turkey’s key national interests. There are two important causes of this. First, located at a very critical geographical location and feeling exposed to various conventional and non-conventional security challenges to all directions, Turkey’s own ability to deal with them successfully is quite limited. Seeking western/European help against non-western/non-European threats and challenges had pushed Turkey to join NATO and seek membership in key western international organizations in the past. This logic still applies today. Second, Turkey’s western/European transformation is also a hedge against the possibility of westerners/Europeans viewing Turkey as a threat and doing everything they can to help contain the so-called Turkey challenge. Given that the Ottoman Empire came to the end at the hands of colonial European nations and that the Republic of Turkey gained its independence during the wars waged against European states, the founding fathers of the new Republic thought that unless Turkey’s western/European identity were recognized as such by westerners/Europeans themselves, the latter might easily view the former as a potential threat to its security and well-being. That said, the Europeanization/westernization process has been seen from the very beginning first and foremost as a security strategy. A more western/European Turkey would not only be able to deal with non-western/European challenges more successfully but also feel itself more secure and comfortable in its relations with westerners/Europeans.

The risk for Turkey arises from the fact that whereas Americans and Europeans do generally view Turkey from an instrumental and technical perspective, a tool to be utilized in meeting core security interests in and around Turkey, Turkey’s approach towards the West//Europe is predominantly psychological. Status-seeking efforts do still manifest themselves in Turkey’s interactions with western/European countries. Another fundamentally important point is that whenever Turkish rulers do intensify their efforts to help lessen the psychological imprint in their relations with westerners/Europeans and adopt a more technical and strategic approach towards them, questions about Turkey’s strategic choices and foreign policy orientation pop up instantly across western/European capitals. One cannot help but come to the conclusion that westerners/Europeans would be quite happy to see Turkey’s psychological need to be recognized as a western/European nation continue unabated.

Whereas the rise of challenges emanating from Russia and China might help rejuvenate the trilateral strategic cooperation among the United States, European Union and Turkey, one would do well to recognize that the psychological dimension of this relationship also matters, maybe more than strategic-security considerations. The confluence of four important developments in recent years appears to have psychologically aggravated this trilateral relationship. First, the transatlantic rift between the United States and its European allies has widened over the last decade as the two shores of the Atlantic Ocean have somehow diverged from each other as to how to define western identity and the core tenets of the liberal international order. The cohesion of the so-called western international community has weakened as liberal-democratic credentials of its identity have come under existential challenges across the Atlantic. Looking from Turkey, the question of who remains the gatekeeper of liberal democracy has become difficult to answer.

Second, Turkey’s penchant for further liberal democracy has further decreased as not only liberal democracy has moved from one crisis to another in its homes countries but also Turkey’s liberal democratic reforms alongside the EU accession process have not been positively reciprocated by Europeans. Paradoxically, while Turkey has institutionally come closer to the European Union since the beginning of the formal accession negotiations in 2005 the psychological distance between the two has spectacularly widened with an increasing number of Europeans arguing that this process should be defined as open-ended and Europeans should most offer Turkey a privileged membership.

Third, Turkey has adopted a more nationalist and illiberal turn since the failed coup attempt in July 2016. The fact that neither the United States nor key European Union members took as much a pro-government position as adopted by Russia, Iran and many other non-western nations seems to have aggravated the fears of Turkey’s ruling elite that promotion of liberal democracy abroad is more a strategic weapon at the hands westerners than reflecting their sincere commitment to such values wherever they are abused.

Finally, the growing clout of China, Russia and other non-western countries in global politics in recent years appears to have strengthened realpolitik security considerations and material power calculations at the expense of value-oriented normative underpinnings of international order. While such a tectonic shift in international relations seems to have triggered a crisis of trust in Turkey’s relations with western/European nations on one hand, it has improved Turkey’s ability to develop strategic, pragmatic and interest-based relations with non-western powers on the other.

I am of the view that the continuation of the trilateral cooperation between the United States, European Union and Turkey is in their common interests, yet unless the parties build their relationship on a solid psychological and normative basis, then the years ahead might see more crises arise.


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