Turkiye’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun argues that Ankara’s proposals for reforming the international system and its successful humanitarian assistance programmes provide a model for stability in an era of global upheaval.
How does one define Turkiye's position vis-a-vis global politics? Conceptualisations such as “merchant state,” which promote Turkiye's economic-political characteristics, “periphery/semi-periphery state,” which cheers Marxist thought, and “bridge state,” which refers to its geopolitical position, have come to the fore.
Terms like “regional power” or “middle power,” often used in international relations literature, refer to Turkiye's sphere of influence or capacity.
Yet, with geopolitical, humanitarian and political developments over the past several years, it is evident that these conceptualisations are limited and fail to account for Turkiye’s expanded sphere of influence and capacity.
In “Turkiye as a Stabilizing Power in Age of Turmoil” (Academica Press, 2021), Dr Fahrettin Altun, who currently serves as the director of communications at the Turkish Presidency, offers a critique of the contemporary international system and explains that it is indeed possible to minimise conflict and instability, using Turkiye’s experiences and proposals to support his arguments.
An extraordinary revisionist work, the book ultimately invites readers to re-conceptualise the country as a “stablising power,” with an eye on regional and international developments in recent years and Ankara’s role therein.
Altun begins by tracing the trajectory and outcomes of the US-led international order to discuss its glitches and failures, which the Covid-19 pandemic exposed. The book draws a solid analogy between today's conflicts, emerging humanitarian tragedies, and the global atmosphere post-2001.
The picture that emerged during and after the Cold War points to a plain fact, he argues that despite optimistic rhetoric and promises, modern international politics is based on the interests of a few players; the system's institutions can be effective or ineffective to the extent that they are part of this conflict of interest. In other words, war, humanitarian tragedy, cooperation, and prosperity, are not the outcomes of rhetoric and promises but the results of what actors do.
The author illustrates these points by showing how the promise of US-led peace and prosperity was limited to certain geographies, while Africa, the Balkans and many other parts of the world saw ethnic conflicts, civil wars and humanitarian tragedies.
Whilst the 9/11 terrorist attacks created an atmosphere of global solidarity, this was quickly destroyed by Washington’s aggressive policies, which created an era of irreversible conflict. He adds that the world is still reeling from the devastation caused by the 2008 economic crisis, and that the tragedy and devastation caused by the botched invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq remain unrepaired.
Altun also explores the increasing dysfunction of the UN and international institutions during this period and underlines that it results from the UN straying from its original claims and commitments on key issues like security, stability and peace.
He points out that not only did the institutions and actors that are part of the system fail to prevent many conflicts, but they even failed in terms of the basic humanitarian assistance needed to alleviate the humanitarian tragedies resulting from these conflicts, referring to 730 million people who live in poverty, and the growing global inequality in access to basic needs, such as healthcare and education.
Indeed, the question of how to achieve stability in international politics is at the heart of numerous theoretical studies. A significant part of these discussions revolves around whether stability is possible or the conditions under which relative stability can occur.
A world without conflicts and with constant stability is unlikely. However, the intentions and policies of the states can deepen or mitigate conflicts or alleviate their outcomes.
Altun argues that Turkiye's proposals for reforming the international system, starting with the expansion of the UN Security Council, its demonstrated commitment to humanitarian assistance, and the outcomes of Ankara’s interventions in conflict zones, all provide concrete examples that relative stability can be achieved.
In each of the examples presented in the book, the author demonstrates how Turkiye's negotiation or intervention was aimed at establishing stability: Turkiye has done its part to implement the Annan Plan for the island of Cyprus, and has also shown strong resistance to the unlawful steps taken by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. He also discusses Ankara’s efforts to ameliorate both the humanitarian and political conditions created by Washington’s occupation of Iraq.
It was Turkiye that fought to prevent the civil war in Syria and made the utmost efforts to alleviate the humanitarian tragedies caused by the war. Turkiye's interventions against terrorist organisations have also been conducted within the framework of international law. Moreover, Ankara has helped with the reconstruction activities required to stabilise the areas cleared of these groups.
He establishes that Turkiye's stance in the Libyan crisis has prevented the country from re-entering a spiral of civil war and possibly returning to the dictatorial era. The agreements signed between Turkiye and the Libyan government at the end of 2020 laid the foundations for the politics of mutual gains between the two countries, while preventing the energy competition in the Eastern Mediterranean from turning into a conflict. Thanks to Turkiye's assistance to Libya, elections and political stability have become possible again.
Finally, Altun also touches on the rise of the far-right centralised in Europe and how Islamophobia undermines governments and state-society relations, which he says creates foreign policy conditions that carry the danger of antagonising the Islamic world as a whole.
Altun's book serves to highlight Turkiye's stabilising role, which proposes and strives for a “fairer world” and attempts to conceptualise it. It is also a call to recognise and acknowledge Turkiye's contributions to stabilising the vast geography from Syria to Libya and Africa to Cyprus.
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