Axis change or paradigm imprisonment?

One of the stale questions in Turkey is this: "Is Turkey changing axis in its foreign policy?"

The only explanation for why a foreign policy, the basic principles of which have been clearly declared and which has been in force for the past eight years, is still being subjected to this question has to do not with a "change in axis" but with the "stagnation in minds." If our minds could get rid of Cold War-era patterns, we would not keep on asking meaningless questions such as "Is Turkey shifting from the West to the East?"
Let me point out once again that it has been 20 years since the Cold War ended.

Turkey is not changing direction. Turkey is trying to fulfill its national interests as much as it can under the "new international conditions" which first emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall and then again after the fall of the Twin Towers approximately 10 years later.

And it is achieving this. The "circle of fire" that surrounded Turkey during the Cold War years is turning into a circle of "security and cooperation" in the new period.

Those who persistently ask this question need to understand a particular reality. The Cold War era is over, and that means the era of policies that confined Turkey is over as well. There's nothing more normal than for a country to use its historical experience and geographical opportunities to the full extent to achieve its foreign policy goals. This is what Turkey is doing. It could not do this under Cold War conditions, but it can today.

Those who are worried that Turkey is changing its axis believe there is some "ideological impulse" behind Turkey's decision to develop relations with Muslim countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria.

But the facts of life do not validate these concerns.

In 2004, when relations with the EU picked up, people started asking if we were turning away from the US. When in 2005 Turkey lent momentum to efforts in Iraq on including Sunni Arabs in the political process and opposed the isolation of Syria, people asked, "Are we falling into the Middle East quagmire?"

We should not forget that Turkey made the most progress on its European journey during the period of the current government, which some people are worried about because it is "Islamist." If this is not enough, then just take a look at Turkey's relations with Russia to see how its foreign policy is "multidimensional." Ankara and Moscow have even come to the point of mutually eliminating visa requirements. Turkey signed a cooperative agreement with Moscow that is similar to the high-level strategic agreements of cooperation it signed with Iraq and Syria.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has responded to questions on whether Turkey is changing axis several times. The answer he has given is this: "If someone tells Turkey to leave the West and turn toward the East, that person should be told, 'Read some history.' If another person says leave the East and turn toward the West, that person should also be told, 'Read some history'."

Paradigm imprisonment

A "one course, one dimension" foreign policy axis that restricts Turkey's area of movement and that was imposed on Turkey during the Cold War has changed. Is it so difficult to understand this?

There is no change in axis in Turkey, but there is, in the words of Osman Ulugay, a "paradigm imprisonment" among some of our intellectuals. "We have trouble understanding what's going on when we view the changing world without changing our paradigm," Ulugay said.

19 June 2010, Saturday