CiteAydın Şıhmantepe, “An Integrated Model Proposal for Analysing Turkish Foreign Policy Crises”, in Analyzing Foreign Policy Crises in Turkey: Conceptual, Theoretical and Practical Discussions, Fuat Aksu and Helin Sarı Ertem (Eds.), (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017): 17-37.

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An Integrated Model Proposal for Analysing Turkish Foreign Policy Crises*

Aydın Şıhmantepe


This chapter is based on a research project aiming to collect, classify, and further to analyze Turkish Foreign Policy Crises (TFPC) during the Republican era. The three-year long research project was supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK). The scope of the project was set to accommodate the existing knowledge on the Turkish foreign policy crises, classifying them in accordance with the theoretical framework chosen and analyzing them within the aspect of foreign policy analysis. One other goal throughout the project was to lead discussions with scholars and subject matter specialists through national/international panels and conferences to share, discuss and disseminate the gathered knowledge. The project team has set up an official project website[1], where the accumulated information, lists of TFPC, findings on each specific crisis, crises analysis tables as well as a list of references are presented to users. The website has also a forum section to enable online exchange of information and lead discussions on the selected topics.

The project group aimed to collect and classify Turkish foreign policy crises as well as researching individual crisis experienced during the Republican era. The project, within its conceptual and theoretical methodology, also aimed to determine Turkey’s foreign policy crises management culture. This chapter intends to discuss research methodology together with the findings of the project so as to figure out the benefits of the approach it suggests for the studies on foreign policy crisis.

Neoclassical Realism forms the theoretical background of the project. However in order to understand the core elements of analysis and management process of a unique crisis, deconstruction and reconstruction methodologies are also utilized. The project group chose to include unique humanitarian crises as well as the political-military ones, within the study of foreign policy crisis. Depending on the structures and actors involved in the crises, by using available authentic data, the research attempted to determine what the dependent and independent variables are, as well as how and to what extent they influence the overall crises management processes.

Producing the study model for the project has involved gathering, incorporating and extracting the necessary information from the existing sources. Works of scholars such as Charles F. Hermann[2], Michael Brecher[3]and Alexander L. George[4] have paved the way when defining foreign policy crises and assigning management strategies, as well as analyzing and explaining variables of foreign policy crises. The project group attempted to define a set of variables for full scale analysis of individual crisis. After crises analyses have completed, in order to further investigate the Turkish crisis management culture, variables are chosen to include a variety of parameters ranging from government type, which managed the crisis, to the outcome of an individual crisis.

Within the whole project study the general properties of crises, the structure of decision making mechanism, phases of crisis analysis, offensive/defensive crisis management strategies, effects of international system on the crisis management practices, effects of crisis on the foreign policy behavior of the involved parties, as well as reflections on the future relations of the parties, have been investigated.

The research group started their study in 2013 with the scholars and PhD candidates from Yıldız Technical University together with supporting scholars from other universities in Istanbul.[5] The group initially proposed neoclassical realism as their theoretical study base and commenced studies to form common definitions of concepts used within the research. The main objective of the project was set as the Analysis of Decision Making and Crisis Management Processes during Turkish Foreign Policy Crises. The approach for analysis required a definition of foreign policy crisis as the first step. However, initial studies showed that there is no generally accepted meaning of the concept of crisis.

In the following section, the project study will be explained in more detail. The sections below will discuss how the definition of foreign policy crisis was optimized, what the rationale for choosing neoclassical realism was, the research methodology used as well as the foreign policy crises included within the research.

Definitions and Framework

The research initiated by focusing on the definition of a foreign policy crisis. The research group investigated different approaches and definitions of foreign policy crises. Surely various formulations of crisis definition can be associated with different approaches to international relations. And surely those crisis definitions may differ in perspective and scope as well as the relevance to the theoretical framework chosen. Thus to establish a solid base, contending approaches of foreign policy analysis together with their assumptions were reviewed.[6]This study approach placed decision making and crisis management process in the center within a neoclassical realist perspective. Hence definition and characteristics of a foreign policy crisis were adopted accordingly.

Foreign Policy Crisis and Crisis Management

According to Glenn H. Snyder and Paul Diesing, “crisis is sequence of interactions between the governments of two or more sovereign states in severe conflict, short of actual war, but involving the perception of a dangerously high probability of war.”[7]             

The meaning Oran R. Young attributes to an acute international crisis covers “decision makers’ perception of high intensity in the flow of events which is basically characterized by a sharp break from ordinary politics, a rise in the perceived prospects of violence and considerable implications for the stability of some system and subsystem politics.”[8]

Hermann on the other hand, defines a crisis with three basic characteristics; high threat, short time and surprise. He points out that a crisis is a situation that (1) threatens high priority goals of the decision making unit; (2) restricts the amount of time available for response before the situation is transformed and (3) surprises the members of the decision making unit when it occurs.[9]

Brecher and Jonathan Wilkenfeld, using almost the same variables as Hermann, introduce a definition which again basically refers to the decision makers. They define crisis as a threat to one or more basic values, along with an awareness of finite time for response to the value threat and a heightened probability of involvement of military hostilities.

However, the definition proposed by Brecher, though it builds upon Hermann’s definition, differs from that on five points.[10]His study suggests (1) omission of “surprise” as a necessary condition; (2) the replacement of “short” time by “finite” time for response; (3) the recognition that a crisis may originate in the internal, as well as the external environment of the crisis actor; (4) the concept of “basic values”, rather than “high priority goals” as the object of the perceived threats; (5) the addition of “higher-than-normal” probability of involvement in military hostilities.

The questions posited and the problems examined will surely define how the concept of crisis is formed. As the analysis focus of this study involves mainly decision making process, systemic and combined definitions of crisis[11]are referred only when necessary. This research is mainly concerned with decision making; hence the definition of crisis, formulated for the research purposes, involves situations which produce effects on foreign policy decision making process. By doing so, the research attempts to analyze the characteristics of an individual crisis, who the prime decision makers and what the individual policy maker’s perceptions are. The attention for the analysis is also directed toward the situations which affect the decision making process. Therefore the ongoing research project formulated its own definition of foreign policy crisis. This effort, rather than introducing a new aspect to the subject, is an attempt to integrate the existing ones, by softening and making humble additions to the existing variations to meet needs of foreign policy decision making process.

The research group defines a foreign policy crisis as a situation which:

  • may break out on any subject to occupy the foreign policy agenda of the decision maker,
  • may develop instantly on very short notice or it can develop over a period of time,
  • forces the decision maker to alter his priorities and basic values,
  • causes the decision maker to perceive risk, danger or threat,
  • obliges the decision maker to choose from the existing limited courses of action and make a decision, which in return, may cause a probability of military conflict with the adversary, but not necessarily on all occasions.

This definition as pointed out above is an attempt to enhance and soften the existing definitions in terms of time constrains, perceived threats (high/basic values) and more importantly probability of military hostilities. The study made so far has proved that this definition is appropriate for defining what a foreign policy crisis can contain in terms of content, threat and outcome. Initial findings of the research have shown that within studied Turkish foreign policy cases, there have been crises in which the perception was a threat against country’s international prestige and sovereignty -high threat- but still, the probability of military conflict or war was next to none.[12] Though the threat to basic/high priority values was perceived to be very high, the probability of an armed conflict was not present. Another study showed that the “short” or “finite” time constraint was not always an urgent issue. A military-security crisis[13]was managed over a long period of time, though the demand which triggered the crisis was vital for the country. The enhanced definition of foreign policy crisis helps to include important Turkish foreign policy cases – which with the conventional definitions would hang in the air – within the research study and analysis as concrete foreign policy crises. Besides, the enhanced definition gives space for including non-violent crises as well as military- security crises in the analysis.

Having defined the foreign policy crisis, the second step of the research progression dealt with crisis management literature. The project group has reviewed and discussed various approaches to maintain the integrity and the consistency of the theoretical framework chosen. Having in mind that crisis may have international, regional, domestic and local dimensions or can involve a mixture of those; the research study has focused mainly on the interstate relations: “Crisis management is the practice of attempting to avoid an outcome in interstate relations that leads to violence or war, without abandoning at the same time one’s position.”[14]This general definition was utilized as a basis for the research study. Within the decision making approach, this definition requires the decision makers to pursue a crisis management strategy in order to preserve the interests of the nation which in most occasions presents sharp conflict with the interest of other nations. Actually here lies the known basic dilemma of crisis management. The basic dilemma in crisis management is that there would be no crisis if parties were willing to abandon their objectives, but this can involve unacceptable costs to nation and/or their leaders. Alexander L. George defines this situation as the basic paradox and policy dilemma of crisis management. He points out that: confrontations between adversaries can be easily managed and terminated – indeed avoided altogether- if either side is willing to back away from a confrontation and accept damage to its interests. This is the basic paradox of crisis management: There need be no crisis if only one side backs down. Indeed, in many situations it requires a deliberate policy decision to transform a conflict of interest between two into crisis.[15] This calls for a need to have appropriate ways and strategies to resolve conflicts and crisis.

For research purposes, a basic approach for crisis management is used as a benchmark to facilitate analysis. This involves the investigation of how well the crisis itself is managed – i.e. all aspects of the management process- and the outcome of the crisis for the parties involved – outcomes. A well-managed crisis will stand out by de-escalation, as a decline in the perceived threat, time pressure and war likelihood, in the direction of non-crisis norm. As such, it denotes the end-crisis period and is characterized by decreasing stress for the decision makers.[16]However the research study, rather than dealing with the outcome of each individual crisis in Turkish foreign policy, aims to analyze the decision making process and the structure of decision making mechanism as well as the variables that play role on the way. Success of a crisis management strategy for each involved party may later be assessed in terms of gains and losses.

For managing a crisis, George suggests a set of crisis management strategies in both the defensive and offensive sense. Those strategies incorporate relative military powers and intentions of the opponents as well as the difficulties posed in following individual strategy.[17]He also suggests a Provisional Theory of Crisis Management where he extends a list of political and operational requirements of crisis management.[18] On the other hand, in his study of crises, Brecher while analyzing international and foreign policy crisis, utilizes a methodology for classification of crises, determining and naming the phases of a crisis and variables functioning as internal, external and intervening agents. Throughout the study, Brecher’s works on crises together with George’s crisis management strategies have been used as guidelines to formulate the analysis methodology for the research project.

Neoclassical Realism as Theoretical Framework

As mentioned before, the theoretical foundation of the research framework is based on neoclassical realism. This approach examines the central role of the state in order to explain which aspects of the internal characteristics of states intervene between their leaders’ assessment of threats, opportunities and policies those leaders are likely to follow. Neoclassical realism identifies elite calculations and perceptions of relative power and domestic constrains as intervening variables between international pressures and states’ foreign policies.[19]Methodologically, neoclassical realism calls for an emphasis on descriptions that trace how relative material power is translated into behavior of actual political decision makers.[20] Bureaucracies and states do not think or feel – the individuals within them do. A government, as a collective entity, does not calculate and make rational choices – policy makers do.[21]

Neoclassical realism combines neorealism’s emphasis on the survival motivation of states, with classical realism’s focus on the dependence of political leaders on domestic society for material resources and support for foreign and defence goals. In a way, not the states but the statesmen are the key actors for the decisions made. The theory argues that in the long run, states will seek to maximize their international influence, power and security according to their material power resources and the constraints and opportunities presented by the international system. However state power still forms the central intervening unit-level variable explaining short-medium term temporal divergence from the dictates of international structure.[22]This temporal divergence can be said to have elements of characteristics of decision makers when attempts made to analyze foreign policy in times of crisis. The project study adopts the idea that useful foreign policy analysis should deal with the details of the perceptions of the decision makers.[23]Though neoclassical realism is not a single universal theory of international politics, still as a subschool within realism which seeks to rectify the imbalance between the general and the particular, is appropriate for foreign policy analysis.[24]After all, foreign policy analysis notion is essentially that the object of foreign policy analysis is a question of what foreign policy decision makers are thinking and doing. [25]

The research on the Turkish foreign policy crises and their managementprocesses aims to cover the Republican era.[26]Hence the focused period includes the balance of power era as well as the Cold War, and the Post-Cold War period. The changes took place over the time, have had influences and impacts on the individual state in terms of their structures, borders, alliances they make, threat perceptions as well as on the populations and worldviews of the statesmen. As the decision makers changed, naturally the views and perceptions of the decision makers have changed over this period of time. One other reason to use the neoclassical realist framework is the fact that it offers a convenient ground for incorporating psychological factors like belief systems of decision makers as well as domestic and international constraints into the analysis of foreign policy behavior.[27] Thus neoclassical realism aims to analyze the workings of systematic pressures and unit level variables such as domestic political structures and decision makers’ perceptions as key influences on a nation’s foreign policy.[28]

Though neoclassical realism forms the theoretical basis of the research, to overcome the difficulties in determining threat assessment, strategy and resource extraction, domestic mobilization and policy implementation during individual crisis, guidance is obtained from other methodologies as well. In order to understand the core elements of the analysis and management process of a unique crisis, deconstruction and reconstruction methodologies are also utilized.

Methodology of the Research and Preliminary Findings

The research methodology firstly required defining the limits of the study both in historical perspective and crisis evaluation aspect. The group study necessitated clear-cut boundaries to keep the research meaningful and consistent within the goals of the study. The aims of the project described in the proposal involved:

  • Collating and classifying Turkish foreign policy crises within the Republican era,
  • Generating an archive of TFP crisis as well as the crises management policies utilized by different decision makers over the Republican era,
  • Surveying and systematically analyzing the decided crises in terms of type, parties involved, resolution and management methods,
  • Determining the dependent and independent variables and their influences on the crises management process.
  • Discovering the Turkish foreign policy crisis management patterns

Setting the goals as such has led the research study to exclude the crises before the year 1923 as this year marks the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Since the aim calls for analysis of foreign policy crises, the international crises in which Turkey involved indirectly and/or remotely are not included. As stated above, the collated crises present a variety of time frames to include periods before, during and after the Cold War period. The enhanced crisis definition has availed the project group to study political-diplomatic crises, interstate military-security crises as well as humanitarian ones.

A thorough literature review has formed the first step of the research studies. In order to make sure that all foreign policy behaviors of the country which could be classified as a foreign policy crisis are included, available national and international sources have been carefully scanned. This process favors inclusion of some foreign policy events which are not listed by any other sources as foreign policy crises. Exclusion of any foreign policy event is meticulously carried out to make sure that no important event is left out. The guidelines for inclusion and exclusion are derived from the enhanced definition of foreign policy crisis produced by the research group. Parliamentary debates as well as public statements and interviews given by the politicians have been scanned to see what importance each case has been assigned. Minutes of the past sessions of Turkish Grand National Assembly[29] and policy documents presented on the official website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs[30] have formed the official sources of information.

Listing Turkish Foreign Policy Crises (TFPC)

In order to collate, classify and discuss the findings of the research three workshops have been organized. After discussions within the project group as well as with other scholars working on the subject matter, a provisional list of Turkish foreign policy crises is produced to include 34 crises.

Though some of them could have been classified as protracted or simply recurring crises, the research group has decided to list them as separate crises. The reason behind this is the fact that each crisis is considered to be unique and requires different initiatives to resolve or manage. Moreover, the factors affecting foreign policy analysis during individual crisis has to be taken into account. As the political leaders change over time, so does the group of decision makers involved in a crisis. If the records of the past crises and the lessons learned from them are not readily available to the key players who are new to their jobs, they may have to start from scratch to reach a decision. In return, even a protracted crisis then may become a new crisis for the existing decision makers at the time of crisis. Besides, no matter how familiar the triggering dispute/conflict is, change in regional balances and change and transformation in the international system may dictate different and new courses of action.

When the list has been completed and agreed upon, each member of the research group is assigned two/three unique crises depending on the area of interest of the individual. This way each crisis is investigated in detail and the parameters affecting the decision making process are identified more clearly. The researchers have utilized deconstruction and reconstruction methodologies when and if necessary to contribute to the crisis analysis parameters which were produced parallel to their individual studies.

This table reflects the provisional list of Turkish foreign policy crises. The four crises listed in italics on the right column, at the time this chapter is produced, are classified as ongoing foreign policy crises which have not yet reached definite outcomes.

Table 1.1. Turkish Foreign Policy Crises (1923-2015)

Pre-Cold War Cold-War Post-Cold War
1924 Mosul Land Crisis 1955 6-7 September Case 1991 Turkey-Armenia Nakhchivan Crisis
1926-27 The Case of SS Bozkurt-Lotus 1957 Turkey – Syria Confrontation 1992 TCG Muavenet Crisis
1929 Little Ararat (Küçük Ağrı) Crisis 1958 Iraq Upheaval Crisis 1994 Aegean Sea casus belli Crisis
1935 Bulgaria-Turkey Crisis 1964 Johnson Letter Crisis 1996 Kardak / Imia Crisis
1936 Hatay / Sandjak Crisis 1963-64 Cyprus Crisis-I 1997 S-300 Missile Crisis
1942 MV Struma Crisis 1967 Cyprus Crisis-II 1998 Syria (Öcalan) Crisis
1945 Turkish Straits and Kars Ardahan Crisis 1972-73 Poppy Cultivation Regulation Crisis 2003 Sulaymaniyah “Hood” Crisis
  1974 Cyprus Crisis-III 2003- Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Jurisdiction Areas Crisis
  1974-80 NOTAM-FIR Crisis 2010 – MV Mavi Marmara (Gaza Filotilla) Crisis
  1974-76 Aegean Sea Continental Shelf Crisis-I 2011 – Turkey-Syria Crisis
  1981 Militarisation of Lemnos Crisis 2014 ISIS Hostage Crisis
  1984-1990 Western Thrace Crisis 2015- Tomb of Suleyman Shah
  1987 Aegean Sea Continental Shelf Crisis-II  
  1989 Assimilation and Emigration Crisis of Bulgarian Turks  
  1988-91 Iraqi Refugee Crisis  

The names and attributes to the crises are mostly derived from the events that caused the problem. The ones which have already been included in the international studies and given generic names mostly coincide with the names given by the research team. Some of the crises listed above may have been given different attributions or named differently elsewhere depending on the nationality or may not even be counted as crises at all.

However, an enhanced definition of a foreign policy crisis presents a well-established ground to include them as they are listed. As a matter of fact, as the whole research methodology suggests, perception plays a great role in attributing “crisis” label to a foreign policy event as well as naming the crisis itself. The provisional Turkish foreign policy crises list produced by the research group is as the Table 1.1.

The list includes some crises which seemed to re-occur and thus named accordingly.[31]They are listed separately in order to observe shifts of policy implementation as decision makers and international system change over the time. An important distinction was observed when attributing the “crisis” label to a foreign policy event. The research team utilized a hierarchy of severity of the problem or demands brought forward which cause a foreign policy crisis. Though the terms “dispute” and “conflict” are used interchangeably by some scholars, the research team placed the terms in an ascending order in terms of seriousness of the problem and the means used by the actors involved.

Figure 1.1. Dispute, Conflict and Crisis Flow

The figure above illustrates the hierarchy proposed by the project work. The above arrangement requires, against all existing difficulties in classification of a foreign policy event, that a dispute involves the verbal claims of the parties on a specific matter which cannot easily be solved mutually. In a persisting dispute, political, legal or diplomatic means are not sufficiently utilized or the proposed resolution advisory is dragged out by one or all of the parties. When one party transforms its actions to actuality, then the situation may be said to become a conflict. In both cases, correct initiatives and solution advisories can diminish the tension one step back or even to normal relation levels. According to above model, while the dispute and/or conflict endures, the situation can become a foreign policy crisis if one party escalates the situation and the other party follows the same manner by action.[32]

This phase is evaluated as the peak of the crisis. It is presumed that generally when one of the parties in political/diplomatic conflict phase adds military means and methods to the actions it takes, the other party reciprocates in the same manner which in turn escalates the existing level of crisis.

Analysis Parameters and Variables

Once the crisis list is produced and crises are assigned names within the aspect set forth by the guidelines of the project framework, parameters and variables to be used in the analysis have been determined. Since the framework of the study follows a neoclassical realist approach which defines systematic pressures as independent variables and internal factors as intervening variables, the research group as produced crisis analysis tables accordingly to cover both areas. Third party involvement, existing military alliances and the nature of international system are utilized as independent variables. As the systematic pressures must be translated through unit-level variables, such as, decision makers’ perceptions[33] and state structures, parameters like government types, identity of the leaders[34]and domestic organizations/agents are included within the analysis tables to form intervening variables. The crisis analysis tables are currently being improved by the inputs from the researchers as well as the theoretical studies covered so far.

Sample research parameters included in the integrated TFPC base analysis tables are given below:

Table 1.2. Decision-Making Structure and Government Types

Name of The Crisis Decision Makers Foreign Policy Crisis Actors Type of Crisis Government Types
  Turkey and Opponent      
  ·  President

· Prime Minister

· Minister of Foreign Affairs

· Minister of Defence

· Chief of General Staff

· Ambassador 1

· Ambassador 2

As Per Individual Crisis

· Unexpected / instantaneous

· Protracted

· Pre-mediated

· Indirect

· Accidental

· Inadvertent

· Humanitarian

· One-Party

· Coalition

· Military

· Supra-Parties

· Minority Government

· Temporary Coalition

· Temporary Minority

 Table 1.3. Triggers in the Crises

Name of the Crisis Duration of the Crisis Event Triggering the Crisis
  Start End Category of the event Nature of the event First reaction
  ·Date crisis triggered · Date crisis ended ·Political


·External change

·Other non-violent

·Internal challenge to Regime

·Non-violent military






·Subversive Activity

·Co-operation with adversary

·Abandoning diplomatic relations

·Breach of agreement




·No response-inaction

·Verbal Act

·Political Act

·Economic Act

·Violent Military Act


Table 1.4. Characteristics of Crisis and Crisis Management

Name of the Crisis Triggering unit Gravity of the crisis Crisis Management Strategies Level of Violence
      Defensive Offensive Management Technique  
  ·  State

·  Non-State

·    Limited

·   Political

·   Economic

·  Territorial Integrity

·  Influence

·  Grave Damage

·  Existence

·  Blackmail

·  Limited Reversible Response

·  Controlled Pressure

·  Fait Accompli

·  Attrition

·  Coercive Diplomacy

·  Limited Escalation

·  Tit For Tat

·  Test of Capacities

·  Drawing Line

·  Conveying Commitment And Resolve

·  Negotiation

·  Jurisdiction/ Arbitration

·  Mediation

·  Non-Violent

·  Non-Military Pressure

·  Non-Violent Military

·  Violent

· Third Party Support

· None

· Offensive Use of Force

· Exemplary Use of Force

· Minor Battle

Table 1.5. Third Party Involvement in Crises

Name of the Crisis Organization Intervention State
  · UN


· EU

· League of Nations

· Council of Europe


· Baghdad Pact


· None

· Inconclusive Negotiations

· Investigation

· Good Offices

· Condemnation

· Call For Action

· Mediation

· Arbitration

· Sanction

· Observer

·   As Per Individual Crisis

Table 1.6. Outcome of the Crisis

Name of the Crisis Characteristic Form Status
  · Victory

· Reconciliation

· Stalemate

· Ambiguous

· Defeat

· Tacit agreement

· Official Agreement

· Semi Official Agreement

· Status quo ante

· Status quo ante plus

· New Status On Agreement

· Tacit New Status

· Ambiguous

The actual base analysis table has more detailed information. Due to space constraints it would not be practical to display the whole analysis table. However the parts which are not displayed here contain information on the variables suggested by the theoretical framework. The study in that context gives a comprehensive list of variables and then investigates and evaluates the influence of the variables as main factors which shape the decision making process.

Those parts cover the fields of interest for a thorough analysis:

  • Political leader’s discourse, belief system and cognitive features,
  • Structure and composition of the decision-making group,
  • The legislation of the state (constitution),
  • Financial and economic status of the parties during an individual crisis,
  • Relative power and alliances of the involved states,
  • Impact of the crisis on the third parties and alliances if involved,
  • Regional and international agenda during the crisis period,
  • Duration of the crisis,
  • Relative military capacities and legal status of the governments,
  • Regional dominant actors, if any,
  • Prevailing national internal and external agendas of the parties involved,
  • Prevalent mass media and the popular tendency,
  • The main opposition and its influence on the decision making process.

After investigating each crisis, the research group has been discussing the findings and filling out the integrated TFPC base table for each crisis listed above. By making use of the table, researchers seek answers to the following questions:

  • Who were/are the decision makers and relevant actors during each crisis?
  • How do they assess the threats and opportunities?
  • How do they resolve any disagreement on the decision making during crisis management?
  • What was/is the role of the leader as decision maker? Who decides the management technique?
  • What is the influence of domestic factors on the decision making process?
  • If the leader changes during a foreign policy crisis how does the decision making process and approach change?

After finding answers to these questions, the researchers will deal with another set of overarching questions on the leader behavior during the foreign policy crisis:

  • If the same leader faces two or more diverse foreign policy crises during the office period, as a highly influential person in foreign policy crisis management, does he/she present the same pattern of behavior during different crisis? Can we make any reference to a consistent behavior pattern or does the pattern change according to the context of the crisis? If so what are the influencing factors?

If the same leader displays similar/diverse behavior during similar/different crises, how can this similarity/diversity be categorized?


The research project on the TFPC has been conducted based on the collating, classifying and analyzing of foreign policy crises experienced during the Republican era. Following the foreign policy analysis methods, a thorough political history investigation and literature review enabled the research group to produce a list of crises. The outcomes of the research has put forward 34 substantial foreign policy events which are categorized as Turkey’s foreign policy crises since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. Utilizing neoclassical realist approach as the theoretical base of the studies, the research team produced an enhanced definition of foreign policy crisis. The enhanced definition, rather than introducing completely new set of parameters, tries to soften the sharp edges of the existing definitions and attempts to make modest additions. By doing so, the study basically eliminates the finite/short time constraint and theprobability of military conflict as the essential conditions of a crisis. It also reduces the level of perceived threat from high/basic values plane down to any substantial event which heavily occupies the decision makers’ agenda. The preliminary findings of the research on Turkish foreign policy crises justify and support this approach at least over two separate foreign policy crises.

As the theoretical frame suggests, effects of leader perceptions together with other intervening variables are included in the decision making process. This is mainly accomplished by deconstructing and reconstructing the past and present foreign policy crisis when necessary. The main approach to investigate leaders’ characteristics is based on the assumption that a leader’s foreign policy behavior can most easily be observed during a foreign policy crisis as it calls for concrete and sound decisions to make.

 Answers to the research questions posited on the outset of the research project were meticulously produced to reach a thorough completion of the study. By the conclusion of the research work, besides an extensive list of TFP crises, comprehensive analysis of each individual crisis was made available. This will make it possible for other researchers to further extend the study. The analyses developed by the results of the project can form a solid basis for researchers to find answers to overarching questions that seek a foreign policy crisis management pattern as far as the leaders are concerned. Political leaders, through their perceptions, are the prime actors to decide if a foreign policy event is a crisis. A further study may also facilitate better understanding of the divergence of foreign policy behaviours -if any- between the leaders and the general view of the political parties they belong.

The main objective of the study – producing an extensive list of Turkish foreign policy crises together with their analysis – was acquired as targeted. However there still seems to be space for future research on the different aspects of the findings made available. The results can set a convenient ground for more detailed and into depth research of Turkish foreign policy decision making process over the time to produce a model peculiar to Turkey. Investigating the unique characteristics and the priorities of the leaders, together with identifying the means and methods they use, may help us to better understand the foundations of the Turkish foreign policy dynamics. It may also be possible to probe whether there is a specific understanding of crisis management culture and also to evaluate how crisis management processes have functioned in different periods by different governments. The findings and the final outcome of the whole research project will separately be published as a detailed study to include all 34 foreign policy crises (at the time of writing this chapter) together with individual case studies.

*This chapter was supported by the TUBITAK/SOBAG 1001 Project (Project No: 112K172) and Yıldız Technical University Scientific Research Projects Coordinatorship, YTU Project 2014-02-03-DOP02. Initial version of this chapter was presented at ECPR 2014 General Conference in Glasgow.

[1]“Analysis of Decision Making and Crisis Management Processes during Turkish Foreign Policy Crises”, TUBITAK 1001 project website and currently runs only in Turkish.

[2]Charles F. Hermann, Crisis in Foreign Policy a Simulation Analysis, (NJ: Princeton University, 1969).

[3]Michael Brecher and Jonathan Wilkenfeld,A Study of Crisis, (MI: University of Michigan, 1997).

[4]Alexander L. George (Ed.), Avoiding War: Problems of Crisis Management, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1991).

[5]The research project is directed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Fuat Aksu from Yıldız Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey. Other scholars supporting the research project contributed from Istanbul Bilgi University, Kadir Has University, Istanbul Medeniyet University, Piri Reis University and Istanbul University.

[6]Among these are the approaches which focus on group decision making, bureaucratic and organizational processes, rational choice, poliheuristic theory, game theoric models…

[7]For further information see: Glenn H. Snyder and Paul Diesing,Conflict among Nations: Bargaining, Decision Making, and Systems Structure in International Crises, (NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977).

[8]Oran R. Young, The Intermediaries: Third Parties in International Crisis, (NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967): 10.

[9]Hermann, Crisis in Foreign…, 29.

[10]Brecher, A Study of…,3.

[11]For some other definitions see: Phil Williams, Crisis Management: Confrontation and Diplomacy in the Nuclear Age, (NY: Halsted Press, John Wiley, 1976): 25; Graham Evans, and Jefrey Newham, The Dictionary of International Relations,(London: Penguin,1998).

[12]The project group has gathered 34 foreign policy crises which have kept the Turkish decision-makers occupied throughout the Republican era. The case of SS Lotus (1926) can set a good example for this statement. For legal case details see

[13]The Turkish Straits and Kars-Ardahan case is another example in which the terms short or finite time proved to be void.

[14]Gilbert R. Winham (Ed), New Issues in International Crisis Management, (NY: Westview Press,1988):1-5.

[15]George, Avoiding War: Problems…,22.

[16]Micheal Brecher, International Political Earthquakes, (University of Michigan, 2008):11.

[17]George, AvoidingWar…, 377-395.

[18]George, AvoidingWar…, 25.

[19]Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, Steven             E. Lobell, Norrin   M. Ripsman, “Introduction: Neoclassical Realism, the State and Foreign Policy” inSteven E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman, and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro (Eds.), Neoclassical Realism, the State and Foreign Policy, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009): 28.

[20]Gideon Rose, “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy”, World Politics, Vol. 51, No. 1 (1998): 168.

[21]Janice Gross Stein, “Foreign Policy Decision Making: Rational, Psychological and Neurological Models”,inSteve Smith, Amelia Hadfield, Tim Dunne (Eds.), Foreign Policy, Theories/Actors/Cases, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012): 143.

[22]Tom Dyson, Neoclassical Realism and Defense Reform in Post Cold War Europe, (UK: Palgrave Mcmillan, 2010):120.

[23]For a discussion on capabilities, distribution of power and statesmen’s perceptions, see William C. Wohlforth, The Elusive Balance, Power and Perceptions during the Cold War, (USA: Cornell University Press, 1993):5-6.

[24]William C. Wohlforth, “Realism and Foreign Policy”, in Steve Smith, Amelia Hadfield, Tim Dunne (Eds.), Foreign Policy, Theories/Actors/Cases, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012): 39-40.

[25]Walter Carlsnaes, “Actors, Structures and Foreign Policy Analysis” in Steve Smith, Amelia Hadfield and Tim Dunne (Eds.), Foreign Policy, Theories/Actors/ Cases, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012): 116.

[26]The research focuses on the time frame which covers the period from 1923 to 2015.

[27]For an example utilisation of the neoclassical realist approach of foreign policy analysis, see Balkan Devlen, Renegade Regimesand Foreign Policy Crises, (Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellshaft & Co. KG, 2008).

[28]Balkan Devlen, Özgür Özdamar. “Neoclassical Realism and Foreign Policy Crises”, in Rethinking Realism in International Relations, (Eds)Annette Freyberg, Inan Ewan Harrison, Patrick James, (Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009): 136-164.



[31]Crises related to Cyprus (1964, 1967, 1974, 1997 S-300) and Aegean Sea continental shelf (1974-1976, 1987) can also be categorized as protracted crises.

[32]This is the reason why in figure-1 the foreign policy crises related to Aegean Sea are listed separately, rather than naming them as Aegean dispute in general. For detailed analysis of the Aegean crisis see: Fuat Aksu, Türk Dış Politikasında Zorlayıcı Diplomasi (Coercive Diplomacy in Turkish Foreign Policy – printed in Turkish), (Istanbul: Baglam Yayıncılık, 2008).

[33]See Alexander L. George, “The Causal Nexus Between Cognitive Beliefs and Decision Making Behavior: The ‘Operational Code’ Belief System”, in L. Falkowski(Ed.), Psychological Models in International Politics, (CO: Westview Press, 1979): 95-124. Also see Margaret Hermann, “Explaining Foreign Policy Behavior Using the Personal Characteristics of Political Leaders”, International Studies Quarterly, 24 (1980): 7-46.

[34]Leaders as important decision makers should be well understood to reach a complete behavior analysis. For a sample study, see: Thomas C. Wiegele et al. Leaders under Stress: A Psychophysiological Analysis of International Crises,(NC:Duke University Press, 1985).