Analyzing Foreign Policy Crises in Turkey Conceptual, Theoretical and Practical Discussions

Cite: Fuat Aksu and Helin Sarı Ertem, “Introduction: Assessing the Turkish Foreign Policy Crises and Crisis Management in the Republican Era”, in Analysing Foreign Policy Crises in Turkey: .Conceptual, Theoretical and Practical Discussions, Fuat Aksu and Helin Sarı Ertem (Eds.), (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017): 1-16.



Assessing the Turkish Foreign Policy Crises and Crisis Management in the Republican Era*

Fuat Aksu and Helin Sarı Ertem

Considering the currently marked rise that takes place both in the number and variety of actors the international community is made up of, a decision on an important matter is made almost at any moment by those in charge who have the authority to make decisions in the name the of state. For the sake of making the best possible decision for the country’s interests, the political decision-maker should often take multiple options and possibilities into consideration. In a democratic state, a decision made by a political decision-maker is supposed to have a political consequence. Therefore, with the decision that he/she makes, the political decision-maker shapes his/her political fate as well.

If the decisions that are made are directly concerned with the internal/domestic affairs of the state, they may not be considered as being as “important” as those concerned with “foreign” affairs. The government has a relatively greater number of options while making regulations within the territorial borders. In the ‘foreign’ affairs, however, there is no realm for the decision-maker as easily controllable as in domestic affairs. The decisions made within the scope of foreign affairs are open to the challenges of a number of actors/states in the international community. Therefore, decision-makers try to implement in the international arena the decisions they make at the national level with their sovereign authority. The input of the international system is made up of each decision the decision-makers make and try to implement.

The developing and implementing of foreign policy patterns that are relatively ordinary and routine for a state may not always require an urgent decision-making process. Quite naturally, in the course of the decision-making process, the decision-maker makes the final decision by considering as many possibilities and options as possible and obtaining all information and briefing needed. In line with his/her priorities, the decision-maker can even reconsider or reverse a decision that he/she is not content with, as long as this decision is not a part of a significant change in the international system.

Nevertheless, for the actors and units, which have the authority of decision-making on behalf of the state, making decisions becomes much more difficult and complicated in the case of “crisis” compared to the “normal” situations. At a time of crisis, the decision-maker should by nature overcome multiple obstacles while making a decision on an ongoing situation. First and foremost, even describing a development as a crisis is an important matter. The decision-maker either reacts based on predefined scenarios of risk, danger, threat and attack or makes these assessments at the time of the incident. In some cases, labeling a foreign policy behavior as a “crisis” without any preparation may even lead to an unwanted escalation between the states.

The decision-maker, who has the responsibility and authority to make a decision in the name of the state, conducting a reactive policy after considering a discourse, action, behavior or situation as the trigger of the crisis adds many actors within the decision-making unit to the process. Even though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that shapes foreign policy decisions is seen as comprising those naturally responsible for this job, various institutions within the public bureaucracy, too, take part in the process to the extent that they are concerned. Depending on the character of the conflict, there are a wide range of options from the political/diplomatic to the military while making decisions.

Within the framework shaped by the political regime and the legal structure, the decision-maker, as the politically responsible one, expects to be fully informed about all the options before making the final decision. For this purpose, he/she might utilize advisors and experts as well as the public bureaucracy. In some cases, the leading decision-maker might even delegate part of his/her authority to an ad hoc unit that is supposed to make the decision. Nevertheless, it is mostly the politically responsible chief executive who is supposed to make the final decision. He/she bears the responsibility of the decision made and implemented on behalf of the state in case of a crisis. In many ways, crisis situations include developments that are difficult and complicated to manage. In the case of a crisis, the first priority of the decision-maker is to resolve the conflict, before it turns into hot war; and this is not an easy task whatsoever.

In International Relations literature, it is hard to find a definition of “crisis” that everyone agrees on. In general, a crisis is defined as a development, which takes place all of a sudden between the states and is often extraordinary/unexpected at least for one of the parties. In such a case, the political decision-maker both tries to make all the decisions that will shape the possible outcomes of the crisis and strives not to increase the probability of the militarization of the conflict. It is the kind of triggering of an incident that determines which decisions are difficult to make in the course of the crisis management process. Thus, the meaning that the decision-maker ascribes to the triggering incident in his/her perception shapes the fate of the crisis.

In the disputes, conflicts and crises concerning the existential/vital priorities like territorial integrity and national security, the process of escalation is usually faster and the probability of resorting to crisis management strategies that include military violence is remarkably bigger. The states are highly sensitive about matters like national/territorial integrity and sovereignty rights and, thus, the conflicts arising from such matters can easily lead to a crisis, clash and even to war, if they are not resolved in a way that would satisfy all parties. On the other hand, the crises between states do not only arise from security related matters but can be about almost anything. In the crises that have relatively lesser priorities, however, resolution is easier and the resort to military means is less probable.

In terms of the crisis management, crises can be studied at four main levels: local, national, regional and systemic/international. Depending on its content, effect and the parties involved, a local crisis can trigger an international one and an international crisis can trigger a local one. In this book the crises between the states are being studied. Such crises, where actors and crisis management processes are prominent, are called decision-making or foreign policy crises. Depending on its subject and context, foreign policy crises can be classified as sudden, projected, developing, accidental and unintentional crises.

The crisis definition, which our book is predicated on, is a relatively flexible one, reflecting the combination of the definitions of Charles F. Hermann[1] and Michael Brecher[2]. According to these definitions, a situational change that can be defined as a crisis can arise in the mind of the decision-maker in any matter. As a matter of course, this change can force the decision-maker to work over his basic attitudes and actions, while being perceived as a risk, danger, threat or attack against his main values and priorities. In such a case, if the decision-maker is forced to make a preference and/or decision, he/she may consider this situation as a “crisis”. Therefore, the crisis situations are not always surprising or unexpected and do not necessarily have to increase the risk of militarization/enmity among the parties, more than expected. Undoubtedly, a surprise situational change, whose militarization is highly probable, can give an idea to the decision-maker about how quickly the crisis may be escalated regarding its density. In the relations between the states, such crises are perceived relatively much easily. 

While classifying the foreign policy crises according to the actors and decision-makers, the need for a more flexible definition of crisis becomes much clearer as foreign policy crises do not always arise independent from the decision-makers. In other words, the decision-makers are neither always defensive nor always use defensive crisis management strategies as Alexander George suggests in his definition.[3] Although there are at least two parties in a crisis, the decision-maker himself/herself can project a crisis either for offensive or defensive purposes. In such a case, the crisis is not a surprise for the party who projects the crisis. The actor, who projects the crisis, keeps the probability of determining/affecting the military violence level of the crisis by using the threshold strategy. If the actor who projects the crisis is experienced and the conditions are appropriate, his/her expectations can be met to the extent that the level of violence is kept under control. However, one should never forget that the uniqueness of each crisis makes it difficult to keep the progress of the crisis under control. The interaction of many multiple uncontrollable parameters during the crisis management process can make it impossible for a projected crisis to proceed according to a pre-determined scenario.

By definition, a foreign policy crisis takes place between nation states. However, currently the international society is not any longer made up of merely the nation states but transnational corporations, terrorist organizations and even individuals can play significant roles as non-state actors in the international arena. That is why, non-state actors, too, can play a role in foreign policy crises, though not as much as the nation states. Non-state actors are taken into consideration in the crisis management process, either as the trigger or the sufferer of a crisis between two states. For the crises with non-state actors, the decision-makers might need novel and unique crisis management strategies, methods and means that are different from conventional ones used in the inter-state crises. The war on international terrorism provides a striking example for this.

The question of ethics and legitimacy in the issues concerning human rights violations and the sovereignty rights of states has currently become more of an issue. In the humanitarian crises, state intervention with a wide range of means from the political/diplomatic to the military vis-á-vis the aggressor state may lead to an international foreign policy “crisis”. And this both diversifies the actors involved and makes it difficult to keep the crisis under control.

The crises of Arab Spring and Syria, for example, provide bitter examples of this particular situation. As Alexander George emphasizes while reflecting on coercive diplomacy, the fine line between the use of defensive and offensive power has been remarkably eroded in many recent crises.[4] Even in the cases where using violence and threatening to use it is not legitimate, the states may resort to these strategies.

The exogenous pressures started by outside and supported by some local forces to overthrow authoritarian leaders and governments, and making military interventions claiming for protecting human rights easily turn into initiatives that destabilize not only these countries but also the region. As the examples of the Arab Spring and Syria illustrate, the crisis process may lead to mass migrations and deeper human rights violations. Such crises do not cause social, economic and political conflicts/crises only in between the states, but also in the internal/local affairs of the states that either directly or indirectly engage in the crisis.

In fact, the essential thing for civil-military relations is to prevent the triggering of crisis from escalating to a war. When the disputes between states cannot be resolved by peaceful means, the verbal challenges between the parties are replaced by action-based initiatives. This stage is indeed the next to the last stage for a peaceful resolution. The increase in the density of the clash and the increase in the perception of the military hostility trigger the crisis on the one hand, and decreases the number of available options and makes the resolution of the crises difficult on the other hand. Therefore, in order for the parties not to experience an escalation process that undermine the bilateral relations, communication channels should always be held open.

In what cases do the crises need to be managed? What does crisis management / ‘good’ or ‘bad’ crisis management mean? The intuitional, perceptual, judicatory capabilities, the capacity, to use A. George’s conception, the operational codes of the decision-maker, who is going to call a discourse, an act or a situational change as a ‘crisis’, can suddenly cause significant changes that will deeply affect the daily life of the society. If a crisis is defined as a reaction of the states against the situational changes perceived as risk, danger, threat or a concrete attack in terms of their foreign policy goals, values and priorities, then there should also be a legitimate ground, where these goals, values and priorities are to be set. The claim that the decisions of the decision-maker in the case of a crisis establish the common “national interest” is quite questionable.

As discussed also by the neoclassical realism, in case local/internal structure as an intervening variable is not strong enough to specify the boundaries of the leaders’ scope of actions, political decision-makers tend to flex their own boundaries as much as they can, place their own understanding of national interest in their decisions and implement them.[5] If there is a strong internal structure, however, the political decision-maker is obliged to act within the constraints of this internal structure while making the foreign policy decisions and determining the national interest. In such a case, the political decision-maker strives to harmonize his/her own understandings of national interest with the limits specified by the internal structure. Nevertheless, depending on how a crisis develops and proceeds, it is not always possible for the political decision-maker to abide by these predefined limits. The fact that the decision-making process is dynamic and crisis-specific may enforce the decision-maker to make the decision fast, to push the limits of his/her authority and even exceed them. Therefore, though the crisis management processes are conducted through a collective decision-making structure, particularly in the democratic regimes it is the decision-maker who indeed takes over the responsibility. Therefore, the cognitive features, perception capabilities and leadership skills of the decision-maker work differently during the extraordinarily speedy character of the crisis management. In such cases, the crisis management ability of the decision-maker and the consistency of foreign policy decisions become much more prominent.

The Background of the Research

This book is composed of ten complementary articles that reflect a limited part of the research called “Analysis of Decision Making and Crisis Management Processes during Turkish Foreign Policy Crises”, which was conducted between 2012 and 2015 by the researchers from various universities in Istanbul. The study of crisis, which extends back a long time under the discipline of International Relations, is pretty novel for Turkish academia. Topics like foreign policy analysis, crisis management, conflict resolution and peace researches have recently begun to be an interesting arena for the new generation of researchers in Turkey. International crises in general and foreign policy crises in particular are being studied especially if they are in direct concern of Turkey. Therefore, it is relatively easy to find publications on a significant issue within the history of Turkish foreign policy. However studies that approach crisis management, foreign policy crises or international crises within the context of theory, concept and methodology can rarely be found.

The above mentioned research/project that we conducted analyzes the foreign policy crises that Turkey has been a direct party of since the foundation of the republic. In the period 1923-2015, we have determined and analyzed 34 foreign policy crises. [6] This number is greater than that of Turkish foreign policy crises, which International Crisis Behavior Project (ICBP) – a project that has dealt with the international and foreign policy crises since 1975 – analyzed regarding Turkey.[7] Some of the examples used by our TFPC [Turkish Foreign Policy Crises] project and ICBP are the same, while some are not. For instance, because they took place during the pre-republican era, the TFPC Project excluded the crises in the 1919-1924 period that were analyzed by the ICBP. Furthermore, ICBP’s research deals with the crises until 2007 and thus does not include the ones that took place later.

Table 1. Turkey’s Crises in ICB Project and TFPC Project

tpcp icb

There is also a diversification in the character of foreign policy crises that these projects dealt with. Some of the crises listed in the TFPC Project (Struma, September 6-7, Western Thrace, Iraqi Refugees, Forced Migration of Bulgarian Turks) are humanitarian crises, whereas some are legal ones (Bozkurt-Lotus). Yet, the crises analyzed in the ICBP are only political-military crises. Furthermore, because the analysis of foreign policy crises within the scope of our project is based on a definition centred on the perception and reality of the decision-makers, some crisis examples are presented in the TFPC Project with their sui generis characteristics.

When we examine Turkish foreign policy crises, we see that the 7 of them appeared before 1945, in the Classical Balance of Power era. 15 of them, however, were experienced in the Cold War era. Since the end of the Cold War till today, the number of the crises, which Turkey has been one of the parties directly involved, is 12. In terms of the parties involved, it is quite strikingly seen that Greece comes first. Regarding the Aegean Sea and Cyprus issues, Greece is one of the addressees in 14 crises directly and/or indirectly (4 with Cyprus and 1 with Syria). After Greece, the countries, with whom the crises occurred, are the USA and Syria, having 4 crises each. Bulgaria, France and Iraq follow them with 2 crises each. Armenia, the UK, Iran, Israel, SSCB all had 1 crisis each. In 1 crisis (Struma), Turkey had no addressee and in another one (Turkey’s Mosul Consulate Hostages), it had been an (armed) non-state actor (ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Therefore, while Turkey’s addressee in 32 foreign policy crises were the states, which are the classical actors of the international system, it was a non-state (armed) actor in one of the recent crises (Mosul Consulate Hostages), showing a changing route in the character of the international disputes.

Looking at the current international atmosphere and the existence of failed states in the Middle East, one can claim that the impact and roles of especially the armed non-state actors have an increasing potential to cause crises. Among the samples studied by the TFPC Project, it is seen that the non-state actors, as well as the states, played important roles with their various characteristics. The crises, in which the non-state actors played roles either as an addressee or as a triggering element of the crisis, or just as the subject which the crisis is built on (for example the humanitarian crises related to the refugees), can be ranged as below:

  • 1926 Bozkurt-Lotus Crisis
  • 1929-1930 Küçük Ağrı Crisis
  • 1942 MV Struma Crisis
  • 1955 September 6-7 Crisis
  • 1989-1990 Western Thrace Crisis
  • 1989 Bulgaria Migration Crisis
  • 1991 Iraqi Refugees Crisis
  • 2010 Mavi Marmara Crisis
  • 2014 ISIS –Turkey’s Mosul Consulate Hostages Crisis

Regarding the actors triggered the crises, it is seen that 6 of the 34 foreign policy crises examined are caused by Turkey. In addition, 27 of these 34 crises were ended, 3 of them were slept/frozen and 4 of them are still going on. Among the crises examines, the ones with Greece have the character of “protracted conflicts”, in Brecher’s definition.[8] These crises reflect the characteristics of those which appeared within long-term disputes and conflicts and caused by mutual challenges between the two countries regarding the sovereignty rights and interests.

In this volume, there are ten chapters prepared by our TFPC Project Group. The first chapter is prepared by Aydın Şıhmantepe who proposes an integrated model proposal to analyse the Turkish foreign policy crises. In this chapter, Şıhmantepe explains the basic framework of the project that this volume is based on and what kind of a crisis analysis model we designed to conduct the necessary research for this project. In this context, he first deals with the foreign policy crisis concept and literature and then defines what kind of a modelling can be much more explanatory regarding the analysis unit, analysis level and crisis management processes/strategies of the Turkish foreign policy crises. In this modelling, which is shaped on the basis of Neo-Classical Realist methodology, he focuses on how the international system and regional sub-systems affect the decision-maker’s preference regarding each crisis during the crisis management process. In accordance with that, the chapter discusses how the international system, the internal/domestic structure where the decision-maker takes place and the decision-maker himself/herself who manages this crisis directly, shape the decisions about the crisis within an interactive process.

The second chapter, prepared by Ümran Gürses gets into further methodological/theoretical details and reflects the pros and cons of the Neo-Classical Realism, briefly mentioned by the previous chapter. As our research benefitted a lot from Neo-Classical Realism, this chapter explains how the modelling advised by this approach defines the foreign policy decision-making processes at times of the crises. According to Gürses, the decision-maker’s approach to the international system, as well as his/her obligation to harmonize with this system the internal/domestic structure that he/she relies on and his/her characteristics of management are all influential in the foreign policy decision-making processes at times of a crisis. Neo-Classical Realism, offered by the scholars such as Gideon Rose, Randall Schweller and Fareed Zakaria, claims that the above mentioned systemic, local and personal factors altogether have specific roles in determining the foreign policy decisions at times of a crisis.[9] They both affect pursuing of the basic value, priority and targets in the crises and determine whether a defensive or offensive strategy will be preferred as a crisis management strategy. As a matter of fact, if the decision-maker faced a crisis when there was a weak national structure, his/her preferences are generally shaped by his/her own subjective capacity. However, this is not the only element. The decision-maker produces a foreign policy output also by determining the state’s material power capacity. Therefore, the situational change, which causes triggering of the foreign policy crises, appears for the decision-maker together with the concerns on national security, territorial integrity and survival. They can also arise from psychological/normative motives. As this chapter also mentions, Neo-Classical Realism also has some limits as well as its stimulating presumptions on how to make foreign policy analysis at times of crises. Gürses well defines the pros and cons of this theoretical/methodological approach for further studies on this subject.

The third chapter, written by Fuat Aksu and Süleyman Güder, examines two significant foreign policy crises of Turkey, the Cyprus and the Aegean Crises, which take place among the protracted conflicts of Turkey and experienced against Greece, the leading addressee of Turkish foreign policy crises. As Brecher adopts from Edward Azar’s works, the historical background of the disputes in between the states provide us significant information in the analysis of current crises. In accordance with that, the crises between Turkey and Greece too have a strong background. The historical relations between the two countries date back hundreds of years and their struggles to each become a nation-state were conducted against each other, agreeing on a certain neighbourhood status after their wars of liberation. Although the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty is one of the basic international documents, which protects its validity up until today, it can stay insufficient regarding some current technical, political and legal disputes between the two countries. Aksu and Güder claim that the Greek attempts to change the Lausanne status unilaterally despite Turkey’s determination to protect it brings out new foreign policy crises in between the two sides. The issues, such as the status of the minorities, status of Cyprus, territorial waters in the Aegean, continental shelf, air space – FIR (Flight Information Region) and the violation of the demilitarized status of the islands, continue to carry their crisis-producing potential. In this respect, this chapter underlines the 1996 Kardak/Imia Islets crisis as one of the most significant crises between the two countries which brought the parties to the brink of a war. This crisis re-flamed a forgotten crisis between Turkey and Greece as the status of the Aegean islands and islets, which have not yet been handed over to any of the parties, can any time cause a problem between the two sides regarding the issues such as the territorial integrity and sovereignty rights and interests, while carrying the potential of being militarized as foreign policy crises.

The fourth chapter is written by Tuğçe Kafdağli Koru and deals with the Gaza Flotilla crisis, known as the Mavi Marmara Confrontation, which has shaped the relations between Turkey and Israel fundamentally. As Koru underlines, this crisis is unique in many aspects. As well as being a Turkish foreign policy crisis that arose from the action of a non-governmental organization, it has a special place also because of having dragged Turkey and Israel to the edge of a military clash. Koru believes that, looking at the Turkish decision-makers’ crisis management skills, Turkey could prevent this crisis before it occurred. However, as seen, the parties did not show the sufficient effort to do that. In the following period, Turkey’s internationalizing the crisis by carrying it to the UN and turning it into a bargaining tool in its relations with the US caused a tense era in the Turkey-US-Israel triangle. As Koru underlines, although the US efforts to “normalize” the Israel-Turkey relations has decreased the level of tension, the continuation of the court cases opened by the Mavi Marmara sufferers against Israel hardens the crisis to have an end soon. The reconcialiation between Ankara and Tel Aviv in June 2016 after Israel’s acceptance to pay 20 million dollars to the sufferers have not yet totally removed the crisis atmosphere as some of the personal legal cases opened by the families of the victims are still going on.

In the fifth chapter, Helin Sarı Ertem deals with the “individual side” of the Turkish crisis management regarding the Syrian civil war. Relying on the main assumptions of Political Psychology, she claims that the beliefs and worldviews of the current Turkish ruling elite have been highly influential on the way they perceive the Syria crisis. According to Ertem, the reformist “liberal internationalist” (and interventionist) ideas of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former PM Ahmet Davutoğlu were one of the strongest bases underneath their approach towards the Syria crisis and the Bashar al-Assad regime as well as the rest of the word. The two leaders’ worldviews, which overlap with each other in many respects, often prioritized “idealpolitik” rather than “realpolitik” and tended to defend values even if they might overshadow interests. For that reason, similar to some other “liberal internationalists”, who turned into “liberal interventionists” at least in some cases, the Turkish ruling elite too faces the risks of being excessively involved in a foreign policy crisis, such as Syria. While tracing Turkey’s Syria policy through “leaders’ footprints”, Ertem also makes a conceptual analysis of Davutoğlu’s Syria rhetoric. By examining Davutoğlu’s speeches from his foreign ministerial and prime ministerial eras, the author finds out the most frequent words used by him in the texts containing the word “Syria”. Through this way, she tries to figure out the possible links between these most frequently used words and Davutoğlu’s worldview in general. It is interesting to see that, in his speech texts containing the word “Syria” between 2009 and 2014, “human”, “Turkey”, “history”, “city”, “culture”, “Islam”, brother”, “civilisation” and “Jerusalem” are among the most frequent words that were used by Davutoğlu. Ertem claims that this is a basic sign of his emotional and intellectual attachment to Syria, as well as many other countries in Turkey’s close environment, which continue to have a significant meaning in Davutoğlu’s worldview and the role that is attributed to Turkey in it with a strong nostalgia for Pax-Ottomanica.

The sixth chapter of the volume, which is written by Zehra Gürsoy, focuses on another highly significant case of its own time, the “humanitarian crisis” of the Bulgarian Turks who had to flee from Bulgaria in 1989. This crisis, which reflects the characteristics of the era ending the Cold War, is significant in terms of pointing out Turkey’s then relations with one of its Eastern Block-member Balkan neighbours. As Gürsoy underlines, Turkish Bulgarians’ forced migration and being made a subject of a systematic assimilation brought Turkey against Bulgaria. The crisis was considered a ‘humanitarian’ one, as the subject was directly in concern of the rights and freedoms of the minorities, supported by certain agreements. In her article, Gürsoy explains in detail how the decision-makers in Turkey defined and managed this crisis. In this context, the readers can find the impact of the then Prime Minister, Turgut Özal’s decision-making characteristics on the management process of this crisis.

The subject of the seventh chapter is border security, which caused many of the crises between Turkey and the neighboring countries. In this chapter, İdil Laçin Öztığ covers some of the unique examples of Turkish foreign policy crises, with regard to the discussions on border and border security. In this context, the relations with Iran, for example, are discussed while analysing the 1929 Küçük Ağrı crisis. As the author underlines, the Kurdish rebelling forces’ escape to Iran and their leakage back to Turkey for further activities caused a serious border security dispute between the two neighbouring countries. Solving of this dispute could only be possible after reaching an agreement on the exchange of territories to reset the border between the two countries with the help of direct negotiations. The other crisis, which is examined by Öztığ, is the Nakhchivan Crisis, where Turkey acted to end the occupation of a country, whose territorial integrity was guaranteed by Ankara. As this chapter points out, Armenia’s attack against Nakhchivan and its occupation of this disputed region have turned Turkey into an indirect party in this crisis, and Ankara stated that it was going to apply military means if Armenia did not end its occupation. Armenian withdrawal from the region by ending the occupation allowed the parties to overcome this crisis. Other two significant examples, where Turkey had been a part of, in terms of border security issues, are seen in the Iraq and Syria crisis. In the 1991 Iraq and 2010 Syria crises, the mass migration and the refugee flow to Turkey suddenly turned this country into a party of a humanitarian crisis and caused new tensions with its neighbors. As the chapter underlines, especially the security problems caused by the Syrian refugees have begun threatening not only Turkey but also the EU; while internationalizing the issue quite rapidly.

In the eighth chapter, Gencer Özcan approaches the continuing crisis with Syria in quite a critical way, examining the “construction” of Turkey’s foreign policy preferences, which caused an extreme shift in the relations with Syria.  Setting out the role of the political decision-makers in turning this tension into a crisis, Özcan also discusses the impact of the Turkish government’s preference to support the opponents of the Assad regime on the traditional foreign policy priorities of Turkey. The author defends that the insufficiencies, even mistakes of Turkey’s Syria policy not only affected the relations between the two countries quite negatively, but also triggered a gradually deepening and expanding regional instability.

The ninth chapter, which is written by Ayşe Küçük, on the other hand, deals with the route of the foreign policy crises which are caused by actors other than states. Focusing on the role of these actors specifically in Turkish foreign policy crises, Küçük examines the shift from a “state to state” crisis management to a “state to non-state actors” crisis management. When the foreign policy crises which Turkey is directly a part of are assessed, it is seen that the non-state actors can be the trigger, the subject or the addressee of the crisis. The cases examined by Küçük are from various historical periods, presenting the different roles that non-state actors can play in foreign policy crises. Among them, the Struma crisis comes forward with a strong humanitarian aspect. The chapter has a detailed analysis of this foreign policy crisis caused by the Struma Ship, which carried Jews escaping from Hitler’s brutality and looking for a refugee, but sadly sank in 1942 after being refused by the Turkish authorities in the highly critical atmosphere of the Second World War. Another case the author focuses in this chapter is the IHH’s (The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief) attempt to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza region under the Israeli siege, which caused a highly critical crisis between Turkey and Israel. And finally, the chapter examines the seizure of Turkey’s Mosul Consulate by ISIS in June 2014, which caused the kidnapping of 49 diplomatic staff and made a terrorist organization turn into a direct addressee of a foreign policy crisis with the Turkish state. As the author underlines, in all these three cases, the crisis management strategies, the means and methods used by Turkish decision-makers were diverse, while shedding a light on the new possible routes of the Turkish decision-makers’ ability to manage the crises.

As the chapters of this volume also underline, Turkey’s official approach to the foreign policy crises has been changing since the beginning of the 2000s. Although this was nourished by the government changeover and the JDP governments’ new approach to the traditional perceptions of national identity, interest and security as well as foreign policy means and methods, it also reflects a pragmatic functioning of a leader-driven era in Turkish foreign policy. However, this pragmatism, which certainly saves time with less bureaucratic details, also causes some disadvantages regarding Turkey’s traditional foreign policy priorities in a highly unstable Middle East, which is going through a traumatic era. As a result, the foreign policy crises, which occurred in this era, caused concerns about the sustainability of Turkey’s new foreign policy. With its wide range of samples from the political/diplomatic history of Turkey, this volume provides readers with a unique opportunity to observe not only the various foreign policy crises and crisis management strategies of Turkey, but also the changing route of Turkish foreign policy culture in the 2000s under the impact of individual, regional and systemic elements.

* This chapter was supported by the TUBITAK/SOBAG 1001 Project (Project No: 112K172).

[1] See: Charles F. Hermann, “International Crisis as a Situational Variable” in James N. Rosenau (Ed.), International Politics and Foreign Policy, revised edition, (New York, N.Y.: Free Press 1969):409-421; Charles F. Hermann, “Threat, Time and Surprise: A Simulation of International Crises” in Charles F. Hermann (Ed.), International Crises: Insights from Behavior Research, (New York: Free Press, 1972):187-212.

[2] See: Michael Brecher, International Political Earthquakes, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008); Michael Brecher and Jonathan Wilkenfeld, A Study of Crisis, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000).

[3] For details see: Alexander L. George, “Strategies for Crisis Management”, in Alexander. L. George (Ed.), Avoiding War: Problems of Crisis Management, (Westview Press, 1991): 379-393.

[4] A. L. George, “Coercive Diplomacy: Definition and Characteristics” in Alexander L. George and William E. Simons (Eds.), The Limits of Coercive Diplomacy, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994): 7-11.

[5] Gideon Rose, “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy”, World Politics, Vol. 51, No. 1 (1998): 144-172.

[6] The tables and outcomes of the foreign policy crises, which were analysed within the TFPC Project, can be achieved through our project web site:

[7] For the details on the ICBP and its crisis summaries, see:

[8] See: Brecher, International Political…,

[9] For more on Neo-Classical Realism, see: Gideon Rose, “Neoclassical Realism…; Fareed Zakaria, “Realism and Domestic Politics”, International Security, Volume 17, No. 1 (Summer 1992), p. 177-198 and Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, (Princeton: University Press, 1999).