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A new era of Turkish diplomacy: Hakan Fidan

photo: aydinlik.com.tr
6 June 2024
Amur GadzhiyevAmur Gadzhiyev

Amur Gadzhiyev

Candidate of historical sciences, CISS expert

In May 2023, Presidential and Parliamentary elections took place in Turkey, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of the Republic of Turkey, and the political coalition headed by him achieved victory once again. The new government was formed in June. Hakan Fidan was appointed the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new Cabinet, with his huge experience of scientific and practical activities both in the military forces and in the diplomacy sphere.

Upon graduating from the Military School of the ground troops of the Military Forces of Turkey, H. Fidan continued his studies in the  University of Maryland, College Park (USA). Then he received a Masters Degree in Bilkent University (Ankara) and defended his doctoral thesis there. The incumbent head of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued his academic career as a professor of several prestigious universities of Turkey. Simultaneously he got appointed to some key positions in public administration, mainly in the spheres of foreign policy and security.

H. Fidan used to chair the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Development (TIKA), was the assistant secretary of the Prime Minister staff for foreign policy and security, the member of the IAEA Board of Governors, the special envoy of the Prime Minister and President of Turkey, and then he headed the National Intelligence Organization MIT (and spent 13 years in this position), etc. Not without reason he is often called Erdogans secrets keeper, «the black box» and «the mysteries jar».

H. Fidans influence on the sphere of foreign policy and security of the Turkish state during the recent years is beyond debate it is an obvious fact. Experts are actively discussing changes in Turkish diplomacy during the last year focusing on the revision of Ankaras diplomatic tools and methods with account of modern approaches to regional security assurance. 

Some analysts have already announced «the Fidans era» in the foreign policy of Turkey similar to the previous periods of Ahmet Davutoglu and Mevlut Cavusoglu. Let us try to understand, to what extent these changes are radical.

Turkey within the international relations system

Over the recent two decades, Turkey has evidently strengthened its regional importance expanding its influence on the adjacent countries and asserted itself as a «supra-regional power» claiming a stronger role in global politics including in the system of global control. The aspiration for joining «the big league» of global politics is reflected practically in all the recent strategy documents of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Turkey is doing its best to shape the international agenda; its actions often have global implications. This showed in the context of Syria crisis, Libya problem, Karabakh conflict, Black Sea Grain Initiative, etc., when Turkey was in the focus of global politics again and again.

The current uncertainty in the system of international relations opened new opportunities for Turkey, which has all the required attributed of the regional power. Ankara started viewing this uncertainty as «the transitional period leading to shaping the new World Order architecture», and became stronger and more «assertive» in its foreign policy. Amid the growing rivalry of the great powers, Turkey started positioning itself as an influential participant of the international relations capable of playing the role of the «damping force».

In Ankaras opinion, universal values significantly eroded in the modern world due to the growing rivalry between great and regional powers, on-going crises and conflicts, inefficiency of the existing global control mechanisms, and the main implication was global inequity achieving the unprecedented scale. Turkey is convinced that the international system is in acute need for cardinal change. The network of Turkish diplomatic institutions (currently comprising 260 embassies and consulates and belonging to the top five major diplomatic networks in the world) as closely monitoring all the regional and global problems, and the country is one of the players in settling various regional disputes. 

Modern Turkish diplomacy views the current geopolitical context as «a springboard» for implementing its ambitious foreign policy objectives. Turkey strives to become one of the architects of regional security participating in complete or partial filling the political vacuum arising from the terminated presence of the leading Western powers in Middle East and Africa. The supplies of weapons and setting up military bases became important tools for implementing the new foreign policy course of the country at the current stage. Today we can see that the Turks assured their military presence at a rather vast territory from Azerbaijan, Northern Iraq and Syria to Qatar, Libya and Somali. Ankara explains such presence by the thesis about the defense of Turkey starting from the Outer Rim, which, in turn, dates back to the NATO «forward-frontiers» strategy.

Hence, the modern Turkish foreign policy concept is underpinned by the aspiration to expand the zone of its military and political influence. It is now more and more seen in the following key trends:

  1. Militarization and securitization of diplomacy, i.e., more active use of military force and security enforcement instruments for exercising political pressure in the international arena.
  2. The idea of Turkish defense starting beyond its national borders is getting stronger and stronger in the approach to foreign policy.
  3. Defense industry development creating the ability to implement all the foreign policy ideas adopted by the country leadership.

Characteristics of modern Turkish diplomacy

The pro-active approach launched by Ahmet Davutoglu was maintained in the new Turkish diplomacy, the «moral responsibility» principles suggested by Mevlut Cavusoglu are still present, and the determination to use hard power to eliminate the threats and challenges for national security is becoming more and more obvious. The transformation of Turkish diplomacy to a great extent underpinned the need for change of the head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Hakan Fidan with his experience in assuring national security and in strengthening the defense capability of the country like no one else was the best fit candidate to lead the foreign policy of Turkey. Naturally, all the above-mentioned trends strengthened after the former head of intelligence service was appointed to the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In October 2023, the strategy article by H. Fidan called «Turkish foreign policy at the edge of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey: challenges, vision, goals and transformation» was published in Insight Turkey journal. In particular, he emphasized that the vision of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey developed under the leadership of President R.T. Erdogan is focused on the nations way to the future, where the principles of development and global initiative will prevail and the achievements of the previous century will be revived.

The article also emphasized that the global control mechanisms are not sufficient for developing the solutions for the current problems, and that such mechanisms turned into the arena of struggle for power. Hakan Fidan noted that the international system Turkey is striving for is beyond the traditional world order concept defined by the polarity (unipolar, bi-polar or multi-polar). According to the Turkish minister, Ankara is advocating the creation of solid international system based on solidarity, and not on the polarity; the key principles of such system should be inclusivity, efficiency, fairness and security. The head of Turkish foreign policy is convinced: this is the only way we can be sure that the current global and regional problems will be resolved.

The slogan «The world is more than five» assumes the reform of the United Nations Organization by way of increasing the number of the permanent members of the UN Security Council; it is one of the latest developments of the Turkish foreign political thought and the Turkish leaders today are active in promoting it on the global arena.

However, H. Fidan understands perfectly well that despite the current crisis in the system of international relations it is still too early to talk about quick drastic transformation of the global control system. In such situation, in particular in the context of lack of solid international system, H. Fidan proposes the bi-lateral approach to resolving the issues of regional and international security: on one hand, to eliminate threats and challenges blocking the resolution of such issues, on the other hand, to explore the opportunities for implementing the best optimal model of political collaboration appropriate in the new environment.

On the eve of BRICS summit

H. Fidan voiced some important messages about the Turkish vision of the modern world order during his visit to China on 3-5 June 2024. In particular, he announced about the intent of Turkey to join BRICS, and this issue will be in the agenda of the forthcoming meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the BRICS  member states on 10-11 June in Nizhny Novgorod, which H. Fidan plans to visit. According to him, Ankara views BRICS as a potential integration platform, because some European countries continue to be against accession of Turkey to the European Union. We should remember that in 2018 R.T. Erdogan already participated in the BRICS summit. It was stated then that Ankara could join the association in 2022. However, until now Turkey has not undertaken any initiatives along these lines.

Obviously, after Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Egypt and Ethiopia joining BRICS, the full-fledged participation of Turkey in the events of this inter-state association from the standpoint of its regional interests becomes practically inevitable. It is extremely important for Ankara to participate in the activities and initiatives of the key association of the Global South, and it has something to offer from the growing industry with well-developed servicing sector to logistical routes, especially relevant in the light of the current negative trends in the Red Sea and Eastern Mediterranean.

Thus, the situation with BRICS clearly displays the second aspect of Fidans bilateral approach to implementing Turkish national interests, specifically selecting international cooperation model, which is the most optimal for the current conditions.

In addition, H. Fidan advocating for «no polarity» is fully supportive of the multi-polar world idea actively promoted by Russia, China and other BRICS member states, he called the transition from unipolar to multi-polar world «an inevitable process». In his opinion, there is no point in believing that the world order of the last century will continue to exist in the modern times. He emphasized the  inadmissibility of any initiatives leading to wars, which are put forward for the sake of preserving the last-century world order, when the USA were dominating.

It is also important to pay attention to H. Fidans statements pertaining to the development of Turkish-Chinese relations. He emphasized that Turkey was highly appreciative of the international position of China on the issue of settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the situation in the Gaza Strip. The head of the Turkish diplomacy focused on a serios partnership potential in such spheres as trade, tourism and energy. He reminded about the Trans-Caspian International Transportation Rout («the Middle Corridor») and discussed with his Chinese colleagues the possibility of combining it with «One Belt, One Road» project with their further joint promotion. Hakan Fidan stated that Ankara supports the «one China» policy, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of China.

These statements of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister reflect Ankaras consistent policy focused at strengthening the independence of their own foreign policy. The multi-vector approach of the Turkish foreign policy amid the current geopolitical situation received brand-new interpretation. Today, the political leaders of the country prefer to talk not about «the axis off-set», but about strengthening cooperation with different countries in the interests of the Turkish state.

The Turkish leaders believe: multidimensional partnership with Russia and interaction with China along with the allied relations with the West should from now on serve, first of all, the national interests of the Republic of Turkey.

Back in 2023, during the visit of Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister, to Turkey right after the NATO summit in Vilnius, Ankara described its position on developing the relations with Beijing. And it has been firmly abiding by it. Remember that in the final statement of the NATO summit in Vilnius «the ascension of China» was characterized as «a threat». However, R.T. Erdogan at his meeting with Wang Yi emphasized that Ankara was not viewing the ascension of China as a threat, an that it was inadmissible to isolate China in connection with its policy on Taiwan.

Hence, H. Fidan, in essence, repeated the key messages voiced by R.T. Erdogan, which is an evidence of stability of Ankaras current political course focused on rapprochement with non-Western countries despite all the political pressure.

Clearly, this inspires respect and trust allowing Turkey to put its cooperation with the BRICS member states on a more solid basis. There are all the grounds to believe that there will be a serious breakthrough at the forthcoming meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers in Nizhny Novgorod. 

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Publications

A new era of Turkish diplomacy: Hakan Fidan

photo: aydinlik.com.tr
6 2024
Amur Gadzhiyev

Amur Gadzhiyev

Candidate of historical sciences, CISS expert

In May 2023, Presidential and Parliamentary elections took place in Turkey, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of the Republic of Turkey, and the political coalition headed by him achieved victory once again. The new government was formed in June. Hakan Fidan was appointed the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new Cabinet, with his huge experience of scientific and practical activities both in the military forces and in the diplomacy sphere.

Upon graduating from the Military School of the ground troops of the Military Forces of Turkey, H. Fidan continued his studies in the  University of Maryland, College Park (USA). Then he received a Masters Degree in Bilkent University (Ankara) and defended his doctoral thesis there. The incumbent head of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued his academic career as a professor of several prestigious universities of Turkey. Simultaneously he got appointed to some key positions in public administration, mainly in the spheres of foreign policy and security.

H. Fidan used to chair the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Development (TIKA), was the assistant secretary of the Prime Minister staff for foreign policy and security, the member of the IAEA Board of Governors, the special envoy of the Prime Minister and President of Turkey, and then he headed the National Intelligence Organization MIT (and spent 13 years in this position), etc. Not without reason he is often called Erdogans secrets keeper, «the black box» and «the mysteries jar».

H. Fidans influence on the sphere of foreign policy and security of the Turkish state during the recent years is beyond debate it is an obvious fact. Experts are actively discussing changes in Turkish diplomacy during the last year focusing on the revision of Ankaras diplomatic tools and methods with account of modern approaches to regional security assurance. 

Some analysts have already announced «the Fidans era» in the foreign policy of Turkey similar to the previous periods of Ahmet Davutoglu and Mevlut Cavusoglu. Let us try to understand, to what extent these changes are radical.

Turkey within the international relations system

Over the recent two decades, Turkey has evidently strengthened its regional importance expanding its influence on the adjacent countries and asserted itself as a «supra-regional power» claiming a stronger role in global politics including in the system of global control. The aspiration for joining «the big league» of global politics is reflected practically in all the recent strategy documents of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Turkey is doing its best to shape the international agenda; its actions often have global implications. This showed in the context of Syria crisis, Libya problem, Karabakh conflict, Black Sea Grain Initiative, etc., when Turkey was in the focus of global politics again and again.

The current uncertainty in the system of international relations opened new opportunities for Turkey, which has all the required attributed of the regional power. Ankara started viewing this uncertainty as «the transitional period leading to shaping the new World Order architecture», and became stronger and more «assertive» in its foreign policy. Amid the growing rivalry of the great powers, Turkey started positioning itself as an influential participant of the international relations capable of playing the role of the «damping force».

In Ankaras opinion, universal values significantly eroded in the modern world due to the growing rivalry between great and regional powers, on-going crises and conflicts, inefficiency of the existing global control mechanisms, and the main implication was global inequity achieving the unprecedented scale. Turkey is convinced that the international system is in acute need for cardinal change. The network of Turkish diplomatic institutions (currently comprising 260 embassies and consulates and belonging to the top five major diplomatic networks in the world) as closely monitoring all the regional and global problems, and the country is one of the players in settling various regional disputes. 

Modern Turkish diplomacy views the current geopolitical context as «a springboard» for implementing its ambitious foreign policy objectives. Turkey strives to become one of the architects of regional security participating in complete or partial filling the political vacuum arising from the terminated presence of the leading Western powers in Middle East and Africa. The supplies of weapons and setting up military bases became important tools for implementing the new foreign policy course of the country at the current stage. Today we can see that the Turks assured their military presence at a rather vast territory from Azerbaijan, Northern Iraq and Syria to Qatar, Libya and Somali. Ankara explains such presence by the thesis about the defense of Turkey starting from the Outer Rim, which, in turn, dates back to the NATO «forward-frontiers» strategy.

Hence, the modern Turkish foreign policy concept is underpinned by the aspiration to expand the zone of its military and political influence. It is now more and more seen in the following key trends:

  1. Militarization and securitization of diplomacy, i.e., more active use of military force and security enforcement instruments for exercising political pressure in the international arena.
  2. The idea of Turkish defense starting beyond its national borders is getting stronger and stronger in the approach to foreign policy.
  3. Defense industry development creating the ability to implement all the foreign policy ideas adopted by the country leadership.

Characteristics of modern Turkish diplomacy

The pro-active approach launched by Ahmet Davutoglu was maintained in the new Turkish diplomacy, the «moral responsibility» principles suggested by Mevlut Cavusoglu are still present, and the determination to use hard power to eliminate the threats and challenges for national security is becoming more and more obvious. The transformation of Turkish diplomacy to a great extent underpinned the need for change of the head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Hakan Fidan with his experience in assuring national security and in strengthening the defense capability of the country like no one else was the best fit candidate to lead the foreign policy of Turkey. Naturally, all the above-mentioned trends strengthened after the former head of intelligence service was appointed to the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In October 2023, the strategy article by H. Fidan called «Turkish foreign policy at the edge of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey: challenges, vision, goals and transformation» was published in Insight Turkey journal. In particular, he emphasized that the vision of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey developed under the leadership of President R.T. Erdogan is focused on the nations way to the future, where the principles of development and global initiative will prevail and the achievements of the previous century will be revived.

The article also emphasized that the global control mechanisms are not sufficient for developing the solutions for the current problems, and that such mechanisms turned into the arena of struggle for power. Hakan Fidan noted that the international system Turkey is striving for is beyond the traditional world order concept defined by the polarity (unipolar, bi-polar or multi-polar). According to the Turkish minister, Ankara is advocating the creation of solid international system based on solidarity, and not on the polarity; the key principles of such system should be inclusivity, efficiency, fairness and security. The head of Turkish foreign policy is convinced: this is the only way we can be sure that the current global and regional problems will be resolved.

The slogan «The world is more than five» assumes the reform of the United Nations Organization by way of increasing the number of the permanent members of the UN Security Council; it is one of the latest developments of the Turkish foreign political thought and the Turkish leaders today are active in promoting it on the global arena.

However, H. Fidan understands perfectly well that despite the current crisis in the system of international relations it is still too early to talk about quick drastic transformation of the global control system. In such situation, in particular in the context of lack of solid international system, H. Fidan proposes the bi-lateral approach to resolving the issues of regional and international security: on one hand, to eliminate threats and challenges blocking the resolution of such issues, on the other hand, to explore the opportunities for implementing the best optimal model of political collaboration appropriate in the new environment.

On the eve of BRICS summit

H. Fidan voiced some important messages about the Turkish vision of the modern world order during his visit to China on 3-5 June 2024. In particular, he announced about the intent of Turkey to join BRICS, and this issue will be in the agenda of the forthcoming meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the BRICS  member states on 10-11 June in Nizhny Novgorod, which H. Fidan plans to visit. According to him, Ankara views BRICS as a potential integration platform, because some European countries continue to be against accession of Turkey to the European Union. We should remember that in 2018 R.T. Erdogan already participated in the BRICS summit. It was stated then that Ankara could join the association in 2022. However, until now Turkey has not undertaken any initiatives along these lines.

Obviously, after Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Egypt and Ethiopia joining BRICS, the full-fledged participation of Turkey in the events of this inter-state association from the standpoint of its regional interests becomes practically inevitable. It is extremely important for Ankara to participate in the activities and initiatives of the key association of the Global South, and it has something to offer from the growing industry with well-developed servicing sector to logistical routes, especially relevant in the light of the current negative trends in the Red Sea and Eastern Mediterranean.

Thus, the situation with BRICS clearly displays the second aspect of Fidans bilateral approach to implementing Turkish national interests, specifically selecting international cooperation model, which is the most optimal for the current conditions.

In addition, H. Fidan advocating for «no polarity» is fully supportive of the multi-polar world idea actively promoted by Russia, China and other BRICS member states, he called the transition from unipolar to multi-polar world «an inevitable process». In his opinion, there is no point in believing that the world order of the last century will continue to exist in the modern times. He emphasized the  inadmissibility of any initiatives leading to wars, which are put forward for the sake of preserving the last-century world order, when the USA were dominating.

It is also important to pay attention to H. Fidans statements pertaining to the development of Turkish-Chinese relations. He emphasized that Turkey was highly appreciative of the international position of China on the issue of settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the situation in the Gaza Strip. The head of the Turkish diplomacy focused on a serios partnership potential in such spheres as trade, tourism and energy. He reminded about the Trans-Caspian International Transportation Rout («the Middle Corridor») and discussed with his Chinese colleagues the possibility of combining it with «One Belt, One Road» project with their further joint promotion. Hakan Fidan stated that Ankara supports the «one China» policy, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of China.

These statements of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister reflect Ankaras consistent policy focused at strengthening the independence of their own foreign policy. The multi-vector approach of the Turkish foreign policy amid the current geopolitical situation received brand-new interpretation. Today, the political leaders of the country prefer to talk not about «the axis off-set», but about strengthening cooperation with different countries in the interests of the Turkish state.

The Turkish leaders believe: multidimensional partnership with Russia and interaction with China along with the allied relations with the West should from now on serve, first of all, the national interests of the Republic of Turkey.

Back in 2023, during the visit of Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister, to Turkey right after the NATO summit in Vilnius, Ankara described its position on developing the relations with Beijing. And it has been firmly abiding by it. Remember that in the final statement of the NATO summit in Vilnius «the ascension of China» was characterized as «a threat». However, R.T. Erdogan at his meeting with Wang Yi emphasized that Ankara was not viewing the ascension of China as a threat, an that it was inadmissible to isolate China in connection with its policy on Taiwan.

Hence, H. Fidan, in essence, repeated the key messages voiced by R.T. Erdogan, which is an evidence of stability of Ankaras current political course focused on rapprochement with non-Western countries despite all the political pressure.

Clearly, this inspires respect and trust allowing Turkey to put its cooperation with the BRICS member states on a more solid basis. There are all the grounds to believe that there will be a serious breakthrough at the forthcoming meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers in Nizhny Novgorod.