Turkey and the Arab Spring: Between Ethics and Self-Interest

Thursday, November 15, 2012
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Richard and Rhoda Goldman Conference Room
  • Ziya Öniş


Turkey redefined its geographical security environment over the last decade by deepening its engagement with neighboring regions, especially with the Middle East. The Arab spring, however, challenged not only the authoritarian regimes in the region but also Turkish foreign policy strategy. This strategy was based on cooperation with the existing regimes and did not prioritize the democracy promotion dimension of the issue. The upheavals in the Arab world, therefore, created a dilemma between ethics and self-interest in Turkish foreign policy. Amid the flux of geopolitical shifts in one of the world’s most unstable regions, Turkish foreign policy-making elites are attempting to reformulate their strategies to overcome this inherent dilemma. The central argument of the present paper is that Turkey could make a bigger and more constructive impact in the region by trying to take a more detached stand and through controlled activism. Thus, Turkey could take action through the formation of coalitions and in close alignments with the United States and Europe rather than basing its policies on a self-attributed unilateral pro-activism.

Ziya Öniş is Professor of International Relations and the Director of the Center for Research on Globalization and Democratic Governance (GLODEM) at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. He received his BSc. and MSc. in Economics from London School of Economics, and his Ph.D. in Development Economics from University of Manchester.  He also taught at Boğaziçi University (Istanbul), Işık University (Istanbul), and University of Manchester. He has written extensively on various aspects of Turkish political economy. His most recent research focuses on the political economy of globalization, crises and post-crises transformations, Turkey’s Europeanization and democratization experience and the analysis of new directions in Turkish foreign policy. Among his most recent publications are  “Beyond the Global Economic Crisis: Structural Continuities as Impediments to a Sustainable Recovery” (All Azimuth, 2012), “Power, Interests and Coalitions: The Political Economy of Mass Privatization in Turkey” (Third World Quarterly, 2011), “Europe and the Impasse of Center-Left Politics in Turkey: Lessons from the Greek Experience” (Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, 2010), Turkey and the Global Economy: Neo-liberal Restructuring and Integration in the Post-Crisis Era (2009), and Turkish Politics in a Changing World: Global Dynamics and Domestic Transformations (2007)

The event is organized as part of the Annual Koç Lecture Series, a three-year project organized under the framework of the Mediterranean Studies Forum’s Turkish Studies Initiative and in collaboration with Stanford Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and the Sohaib & Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies. It is also co-sponsored by the CDDRL Program on Arab Reform and Democracy.