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The Majors Assets for Turkish Foreign Policy in the Caucasus: The question of “background”

This paper aims to examine the relevance of the soft power concept for interpretation of Turkey’s foreign policy towards one of its neighboring region. The unpredictable disintegration of the Soviet Union put Turkey in front of a new regional strategic context. Criticized at the same period in the west for the lack of democracy and for the human rights abuses, Turkish political system became paradoxically an attraction, “a source of inspiration to imitate” or a model for this new geopolitical environment. Analyze the impact of the Turkish political values in the region allow us to suppose that it did not constitute an enormous asset for its foreign policy in this region. Apart from its more advanced political system than Russia and Iran, the starting point for Turkey’s future in the region was the linguistic and complex cultural kinship with six newly independent republics. Cultural diplomacy was supposed also to constitute an effective tool leading to further success of Turkey in this region’s economy, which was passing throughout economic transformation after their experience in communist system. Turkish dynamic economy, as a resource both to hard power and to soft power depending on the context according to Nye’s definition, constituted a source of attraction for many countries of the region, reinforced interestingly in its turn the legitimacy of the cultural “intervention” of Turkey, so forming a sort of “virtuous circle”. In parallel to this process that takes place inside of Turkey, the rise of the non-state actors both in the economic and in the cultural field and the charge, they took, of course indirectly, in the realization of foreign policy goals created more or less autonomous sphere out of state control in Turkey. It sometimes helps Turkish foreign policy goals in Caucasus (Turkish Private High Schools, private entrepreneurs etc.), in some cases could harm it (Chechen, Çerkez and Abkhaz Diasporas activities) or add a value or a reflection to state’s regional vision (Turkish Civil society’s and economic groups’ links with Armenia). In this sense of power shift process, there are a huge number of special different trends at the micro level, which create their own autonomous interactions with its neighborhood and that heterogeneous character don’t permit us to gather together under the same explicative notions, such as the efficiency of Turkish Soft power.

Elshan Mustafayev is a Ph.D candidate at Political Institute of Lyon under the supervision of Mohamed-Chérif Ferjani. He pursues his researches at the GREMMO in Lyon and at the French Institute of Anatolian Research (IFEA) in Istanbul.