Turkey after a century: Emergence of a great power


The 19th century was the era of colonialism. After completing their industrial revolutions, the major Western states began to invade and colonize the entire world. The British occupation of India and the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish colonization of Asian spice-producing countries helped these colonial powers to accumulate immense capital. A strong economy meant a strong state and large armies. After staying away from the colonization of Asia, France and Belgium opted for the unexplored continent of Africa with colonialist designs. Although the colonial powers clashed from time to time, they managed to share the world by following one of the most primitive laws of nature: “big fish eat small fish”.

The Ottoman state was the last great empire of the late imperial era. For six centuries, the Ottomans ruled over large areas of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North Africa. Compared to this vast territory, Turkey appears as a small island in the heart of the Ottoman lands.

The decline of the Ottoman state is closely linked to the end of the imperial era and the rise of nation states. Unlike the Western colonial powers, who transformed science, ideas and culture into means of colonization, the Ottomans were slow to modernize the country.

In his book “The Empire’s Longest Century”, historian Ilber Ortaylı describes the 19th century as the most disastrous century for the Ottomans. The dethroning of Sultan Abdülhamid II, the political power of the Committee of Ittihat and Terakki (Union and Progress) and the mismanagement of the state by the former Minister of War of the Ottoman Empire, Enver Pasha, and others considerably weakened the empire. After the Ottomans joined World War I alongside Germany, the entire empire was overrun by the World War I Allies and then split between Britain, France, Italy and Greece .

A hundred years ago, the young Turkish state launched a fierce war of independence against the invading powers. Always remaining free and independent throughout history, the Turkish nation has driven the invaders from much of its national borders, which we call our homeland.

struggle for independence

A century later, international politics finds itself in an entirely different geopolitical situation. First of all, Western states are no longer as strong as before, while countries like Turkey are no longer as weak. After World War II, the United States became the hegemonic power of the West, while the colonial empires of the European state fell with a wave of wars of independence.

Meanwhile, China has emerged as an economic superpower over the past two decades. As US foreign policy shifted its focus from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region, a great power vacuum was created in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Black Sea, and the Baltic region. Turkey has managed to expand its influence in most of these areas of political instability and conflict.

Despite its economic problems, Turkey has become a regional power. With a population of 85 million and an income of $10,000 per person, Turkey’s economy is the 17th in the world. Thanks to its imperial heritage, its deep geopolitical influence and its strong leadership, Turkey has become one of the main powers in its region of influence.

In the long Syrian crisis, Turkey has been one of the main players. As one of the key players in the Geneva and Astana talks, Turkey supports Syria’s territorial integrity with Russia and Iran.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey managed to protect its national interests against the extreme demands of the Greek administration thanks to the power of its navy and its diplomacy.

During the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Turkey became a playmaker by actively supporting Azerbaijan against Armenia’s aggression.

In Libya, as European powers sided with coup leader General Khalifa Haftar, Turkey backed the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), opening the door to political stability in the country.

Unlike Western countries, which abuse Ukraine to compete with Russia, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is spearheading peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has also been one of the main international players in Afghanistan and North Africa.

A century after its war of independence, Turkey has become a great power.

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