OPINION

A Kemalist strategy

When the name of Recep Tayyip Erdogan started becoming known a few years ago beyond the borders of his own country, some people realized he would probably be Turkey’s future leader. Significantly fewer people grasped that this strange Islamist would be the main force behind the continuation of the great tradition of Kemalist diplomacy. Erdogan’s Turkey has not merely avoided isolation from the West. On the contrary, it has embarked upon a Western course with a virtually unprecedented diplomatic dynamism… The main elements of the great Kemalist diplomacy which the Turkish premier is carrying into the 21st century have additional value precisely because they operate cumulatively: the drawing up of a foreign policy agenda; the identification of some of Turkey’s choices with those of the major Western powers; Turkey’s ability to stand up to these major players and to effectively exploit any rifts among them. These resemble the chief elements of Eleftherios Venizelos’s foreign policy in the years before Ataturk, a policy that succeeded in virtually doubling the size of Greece in just a few months through the Balkan Wars. The Turkish statesman must have studied this policy well before assuming power in Turkey following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. And today, Erdogan has put this same policy into effect…