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  • Author: Nilsu Gören
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Turkey and NATO are experiencing a mutual crisis of confidence. Turkish policy makers lack confidence in NATO guarantees and fear abandonment—both prominent historical concerns. At the same time, policy makers within the alliance have begun to question Turkey’s intentions and future strategic orientation, and how well they align with NATO’s. One important factor contributing to this mistrust is Turkey’s recent dealings with Russia. Turkey is trying to contain Russian military expansion in the Black Sea and Syria by calling for a stronger NATO presence at the same time that is seeking to diversify its security strategy by improving ties with Russia and reducing its dependence on the United States and NATO. Turkey’s contradictory stance is no more apparent than in its evolving policy regarding the Syrian civil war. The threat topography of NATO’s southern flank reflects a complex web of state and non-state actors involved in asymmetric warfare. The Turkish shoot down of a Russian jet in 2015 highlighted the complexity and helped to precipitate military dialogue between NATO and Russia in Syria. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan seem to have overcome their strategic differences in their preferred outcome for Syria and have de-escalated the tensions following several rounds of peace talks headed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran and involving some, but not all, factions involved in the Syrian conflict. Yet several important questions about Turkish security policy and its impact on Turkish-U.S./NATO relations remain. What are the security implications of Turkey’s military actions on the southern flank? How is the continued fight against extremism in the region, including ISIS, likely to affect relations? And how should the West respond to Turkey’s security ties with Russia, including the Russian sale of advance military equipment to Ankara? The answers to all of these questions depend in part on whether Turkey’s behavior with Russia in Syria is a tactical move or a strategic shift away from NATO. Understanding these dynamics is key to devising policies and actions to minimize security risks between the U.S., NATO, and Russia. This paper argues that Turkey has economic and political interests in developing closer relations with Russia, but that these interests are not as strong as Turkey’s strategic alliance with the West, and NATO in particular. Turkish policymakers, who lack confidence in NATO, are pursuing short-term security interests in Syria as a way to leverage Western acquiescence to their interests regarding the Kurdish populations in Syria and Iraq. These objectives, however, are not aligned with Russia’s security objectives and do not add up to a sustainable long-term regional security strategy. In the short term, Turkey’s contradictory approaches to relations with NATO and Russia are likely to lead to ambiguity and confusion in the regional security architecture, with Syria being the most visible example of this disarray. To combat this approach, U.S. leadership and NATO should work to convince Turkey that the alliance takes Turkish security concerns in Syria seriously and to minimize the risks of Turkey’s acts as a spoiler in the region. For instance, addressing Turkish concerns over Washington’s arming of the Kurdish rebel group, the YPG, in northern Syria, will go a long way to resolving the key issue motivating Turkey’s decision to partner with Russia.
  • Topic: NATO, National Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Turkey, Syria
  • Author: Nilsu Gören
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: This paper provides an overview of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) missile defense debate from a Turkish perspective. While Turkey participates in the EPAA by hosting a U.S. early-warning radar in Kurecik, Malatya, its political and military concerns with NATO guarantees have led to the AKP government's quest for a national long-range air and missile defense system. However, Turkish decision makers' insistence on technology transfer shows that the Turkish debate is not adequately informed by the lessons learned from the EPAA, particularly the technical and financial challenges of missile defense.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Clay Ramsay, Ebrahim Mohseni
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Summary of Findings 1. Views of the Rouhani Administration President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif enjoy high levels of popular support in Iran. Nearly 8 in 10 Iranians say they have a favorable opinion of Rouhani and Zarif. Yet the intensity of their popularity has substantially eroded since August 2015. With Iran’s parliamentary elections only about a month away, 6 in 10 Iranians continue to want Rouhani supporters to win, while a growing minority favors his critics. Though Rouhani receives high marks for improving Iran’s security and deepening Iran’s relations with European countries, views of the economy are mixed. An increasing majority of Iranians think that Rouhani has not been successful in reducing unemployment. Iranians are also substantially less optimistic about Iran’s economy, with less than half now thinking that the economy is getting better. 2. Iran’s February 2016 Parliamentary Elections Four in ten Iranians voice confidence that the upcoming Majlis (Iran’s Parliament) elections will be very fair, and another four in ten assume it will be somewhat free and fair. Two thirds are highly confident they will vote in the upcoming elections for the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts. The most important issues Iranians want the new Majlis to tackle are unemployment and Iran’s low performing economy. 3. Civil Liberties in Iran Two in three Iranians believe that it is important for President Rouhani to seek to increase civil liberties in Iran. However, only a small minority complains that Iranians have too little freedom. While only about a third thinks that civil liberties in Iran have increased during Rouhani’s presidency, a plurality expects that civil liberties will increase at least somewhat over the next two years. 4. Approval for Nuclear Deal Seven in ten Iranians approve of the nuclear deal, though enthusiasm has waned somewhat. The deal garners support from majorities of those who favor Rouhani’s critics in the Majlis election, as well as those who favor his supporters. Two thirds still think the Iranian leadership negotiated a good deal for Iran, though the number of those disagreeing has risen to one in five. The number who believes it was a win for Iran has also declined, while the number who believes it was a victory for both sides has risen and is now a majority. 5. Perceptions of the Nuclear Deal Substantial numbers of Iranians now have a more accurate picture of the deal than they did in August 2015. About half (up from a third) now realizes that Iran has accepted limits on its nuclear research. Almost half (up from a quarter) now knows that many US sanctions are not covered by the agreement and will continue. However, growing majorities continue to believe incorrectly that Iranian military sites cannot be inspected under any conditions. A majority also believes that the US has agreed to not impose new sanctions to replace the ones that were removed as part of the nuclear deal. 6. Expectations of Economic Benefits Three in five Iranians expect that the nuclear deal will eventually result in improvements in their own economic well-being. This sentiment is shared by a majority of those who support Rouhani’s critics in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Majorities expect to see, within a year, better access to medical products from abroad, more foreign investment, and significant improvements in unemployment and the overall economy, though these majorities have declined from August 2015. 7. The Nuclear Deal’s Effect on Iran’s Foreign Relations A large majority of Iranians thinks that Iran’s relations with European countries have already improved as a result of the nuclear deal, but only one in three thinks Iran’s relations with the United States have improved. 8. Views of US Cooperation in the Nuclear Deal Six in ten Iranians are not confident that the US will live up to its obligations under the nuclear agreement and do not think the US will accept other countries cooperating with Iran’s civilian nuclear sector, as provided for under the deal. Half assume the US will use pressure and sanctions to extract more concessions from Iran—up from only a quarter in August 2015. 9. Views of the Nuclear Program Just as in past years, four in five Iranians see the development of an Iranian nuclear program as very important, and three in four see this program as being for purely peaceful purposes. Four in five continue to favor the idea of a Middle East nuclear-free zone that would require all countries in the Middle East, including Israel, not to have nuclear weapons. 10. Iran’s Involvement in Syria and Fighting ISIS Large majorities of Iranians approve of Iran being involved in Syria and strongly support countering ISIS, preserving Iran’s influence in the region, and countering Saudi, American, and Israeli influence. Overwhelming majorities approve of Iran fighting ISIS directly. Large majorities also approve of Iran supporting Shiite and Kurdish groups fighting ISIS and providing support to Iranian allies in the region. Strengthening the Assad government gets more modest support and is seen as a secondary goal for Iran. Two in three Iranians approve of sending Iranian military personnel to help Assad fight against armed Syrian rebels, including ISIS. 11. Views of US Involvement in Syria A large majority of Iranians disapproves of US involvement in Syria. US involvement in Syria is widely perceived as being primarily motivated by a desire to topple the Assad government, to increase US influence and power in the region, to protect Israeli and Saudi interests, and to decrease Iran’s influence and power in the region. Views are divided about whether the United States is seeking to protect Syrian civilians, to end the conflict, to prevent the conflict from spreading, or to fight ISIS. A modest majority says US efforts against ISIS are not at all sincere. A bare majority supports direct cooperation with the United States to counter ISIS in Iraq. 12. Views of Other Nations Involved in Syria Large majorities of Iranians approve of the involvement in Syria of Russia and Hezbollah, and seven in ten express confidence that Russia’s efforts against ISIS are sincerely motivated. However, large majorities disapprove of the involvement in Syria of Turkey, France, and, especially, Saudi Arabia. Large majorities say that the Saudis’ efforts against ISIS are insincere; views of the sincerity of the efforts by Turkey and France are less negative. A large majority has a negative view of Saudi efforts to create a coalition against terrorism, primarily because Saudi Arabia is seen as a supporter of ISIS. 13. International Collaboration on Syria and ISIS Despite their suspicions of other countries operating in the region, eight in ten Iranians approve of Iran participating in the international talks on the conflict in Syria. Of those who know about the Vienna agreement, seven in ten approve of it. 14. Views of Other Countries Iranians view their country’s allies, notably Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Hezbollah, favorably, and view Saudi Arabia and Turkey increasingly unfavorably. Views of Russia and China are generally favorable and have improved considerably over time. Western countries, with the exception of Germany, are viewed unfavorably, with Britain and the US viewed negatively by large majorities in Iran. In contrast, a majority has a favorable opinion of the American people.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism, Geopolitics, ISIS, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Britain, Russia, United States, China, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Nilsu Gören
  • Publication Date: 09-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Beyond its history of military coups and incomplete civilian oversight of its armed forces, Turkey has struggled with defining an independent international security policy. Its perception of U.S./NATO security guarantees has historically shaped its decision to either prioritize collective defense or seek solutions in indigenous or regional security arrangements. As part its domestic political transformation during the past decade, Turkey has decreased its reliance on NATO, leading to questions among observers about Turkey’s future strategic orientation away from the West. This brief argues that Turkey’s strategic objectives have indeed evolved in the recent past and that this is apparent in the mismatch between the country’s general security policy objectives and the outcomes of its policies on nuclear issues. At present, nuclear weapons do not serve a compelling function in Turkish policymakers’ thinking, beyond the country’s commitment to the status quo in NATO nuclear policy. Since nuclear deterrence is secondary to conventional deterrence, Turkey’s policies on nuclear issues are predominantly shaped by non-nuclear considerations. These decisions, in the absence of careful consideration of nuclear weapons, increase nuclear risks. This brief explores how Turkey could formulate more effective and lower risk nuclear policies than it currently does by employing cooperative security measures and how such a reorientation could strengthen to its overall security policy in the process.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Turkey, Asia