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William Hale, on geography and international politics

William Hale: Turkish Foreign Policy 1774-2000

Having published The political and economic development of modern Turkey (in 1981) and Turkish politics and the military (in 1994), William Hale, the former head of the Political and International Studies department at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, decided, in the late 1990s, to focus his research on Turkey's international relations. The result was Turkish Foreign Policy 1774-2000, touted by Foreign Affairs as "fully rounded diplomatic history at its best".

Though it opens with the late 18th century and closes with the beginning of the 21st, Hale's book covers the history of Ottoman diplomacy in a single 30-page sweep, as if in a hurry to delve into the story of the Turkish Republic. Hale doesn't altogether forsake or ignore the Ottoman legacy, however. Instead, he highlights several elements of continuity in Turkey's foreign policy across the ages linking the Empire's "balance of power" politics with Cold War Turkey's "status quo" posture, to cite one example, and highlighting the impact of Turkey's geographical position on its international relations.

"Turkey is the only state, apart from Russia, with territory in both Europe and Asia, and is affected by and affects international politics in both south-eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, in Transcaucasia and the southern regions of the former Soviet Union, and in the northern part of the Middle East. Historically, Turkey's most strategically significant asset has been its control of the straits of Dardanelles and Bosporus, on which Russia had depended for direct maritime access to the Mediterranean, and the only route through which Britain, France and later the United States could challenge Russia in the Black Sea (or try to assist it, during the First World War). […] The fact that Turkey's geographical position is one in which the interests of several great powers intersect has also given its foreign policy-makers a degree of flexibility not open to states which are likely to be dominated by a single great power (the case of Mexico and the United States being an obvious example)."

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