Having failed to establish a unipolar world order, the United States could not determine its course in the post-Cold War era. During her tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said the United States would shift its focus from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region. Due to the status of the United States as a hegemonic power on the international stage, this was certainly a major change in foreign policy, which would have serious implications for international politics as a whole.
Change, however, was inevitable given China’s rise as an economic superpower. After the end of the Second World War, Britain and France, although they were the victors of the war, lost their dominance in international politics. France’s political influence was limited to its former colonies in North Africa, while Britain had to content itself with taxing Commonwealth countries.
Later, European dominance in international politics would be replaced by American dominance. During the Cold War era, the United States intervened in the domestic politics of its allies through NATO, which subjected its member states to American domination. With the end of the Cold War, the European powers lost their importance as independent actors in world politics. Now, the major European powers no longer have the ability to intervene, let alone resolve, the crisis in Ukraine that has emerged under their noses.
Iran, Russia and Turkey
In the current multipolar international order, three countries have entered the world stage: Iran, Russia and Turkey. However, Iran quickly died out due to its aggressive and expansionist foreign policy. Certainly, the long-standing international embargo on Iran has greatly contributed to this process of exhaustion. As Iran gradually retreats into its own shell, Russia and Turkey have already begun to fill the void in the Middle East.
When the Syrian crisis erupted, the United States was seen as the unrivaled hegemon of international politics. When the United States focused on the Asia-Pacific region, its presence in the Middle East became problematic. During Barack Obama’s presidency, the US opted for Iran over Turkey, one of its key NATO allies in the region. These foreign policy changes not only sparked Iran’s imperialist aspirations, but also allowed Russia to return to the world stage. As American hegemony in the Middle East crumbled, Russia emerged as one of the dominant powers in the region. During the Syrian crisis, Russia became aware of the continuing disorder between the Western powers. Defying NATO, Russia succeeded in imposing its conditions on Ukraine. The emergence of Russia as the dominant military power in the Middle East and Eastern Europe has been an irrevocable development.
Turkey’s new status
Although a member of NATO, Turkey adopted a multilateral and multidimensional foreign policy attitude during the post-Cold War era. Even though the interests of Turkey and Russia clashed on a number of issues, Ankara managed to establish long-lasting cooperation with Moscow. Unable to accept the new post-Cold War dynamics, the United States failed to recognize Turkey’s emergence as a regional power, treating the country as its subordinate rather than its equal ally.
Turkey’s new status in international politics has been highlighted in three regional crises. During Libya’s civil war, Turkey backed the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) against coup leader General Khalifa Haftar. Despite being backed by Russia, France, Egypt and Greece, Haftar’s forces failed to overthrow the legitimate Turkish-backed government. If the United States took Turkey’s side, political stability and peace could be established in Libya.
During the Syrian crisis, Turkey managed to hold its ground despite being left alone by its NATO allies. In the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey has set its terms against a number of countries using its military and diplomatic prowess. The United States understood the problems of the Greek solution to transfer gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. If the United States cooperated with Turkey, these crises in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean could be resolved and Washington could play a role in bringing lasting peace and stability to the region. However, it seems that the United States is still far from appreciating the new post-Cold War dynamics, including Turkey’s emergence as a regional power.