Turkey in the mediterranean during the interwar era



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TURKEY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN DURING THE INTERWAR ERA:


THE PARADOX OF MIDDLE POWER DIPLOMACY AND MINOR POWER NAVAL POLICY

By
Dilek Barlas, Ph.D

Associate Professor of History

Koc University, İstanbul, Turkey

dbarlas@ku.edu.tr

Serhat Güvenç, Ph.D

Associate Professor of International Relations

İstanbul Bilgi University, İstanbul, Turkey

serhatg@bilgi.edu.tr
Rev: 28 June 2010

CONTENTS


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

LIST OF TABLES

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

INTRODUCTION

1. DEFINING AND SITUATING MIDDLE POWERS IN CONTEXT:

THE INTERWAR TURKEY

Middle Powers in Perspective

The European States System in the Interwar Era: Transformed or Terminated?

Turkey as a Middle Power: A Status Inherited or Earned?
2. BUILDING A VIABLE STATE: DIPLOMACY AND FORCE

Transforming the Instruments of Force: The Army and the Navy

Inaugurating a Republican Diplomatic Service

3. TURKEY’S SECURITY DILEMMA: BUILDING A NAVY

International Constraints: Naval Disarmament

Domestic Constraints: Inter-service Rivalry German Influence Revived? Subsidized Submarines and Naval Instructors

4. MANAGING THE ITALIAN THREAT IN THE MEDITERRANEAN Italy as a Potential Menace in the Mediterranean
5. BREAKING OUT OF INTERNATIONAL ISOLATION: THE MEDITERRANEAN

ORIGINS


Italian-Turkish Naval Arms Trade
6. A MIDDLE POWER WITH EUROPEAN CREDENTIALS

(Re)Admission into European States System


7. A MIDDLE POWER AT WORK: THE BALKAN ENTENTE The Balkan Predicaments

Turkish Diplomatic Activism and Leadership


8. IN SEARCH OF A WIDER ROLE: THE MEDITERRANEAN DIMENSION Renewed Italian “Menace” in the Mediterranean

Mediterranean Pact: Prospects and Limits

9. THE MEDITERRANEAN AND BEYOND

10. RELUCTANT NAVAL ACTIVISM IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

Piracy in the Mediterranean and the Nyon Conference

CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS


ADM Admiralty

ASMAE Archivio Storico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri

BCA T. C. Başbakanlık Cumhuriyet Arşivi

BOA T.C. Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi

FO Foreign Office

GNP Gross National Product

MEA Ministère des Affaires Etrangères

NARA National Archives and Records Administration

RG Record Group

PRO Public Records Office

SHM Service Historique de la Marine

SMS Seiner Majestat Schiff

TBMM Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi (Grand National Assembly of Turkey)

TCG Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Gemisi

UN United Nations

US The United States

USS United States Ship

LIST OF TABLES
Description Page
Table 1 – Middle Powers of Europe ……………………….

To our parents


Ferhan Barlas and Gürbüz Barlas
Mesrure Güvenç and Süreyya Güvenç

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
When we set out to this journey, we knew our road would be a long one, but not without company. Along the way, we have enjoyed generous support and sympathy of friends, colleagues and family members, and acquired institutional debts, all of which we wish now to acknowledge.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Professors Michael Geyer, Robert Dankoff and Presanjit Duara who made possible our research for this book at the University of Chicago. We also owe a special debt to Dr. Fariba Zarinebaf (now at the University of California at Riverside) and Rita Koryan (CICS, Northwestern University) for making us feel home at Chicago. We should express our heart-felt thanks to our dear friends, Professor Alexis Papadopoulos (De Paul University), Professor Karen Barkey (Columbia University); and Noha Forster, Klara Abravaya and Haim Abravaya in Chicago; and Oya Bain and Ralph Bain in Washington D.C., whose hospitality and kindness we depended on in various stages of our research.

We should also mention the names of Professor Halil İnalcık (Bilkent University), Professor Feroz Ahmad (Yeditepe University), Professor Ziya Öniş (Koç University), Professor Gareth Winrow (Oxford University), Professor Zafer Toprak (Boğaziçi University) and Dr. Fabio Grassi (Yıldız Technical University) who have been sources of valuable academic advice and encouragement. Professor Sami Gülgöz (Dean of College of Social Sciences and Humanities) deserves special thanks for his friendly and professional support. Dilek Barlas wishes to acknowledge Professor Ersin Yurtsever (Dean of Faculty of Sciences-Humanities and Letters, Koç University) for supporting her request for sabbatical leave to begin writing this book.

We could not have done research required for writing this book without access to the following institutions: the Suna Kıraç Library of Koç University, the Regenstein Library of the University of Chicago, the Evanston Library of Northwestern University, Center for International and Comparative Studies (CICS) at Northwestern University, T.C. Başbakanlık Arşivleri in Ankara, the Public Record Office in Kew Gardens, , the Archives of the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (Quai d’Orsay) and of Service Historique de la Marine Château de at Vincennes in Paris, Archivio Storico Diplomatico the Ministero degli Affari Esteri in Rome, and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Maryland.

Last, but not the least, we are grateful to our daughter, Deniz Ceren, for her patience with the long hours we spent away from home to finish this book.

Rumelifeneri, December 2009




INTRODUCTION
The present work is a product of more than a decade of research undertaken individually or collectively by its authors in various diplomatic and military/naval archives in Turkey, Britain, France, Italy and the United States. Drawing on the same research, the authors have already published co-authored or single-author articles in various international and Turkish journals on Turkish foreign policy in the interwar period. Such works have, in principle, focused on lesser known and understudied aspects of the Turkish foreign policy of the period, including relations with Italy, naval policy and the arms trade, and diplomatic activism in the Balkans and the Mediterranean.

The interwar period is again the time-frame for the present work, while the Mediterranean, including the Balkans, provides the geographical background against which we try to analyze Turkish diplomatic and naval activism. There is a wealth of publications on interwar Turkish foreign policy. However, most of these works usually address bilateral relations with the great powers and/or neighbors,1 or specific issues such as the Montreux Convention2 or the Sanjak of Alexandretta.3 As most of these works have a relatively narrow focus, they usually stop short of providing a coherent understanding or general conception of Turkish foreign policy in the interwar period.

It has to be granted that a number of factors make such a venture remarkably difficult for students and scholars of Turkish foreign policy. First, the interwar period was a period of international transition. By definition, international transitions tend to be periods of uncertainty which do not lend themselves to clear-cut explanations. Another factor that renders a coherent understanding difficult is Turkish attempt for transformation. During the period under examination, Turkey was undergoing a far-reaching and transformative reform process. The pursuit of a fresh start with the advent of the Republic represented the deliberate choice of a clear break with the Ottoman past or heritage which Republican decision-makers often considered a burden on their new country. The Turkish transformation and its attendant domestic and international challenges caused ups and downs or inconsistencies in the country’s foreign policy. Finally, inaccessibility of Turkish diplomatic and military/naval archives of the time explains in part why diplomatic historians have shied away from attempting to offer a general conception of Turkish foreign policy in the interwar period.4

Those who claim to provide such a general conception usually tend to extrapolate their conclusions from previous or later phases in Ottoman/Turkish diplomatic experiences. For instance, according to Davison, the foreign policy of the new republic featured a profound continuity with the Ottoman era both in style and in execution. He argued:”At times it looked as if Kemal [Atatürk] was the most apt pupil of the nineteenth century Ottoman diplomats who tried to find solutions by playing one Power against another.”5 He drew this conclusion from the conduct of Turkish diplomacy in the formative years of the republic while the new rulers were struggling to secure international endorsement of Turkey’s sovereign equality among the nations at peace conferences. Writing on the conduct of Turkish diplomacy under equally challenging conditions of the Second World War, Weiseband6, Weber7 and Deringil8 conclude that the Turkish diplomats nearly excelled in the act and game of diplomatic balancing in their dealings with the Axis and Allied powers during the Second World War.

Arguing that the republican diplomatic practices remained largely unchanged from the Ottoman period disregards an important lesson the republican diplomats drew on the nineteenth century experience. The diplomacy of balancing might have helped the Ottomans save the day but it eventually failed to secure the empire’s independence. The republican diplomats were, hence, well aware of the limits of balancing as a foreign policy strategy.9 The evidence from the interwar era shows that they did not intend to repeat the mistakes of their Ottoman predecessors.

While balancing is regarded as one of the hallmarks of Turkish foreign policy in such accounts, other accounts point to lack of initiatives or activism in Turkish foreign policy. Since Atatürk’s motto of “peace at home, peace in world” was translated into a foreign policy strategy that was focused on preserving what was in hand rather expanding territorially, inactivity or neutrality is generally attributed to this professed lack of territorial ambitions.10 Defining Turkish foreign policy as devoid of activism is equally questionable as is identifying balancing as its strategy of choice throughout the interwar years. Though, it should be granted that the Ottoman diplomats and their republican successors shared one common objective: security through international recognition or acceptance. In short, like the Ottoman Empire, the new Turkey sought admission into the European states system.11

Hence, what Turkish diplomats inherited from the Ottomans was more in terms of foreign policy objectives than in diplomatic styles. In other words, the element of continuity did not lie in the practice of balancing but in the pursuit of admission into the European states system. In this pursuit, Turkish foreign policy was neither isolationist nor did its diplomacy rely solely on a strategy of balancing in the entire interwar period. There may be a certain degree of continuity in the late Ottoman and early Turkish thinking on the nature of the international system.12 However, Turkish statesmen adopted a different strategy to avoid the trappings and failures of the Ottomans. Committed to the status quo, we argue, Turkish diplomacy gradually grew activist and was principally geared towards bridging rather than balancing. The scope of its diplomatic activism backed by its modest naval power also expanded from the Balkans to the Mediterranean in the process.

Based on primary sources available in a number of foreign diplomatic and military/naval archives, our main purpose in this book is to explore the link and interaction between Turkey’s diplomatic efforts for regional political cooperation and its efforts to build a larger coalition in the Mediterranean to help preserve the post-war European order. Despite the inherent uncertainties of the period and inconsistencies in Turkish policies, Turkey exhibited many diplomatic attributes of a middle power after 1930. It should be noted that there is as yet no evidence to show that Turkish statesmen or diplomats ever defined their country as a “middle power.”13 On the contrary, they were committed to the principle of equality of all states in the international system. They avoided representations that might imply an international hierarchy of states.14 They frequently defined their international status in behavioral rather than hierarchical terms. US diplomatic papers mention, for instance, that Foreign Minister Tevfik Rüştü Aras talked of a “new class of states” that was trying new methods in the conduct of their foreign policies in 1930. And included among the new class of states was, of course, Turkey.15

Therefore, the present study begins with a discussion of the concept of middle power, its alternative definitions as well as various cases of middle power diplomacy. Moreover, an alternative (or a complementary) definition, “regional great power,” is also taken into consideration in judging Turkish foreign policy in the interwar years. At this point, Turkey is compared to one of its contemporaries, Poland, in terms of style and substance of its foreign policy. We then look at works which define Turkey as a middle power at different periods by employing different measures for middle power status.

We also argue that the Balkans and the Black Sea constitute integral parts of the Mediterranean and were considered as such in Turkish diplomacy during the period under review here.16 In sum, we treat the Balkan Peninsula and the Black Sea as sub-regions of the Mediterranean. Turkish diplomatic activism, though largely concentrated on and relatively more effective in the two sub-regions, featured a profound and wider Mediterranean dimension, particularly from the mid-1930s onwards. Moreover, primacy of the Mediterranean in Turkey’s international normalization owed to a great deal to normalization of its relations with two Mediterranean countries first, namely Italy and Greece. It should also be borne in mind that it was the relative success of Turkish diplomatic activism in the early 1930s in the Balkans that paved the way for Turkey acting as a middle power in the second half of the 1930s. Only after that phase did Turkey seek to project its enhanced status on to the Mediterranean scene in order to promote multilateral arrangements to preserve peace and stability in Europe.

In the process of carrying out our intentions, we also focus on key features of the early post-war world order as well as its attendant uncertainties. We, thus, attempt to understand analytically the new international configuration of power and emerging international institutions so that we can locate within this new international context a Turkey which was a power in transition, gradually evolved from a dismembered empire into a new republic. Having inherited the geographical core of the Empire, the leaders and institutions of the Republic had to tackle the old security problems of a territory under-populated by the European standards of the time in the 1920s and 1930s. The loss of population seems to have amounted to a much greater security challenge in the minds of the republican leaders. Hence, Turkey had to come to terms with its new international position as a power of lesser degree than the Ottoman Empire.

Therefore, Chapter 1, which is the analytical chapter, attempts to conceptualize interwar Turkey as a middle power. We begin with a survey of different interpretations of middle power status in international relations theory, from Martin Wright’s and Carlsted Holbraad’s more conventional, power-centered approach to behavioral interpretations of middle power foreign policy as in the works of Andrew F. Cooper, Richard A. Higgot and Kim Nossal. This chapter then moves on to interwar period to assess if or to what extent the conditions that normally favor middle power activism existed. It points to the absence of leadership from more traditional resources, which provides middle powers with ample latitude for initiatives and activism. We then provide a short critic of the emerging middle power strand in studies of Turkish foreign policy, particularly Hale’s and Oran’s recent contributions to the field.17 This chapter concludes with a discussion of interwar Turkey’s middle power credentials both in conventional and behavioral terms. The case of Poland is introduced to the discussion to illustrate the divergence between foreign policy choices of two comparably located actors in the international hierarchy. The difference in two states’ behavior is explained in terms of their differing paths to middle power status, their geographic proximity to great powers and finally the size of their populations.

Chapter 2 analyzes the roles ascribed initially to force in securing the survival of the new state and their ramifications on domestic politics. Although it inherited the geographical core of the Empire, the Republic had to come to terms with its new international status as a power of far lesser degree than its imperial predecessor. Moreover, the Ottoman diplomatic experience suggested clearly to the new rulers that conventional self-help strategies had compromised the Ottoman sovereignty and independence. In this chapter, we look at the elements of institutional and ideational continuity and change in Turkish diplomacy from the Ottoman era. The Ottoman experience served as a constant reminder of the limitations and failures of conventional self-help strategies for survival. Consequently, the Turkish attempt to unburden itself of the Ottoman past, thus, featured a new thinking on alternative methods and strategies to avoid diplomatic trappings of the Empire. The perceived fragility of the new regime was yet another source of insecurity. Moreover, in creating means of defense and diplomacy, institutions had to be carefully re-crafted to prevent their use by domestic opposition.

Chapter 3 focuses on the international implications of Turkish re-arming efforts, particularly the rejuvenation of its navy for a number of reasons. First, the self-help strategy Turkey initially adopted required accumulation of military, air and naval power. This in turn pronounced Turkey’s status as an international outcast, indicating a security dilemma of a different sort and order. Second, the naval rejuvenation included re-commissioning of the notorious SMS Goeben (later Yavuz), a battlecruiser that was regarded as “the curse over the Orient” for its association with the Ottoman Empire’s entry to the First World War.18 Third, the recruitment of former German naval officers as advisors for the rejuvenation of the navy set the seal on Turkey’s international image as a power poised to challenge the post-War European order. Fourth, since the Mediterranean would soon become the key geographical focus of Turkish diplomacy, its naval power would be counted upon in regional issues as a functional lever.

Chapter 4 discusses gradual normalization of Turkey’s relations with Italy as a result of their shared frustration with the existing international system in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It begins with an account of how Fascist Italy’s policies initially heightened Turkish sense of insecurity. Then, it identifies their frustration over lack of international recognition and French policies as factors that brought these two countries closer. In the process, Turkey’s image in Italy changed from a political entity with questionable viability to a potential proxy in the Mediterranean power game. This last point also suggests a potential for tension in their relations, as Turkey did not seek a great power patron. Around the same time, Ankara and Athens began to mend fences and built foundations of a bi-lateral relationship that would contribute to Turkey’s international normalization. Therefore, this chapter will conclude with a discussion on the early manifestations of departure from balancing strategies in Turkish foreign policy.

Chapter 5 provides an account of international normalization of Turkey by improving its diplomatic and naval relations with Greece and Italy in the Mediterranean. In this regard, we argue that the process acquired additional momentum with Italian policies which generated unintended consequences. For instance, Rome’s expectation to create an Italian-led regional alliance paradoxically facilitated Turkey’s international normalization. Failing to grasp that Turkey’s frustration from the existing international system did not necessarily entail a revisionist stand, Italy attempted to lure Turkey into its orbit by exploiting the latter’s international isolation. However, Italian policy was counter-productive. First, Italian-supported Turkish-Greek rapprochement took a life of its own and would then form the cornerstone of a larger Balkan cooperation. Second, Italian sponsorship of Turkey in international and European settings was meant to undermine French initiatives and influence, yet Turkey was drawn closer the European states system as a result.

The processes through which Turkey acquired qualifications of a middle power in functional and identity terms are examined in Chapter 6. Functionally, Turkey managed to build a modest, but modern and credible naval capability. Also functionally, its diplomacy adapted to new circumstances and turned the Ottoman heritage into an advantage to promote regional cooperation. Finally, Turkey’s diplomatic pursuit of admission to European states system included a bid for “European” identity. In this last respect, another Mediterranean state, Greece, merits particular attention for its support to Turkey’s inclusion into the two ill-fated European union proposals of the interwar era. Although these proposals did not bear tangible results, they helped Turkey gain half-hearted yet formal recognition of its European credentials. This, in turn, cleared its way into the European states system and eventually into the League of Nations, a development which marked the end of Turkey’s “outcast” status.

Chapter 7 is an operational chapter which focuses on the Balkans where Turkey stepped in to fill the leadership vacuum particularly after the 1929 World Economic Crisis. It addresses the dynamics of Turkey’s enhanced regional status. Such enhancement did not only stem from Turkey’s growing physical capacity to provide regional leadership, but also from the success of its diplomacy in turning Turkey’s image around in the Balkans. Preoccupied with home affairs as a result of the adverse effects of the World Economic Crisis of 1929, traditional leaders left the Balkans to their own devices. This left ample room for leadership from powers of lesser degrees in the region. Despite the primacy of economic concerns, various proposals for Balkan economic cooperation remained futile. This prompted Ankara to switch to political cooperation with continued Greek support. Turkish diplomatic activism reached its peak after Turkey’s admission to the League of Nations in 1932. Turkish diplomats made frequent visits to Balkan capitals in pursuit of “other-help” strategies. They made extensive use of Turkish naval ships, including the battlecruiser Yavuz, as their preferred means of transportation for their visits. In the end, the Balkans proved to be amenable to middle power activism as it consisted of like-minded (pro-status quo) states of more or less comparable strength. As a result, the Balkan Entente was concluded by Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia and Romania in 1934. The major success of Turkish diplomacy lay in that it secured a managerial role for Turkey in a region where previous alliances had been assembled against the Ottoman Empire. This can also be regarded as the phase when Turkey consolidated its status as a regional power or regional great power.

Chapter 8 brings Italy back into the discussion in line with Mussolini’s increasingly vocal demands for territorial expansion towards Asia and Africa. It discusses various Mediterranean pact proposals which were picked up by Turkish diplomacy in search of security. In terms of foreign policy strategy, Ankara embarked on bridging rather than balancing or bandwagoning. For instance, it contemplated an arrangement that would link the Balkan Entente and the proposed Mediterranean pact, including Britain and France. Its motivation was to complement collective security regime of the League of Nations. Turkish diplomatic activism worked in tandem with endeavors to strengthen the navy in response to Italian revisionism. Turkish appeals for diplomatic and naval cooperation in the Mediterranean did not strike a chord with Britain, the strongest of all Mediterranean powers, at this stage.

Chapter 9 addresses the Mediterranean as a target for Turkish diplomatic and, to a lesser extent, naval activism from the mid- to late-1930s. An account of Turkish efforts is provided here to show structural constraints on middle powers around the case of the Abyssinian Crisis. The Crisis itself reaffirmed the weaknesses of the whole League system. In addition to Turkey’s limited resources, the absence of like-minded and comparably-ranked actors was a major impediment to achieving results by diplomatic activism. In this respect, the Mediterranean stood in stark contrast to the Balkans. While the former was marked by an absence of leadership from traditional sources, the latter had witnessed contenting claims for leadership by France, Italy and Britain who preferred to deal with each other on balance of power terms. Therefore, Turkey failed to use its regional pre-eminence in the Balkans to claim a managerial role on a larger scale in the Mediterranean. This period of attempted middle power activism drew to a close with the Turkish demand for revision in the demilitarized status of the Straits in 1936. It was followed by shift to a more conventional diplomatic strategy of balancing against Italy.

The final chapter discusses the reasons for the change in Turkish foreign policy and strategy on the eve of the Second World War. While Turkey came to terms with structural constraints on its diplomacy and naval policy in the Mediterranean, it began to lose its Balkan partners one by one to great power patrons. Their return to self-help strategies inevitably forced Ankara to reconsider its policy of avoiding alliance relationships with great powers as well. As a middle power committed to the status quo, Turkey was prone to side with Britain and France. Only one issue stood before such rapprochement. That was the future status of Alexandretta. The issue indeed offers an interesting case that supports the argument that middle power foreign policy may feature “a health does of self-interest” despite its emphasis on “good international citizenship.”19 After this stumbling block was removed, Britain, France and Turkey concluded a treaty for security against Italian threat. This treaty marked the end of the middle power diplomacy era for Turkey.

In terms of sources used, as stated above, the present work draws on diplomatic and naval documents mostly from Italy, Britain, France and the United States. Our request to have access to Turkish foreign ministry archives for the period under study was not granted, as they were not yet made available for private research. Nevertheless, we have also attempted to take advantage of Turkey’s increasingly liberalized archive-access policies for the Presidential Archives and Prime Ministry Archives in Ankara. Both proved very valuable sources in verifying information from foreign archives. Archive documents are supplemented by official publications and the published memoirs of Turkish and foreign statesmen, diplomats, intellectuals, military and naval officers.


1. DEFINING AND SITUATING MIDDLE POWERS IN CONTEXT:

THE INTERWAR TURKEY
Middle Powers in Perspective
The concept of middle power has gained currency in international relations since the end of the Cold War. One explanation for the recent popularity of this concept may possibly be the absence of sufficient number of great powers or superpowers, the traditional subjects of study in international relations. In contrast, there is growing number of important powers of lesser degrees. The term “middle powers” captures both their significance at regional and/or global levels and their status as secondary or inferior to great powers or superpowers20 or emerging hyperpowers.21

Although the label of middle power has been quite liberally used to describe a plethora of actors which, one way or another, have mattered regionally and/or globally, there is as yet no consensus on the definition of middle powers.22 For instance, Wright offered the following definition:


“... a middle power is a power with such military strength, resources and strategic position that in peacetime the great powers bid for its support, and in wartime, while it has no hope of winning a war against a great power, it can hope to inflict costs on a great power out of proportion to what the great power can hope to gain by attacking it.”23

It is possible to talk about a number of different approaches in situating middle powers within a context. The first approach defines middle powers in terms of their position in the international power hierarchy. This rather conventional approach takes into consideration quantifiable factors such as area, population, geographic area, military capability or capacity, economic size and rate of economic growth.24 According to Holbraad, middle powers are “states that are weaker than the great powers in the system but significantly stronger than minor powers and small states with which normally interact.”25 This approach may also be called the statistical approach.26

The second, yet less employed, approach tends to view middle power status as a function of a state’s geographic position. As such, a middle power is one that is located “in the middle” of the great powers in the system. A Cold War derivative of the idea focuses on a position between the two superpowers that is ideological rather than geographical. By definition, such middle powers possess at least potentially ability to perform bridging function between their great power neighbors.27

The third approach identifies middle powers on a normative basis. It is therefore suggested that middle powers are “potentially more trustworthy as they can exert diplomatic influence without likelihood of recourse to force”.28 In addition, due to their past roles in major conflicts on the side of the “right” or “good”, they regard themselves as having earned certain rights and proved that they do not shy away from their responsibilities in the establishment and preservation of global order. Hence they stake a claim to moral high ground in international relations. For instance, middle powers like Australia and Canada tried to justify their demands for representation in the UN Security Council on such moral grounds in the past.

At this point, the normative stand blends with functional definition of middle power which rests on “capacity to use [power] for the maintenance of peace.” In a similar frame of mind, the term “security powers” was coined to emphasize the link between the use of force and the preservation of peace. In this definition, not only the capacity but also the will to use force to resist aggressors is taken into account.29 However, the evidence to support the middle powers’ claim to moral high ground as guardians of international order is weak at best. Historically, middle powers have not made reliable guardians. Occasionally, they have even played destabilizing roles when their weights were sufficient to affect the balance of power.30

A fourth approach, which is also called ‘functional’ or ‘behavioral’ approach, focuses less on moral aspects but more on a particular style of behavior in international relations which is considered the hallmark of “middlepowermanship.” In practical terms, this approach defines middle powers primarily by their behavior that is marked by pursuit of multilateral solutions to international problems and adherence to compromise positions in international disputes and last, but not least, adherence to the notion of “good international citizenship” to guide their foreign policy. However, even the chief proponents of this view, Cooper, Higgot and Nossal, grant that this kind of middle power behavior is not completely devoid of “healthy doses of self-interest” either.31

Finally, there is a political economy derivative of the fourth approach. Framed in a statistical definition of ‘middle powers,’ it confronts the normative definitions of middle power and revolves, instead, around the concept of ‘statecraft’ in situating middle powers. Correspondingly, Ping identifies statecraft as “an ever-changing act … which will continue to match itself to suit the changing environment within which it is practiced. The specific act is the creation and recreation of the state.”32 This represents an extension of ‘functional’ or ‘behavioral’ approach with an apparent shift of geographic focus away from ‘traditional’ middle powers.

In this book, we rely on the ‘functional’ or ‘behavioral’ approach introduced by Cooper, Higgot and Nossal in analyzing Turkish diplomatic activism in the Mediterranean during the interwar years. Therefore, we should begin with an examination of typical attributes of middle power behavior from this perspective. First, the middle powers are noted for their tendency to seeking like-minded and comparably situated states in the international hierarchy. In other words, middle powers are partners of choice for each other in building coalitions. Such coalitions are expected to contribute to the “growth and health of international institutions.” As a corollary to this, multilateralism is the preferred means of advancing their foreign policy interests, inter alia, “for reasons of enlightened self-interest: in order to maximize parochial interests that could not be advanced alone.”33 Middle powers are also considered to have a vested interest in collective security due to their intermediate position. This interest is an inevitable outcome of the mismatch between their relatively large size, coveted resources and strategic importance and their means to defend the former. This mismatch turns them into reliable partners in international organizations.34

However, security is not the most promising venue for middle powers to build coalitions. In other words, the leadership potential of middle powers is much more constrained in this realm where military capabilities ultimately define the formation and composition of alliances.35 In this realm, the middle power coalition-building associated with multilateralism has another side. This is “the passive and largely reactive role of follower... Middle powers may be active leaders in coalition-building, but they are just as willing to have multilateral coalitions ‘built on them’”.36

In this context, the case of Turkey in the interwar era supports strongly both patterns of middle power coalition-building. In 1934, Ankara assumed a leadership role in assembling a regional military alliance, the Balkan Entente that included Greece, Romania, Yugoslavia and Turkey.37 On the other hand, Turkey’s reaction to the Abyssinian Crisis in 1935-1936 and its position at the Nyon Conference in 1937 fits the pattern which Cooper, Higgot and Nossal identify for middle powers like Canada and Australia. In 1991, both countries followed the United States lead in the coalition to respond to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

During the interwar crises, Turkey was equally responsive even to a more reluctant and reserved British leadership in the cases mentioned above. Having taken place nearly 65 years apart from each other, the similarity in the followers’ behavior can be linked partly to their shared concern for upholding the norm of territorial integrity and for securing the highest possible number of subscribers to this norm by joining the coalition. Moreover, for Turkey and Australia, upholding territorial integrity did not reflect only a normative concern. Their behaviors were also conditioned by their historical experiences of occupation or threat of occupation by foreign powers. While the Turks witnessed the Allied occupation and its consequences after the First World War, the Australians endured the threat of Japanese invasion during the Second World War.38

In such coalitions “built on them”, middle powers are prone to remain committed to the coalition, despite the fact that their role in the coalition would be secondary or peripheral in the larger game and that they were probably uncomfortable with the idea of committing their forces to the actual battle.39 Although this generalization draws on again the Canadian and Australian experiences, Ankara’s reluctance to commit naval units to international patrols in the Mediterranean after the Nyon Agreement in 1937 lends further credence to this argument. The dilemma of middle powers as followers in coalitions built and led by powers of higher degrees is summarized by Cooper, Higgot and Nossal as follows:

“For followership in coalition-building creates a dynamic for the followers that, once they have joined, binds them tightly to the preferences of the coalition’s leader. Once the leader has gathered a coalition around itself, it can radically alter the preferences of the coalition as a whole, relying on its subordinate power to keep its junior members with it, regardless of their preferences.”40

The level of development of international organizations is an element that may facilitate or hinder middle power activism. For instance, Cooper, referring to Cox, argues that attention should be paid to the evolution of middle power role in the context of dynamic historical processes linked to the development of international organizations.41 On the relationship between size and foreign policy goals, Cooper identifies middle powers as ardent supporters of the international system with an “impulse towards the creation and maintenance of world order.”42 Turkish middle power activism, hence, had to rely on relatively young and weak international institutions of the interwar era. Moreover, by the time Turkey was admitted, they already began to unravel.

In the absence of leadership from traditional sources, middle powers’ ability to assume high profile international roles may be contingent on the quality of their diplomacy. Building on the Australian and Canadian experiences after the end of the Cold War, Cooper, Higgot and Nossal43 argue that in the absence of leadership from a hegemonic power or of an agreement on the sharing of leadership responsibilities between the major economic powers, the vulnerability of the middle powers increases dramatically. In response to their increased vulnerability to the lack of leadership from traditional sources, secondary actors such as middle powers may step in to fill the leadership vacuum. Unlike the great powers, the secondary powers’ leadership and initiative draw largely on non-structural forms of power and influence including the quality of their diplomacy.44 Consequently, “middle power diplomacy, which is geared towards mitigation of conflict and building consensus and cooperation, can be as important as structural sources of leadership.”45

Grounded in a similar conceptual framework and drawing also on the Australian and Canadian cases, Ravenhill offers a definition that regards middle power status as a function of “capacity, concentration, creativity, coalition-building and credibility.”46 Accordingly, the capacity is related more to diplomacy than to physical or military capacity. In other words, a middle power is the one that possesses a highly developed diplomatic network in order to be able to convince others. Concentration refers to “niche diplomacy” which indicates that diplomatic attention is sufficiently narrowed down to several high-priority issues due to modest power resources available to middle powers. Creativity represents middle power’s ability to provide intellectual leadership and brokerage in diplomacy. Coalition-building stems from middle power’s intellectual leadership and brokerage function in bringing together like-minded states. Last, but not the least, credibility hinges on the middle power of “not being perceived to be the stalking horse for a weightier actor. “47

Finally, it may worth introducing a different but complementary method of identification of international actors into our discussion of middle powers. ”Great regional power” denotes yet another category of power in international politics. Although it is regarded as a category of its own, it is sometimes confused with, and used as being synonymous to the term middle power. For instance, Osterud argues that “however we define them, middle powers or regional great powers make an ambiguous category, with a rather arbitrary lower limit.”48 These two categories may not necessarily be mutually exclusive. “A regional great power may be a middle power in the global context... On the other hand, a middle power is not necessarily a great power regionally, since it may exist in the close and dominated vicinity of really great powers, or a number of powers aspiring to a leading regional role”49. By the same token, “[generally a middle power is defined within an international hierarchy of powers, while a regional great power is determined within a regional division of globe”.50 A regional great power “either has a dominant position within the regional hierarchy of states, or is party to a regional balance of power system – presumably able to defend itself against a coalition of other parties... It has a managerial role at the regional level. It balances other forces, maintains codes of conduct, stabilizes spheres of influence and polices unruly clients”51. The concept of ‘regional great power’ is particularly useful in assessing Turkey’s position within the Balkan regional context in the mid-1930s.
The European States System in the Interwar Era: Transformed or Terminated?
The degree of continuity in the European states system after the First World War remains a contested issue. To begin with, there is a view that the outbreak of the First World War spelled the end of the European states system that originated from the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The growing ideological rift in Europe gradually transformed the principal function of diplomacy from “a method of adjusting differences according to generally accepted rules” to “an additional means in pursuit of … total domination.”52 Such a transformation ruled out prospects for any states system to survive or emerge.

In the Hierarchy of States, on the hand, Ian Clark argues that the European states system survived the First World War, yet it ceased to be self-contained system. It then resembled a sub-system of an international order that was characterized by “concert without balance.” The dominant feature of this distinct form of international order was “an attempt to operate a highly formalised and institutionalised concert, namely the League of Nations, but as there was a fundamental disequilibrium in the system, the conditions for concert were not present and the actual practice of state bore little resemblance to the concert principles enshrined in the League.”53

Correspondingly, the interwar European order was marred by the lack of international political leadership from traditional sources. The American decision to stay out of the League of Nations accounted to a large extent for this lack of political leadership which had become even more accentuated by the World Economic Crisis of 1929. Hence, by the 1930s, international system offered nearly optimum conditions for emerging middle powers like Turkey to attempt to fill the leadership role with regional initiatives. The continued absence of international leadership at both political and economic levels by the end of the decade propelled Turkey into extending the scope of its diplomatic activism.

Moreover, contrary to the original expectations and desires of its intellectual fathers, the League of Nations failed to provide a viable alternative to the traditional great power management in international relations. An Italian delegate to the League of Nations confided that in the League he never saw a dispute of any importance settled otherwise than by an agreement between the great powers. The procedure of the League was “a system of detours, all of which lead to one or other of these two issues: agreement or disagreement between Great Britain, Italy, France and Germany”.54 Edward Carr pointed out that the earliest British and American drafts of the Covenant planned that membership of the Council of the League would be limited to the great powers. 55 According to Karl Polayni, the League of Nations was a product of the victorious powers of the First World War who pursued restoration of an enlarged and improved Concert of Europe system after the war. For that reason, he called the 1920s”the Conservative Twenties.”56

James Barros wrote in his book The Corfu Incident of 1923 that, throughout the interwar years, Britain and France approached the problems facing the League, including the Corfu crisis, within the context of their own conflicting interests and desires.57 In fact, the Corfu incident formed a good example to prove how France tried to involve the League Council in the solving of an international issue. In August 1923, the Italians bombarded and occupied the Greek island of Corfu after the murder of Italian General Tellini, on Greek soil while he was performing his task of delimiting the Greco-Albanian frontier.

The Poincaré government in France did not want to bring the Corfu issue before the League Council. A number of factors accounted for the French unwillingness to refer to the League over the Corfu issue. First of all, if the Corfu issue had come before the League Council, Germany could also have attempted to bring before the Council the French occupation of the Ruhr.58 Secondly, France did not want to alienate Italy because the latter gave support to the Franco-Belgium occupation of the Ruhr. In more general terms, Paris needed to rebuild its relations with Italy against Germany. France was not only disappointed by Anglo-American co-operation against Germany after the Treaty of Versailles but also estranged from London because of the Ruhr occupation.

Although France did not want to alienate Italy during the Corfu crisis, Eastern Europe and the Balkans were controversial regions in French-Italian relations. During the Corfu crisis, the Czech press maintained that France had weakened the League by supporting Mussolini and wrote that the League had no jurisdiction when the interests of great powers were at stake.59 The Czech delegate to Geneva, Eduard Benes, warned that if Mussolini would be allowed to get away with the Corfu affair, he would be encouraged to implement his expansionist agenda on Fiume and Dalmatia.60

Just before the Corfu crisis, Belgrade, fearing fascist violence, officially requested France to assume the protection of Yugoslav citizens in Fiume. In November 1922, the Poincaré government did not approach the Yugoslav request positively. Yet in April 1923, France approved a 300 million franc loan to Belgrade for the reorganization of the Yugoslav army.61 In the wake of Locarno, Belgrade wanted to sign a Franco-Yugoslav pact immediately because it had to accept the Italian annexation of Fiume by signing the Italian-Yugoslav accord of January 1924. But Philippe Berthelot instructed the French Minister in Belgrade that such a pact could be interpreted differently by Rome which had given guarantees to France’s frontier along the Rhine.62

As for British foreign policy in the post-war era, Brian McKercher, for instance, wrote that those who dominated the Foreign Office saw the League as only another tool in the British diplomatic arsenal.63 According to him, “Edwardian” balance-of-power thinking still dominated interwar British foreign policy. In fact, the “Edwardians prided themselves on seeing the world for what it was, not what it should be”.64 For them, essential British interests had not changed because of the war. On the contrary, the geographical scope of those interests was expanded with the acquisition of mandates in the Middle East and Africa after the war. Therefore, the Edwardians did not see a balance which existed only on continental Europe but saw several balances judged vital to British and imperial security in different areas of the globe.

A very good example of the British reluctance to find international solutions to stability issues was its rejection of the Geneva Protocol prepared by a subcommittee of the League. In the fall of 1924, a special subcommittee of the League produced a document entitled “Protocol for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes”. The Czech Foreign Minister Eduard Benes, as rapporteur of this subcommittee, advocated that the Geneva Protocol use arbitration for the purpose of defining aggression with the slogan “arbitration, security and disarmament”.65

The British Conservative government refused to accept the Geneva Protocol even though it was endorsed unanimously by the Assembly of the League. London criticized the Protocol for not providing for arbitration of possible causes of war, namely the existing frontiers on the Continent.66 According to Piotr S. Wandycz, London at the same time criticized the French for using the Protocol to involve Britain in its defense. In contrast to the British officials, this time the Herriot government in France favored international reconciliation. For the French Foreign Minister, Aristide Briand, the Geneva Protocol was a way to reach a pact of mutual help between the great powers and the minor ones.67 In fact, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia closely cooperated in the making of the Geneva Protocol. The latter was distinguished as being the only state which ratified the Protocol.

However, London occasionally leaned on the League of Nations’ dispute settlement mechanisms. The future status of Mosul in Iraq was a good case in point. London mobilized political, diplomatic and military means at its disposal to hold onto the oil-rich region. At Lausanne, it was decided that the Mosul issue would be settled within nine months by direct negotiations between Turkey and Britain, or, failing that, the problem would be referred to the League Council.68 Bilateral negotiations led to a deadlock and the Council decided in December 1925 that Mosul should be attached to Iraq, which had already been placed under British mandate for 25 years. On 6 June 1926, Turkey finally relented and recognized the Council’s decision by signing a treaty with Britain concerning the establishment of the Turkish-Iraqi frontier. According to this treaty, Turkey was granted ten percent of Iraqi oil revenues for 25 years in return for renouncing Mosul.69 Mosul is generally taken as a case of the League’s success in settling international disputes. Yet, the Mosul case also suggests that “the Council’s procedures could be used to keep the peace in matters involving a great power, if that power was cooperative.”70

Not all regions of the globe, even those in Europe, had equal value for the British. For example, Austin Chamberlain divided Europe between east and west saying that “in Western Europe we are a partner … in Eastern Europe our role should be that of disinterested amicus curiae”.71 Erik Goldstein argued that, even in the post First World War era, Eastern Europe’s place on the British mental map of Europe was still very much terra incognita. At the time of Locarno, Chamberlain told the British ambassador in Berlin Lord d’Abernon “for the moment I think the less that is said about the east the better it will be. “72 In fact, Goldstein made an important point: that in 1925 Britain was still uncertain as to whether these newly created states would survive.73

Carr believed that treaties of non-aggression, such as the Locarno Treaty, signed in the 1920s were an expression of the power politics of a particular period and locality.74 In fact, to define the nature of Locarno Jon Jacobson gave as a reference Chamberlain’s declaration to the Committee of Imperial Defense in July, 1925. Chamberlain’s three main concerns summarized well the aim of Locarno: first, to prevent Germany from overrunning Europe, second to prevent a Russo-German understanding and third to create a friendlier France.75

In fact, the goal of a friendlier France was reached while Briand was in office. In his memoirs, a French diplomat, Jules Laroche, talks about two successive policies in France in the 1920s. One was executed by Raymond Poincaré: He focused on German reparations and separatism in the Rhineland in order to get extra concessions from Germany for French security. This policy failed because of British opposition which did not want a French hegemony to succeed the German one. The second policy was led by Briand who emphasized the reinforcement of French security and searched for an entente with Britain. This policy was implemented by ending the French occupation of the Ruhr and the adoption of the Dawes plan. The implementation of this policy was facilitated by the German desire for the evacuation of “Cologne” and by the presence of Chamberlain in Foreign Office who favored this. In the end, Briand led this policy up to the Locarno agreements.76

Locarno was not only a continuation of the balance-of-power system but also an attempt to transform the Treaty of Versailles. As Polayni argues, the outcome of the war and the treaties signed afterwards had eased political tension superficially by eliminating German competition.77 This was superficial because it aimed at the unilateral permanent disarmament of the defeated nations. But by the mid-1920s, the victorious countries, especially Britain, realized that they had to move beyond that. As an example of this, Cohr gave MacDonald’s pursuit of the US and German involvement in the existing system which was an indication of the shifting of post-war politics away from the Versailles system.78

One could argue that German involvement in the existing system started at the signing of the Locarno Treaty and continued through the membership of Germany in the League of Nations. Germany’s entry in 1926 contributed to the League’s international posture in two ways. First, it added significantly to the representative character of the League. Second, it highlighted the League’s significance as a meeting place.79 In the meantime Locarno confirmed the deadlock of French policy. When the French delegation came to Locarno, it intended to recover as much of France’s interests and commitments in Eastern Europe as were possible. According to Wandycz, the French aim was to assume a position in Eastern Europe comparable to that of Britain in the west by making France a guarantor of the German-Polish and Czechoslovak-German arbitration treaties.80

However, Locarno destabilized France’s position by excluding Eastern Europe from the guarantee.81 Before Locarno, France could have given immediate assistance to Poland in any situation it considered a threat to peace. After Locarno, France could help Poland only if the latter invoked Article 16 of the Covenant.82 In other words, from Locarno on, France’s eastern pacts were linked to the League and their implementation depended on the interpretation of the Covenant.

Implementation of the Locarno system in Western Europe would not secure stability in Europe. Allan Cassels argues that exclusion of Eastern Europe from the Locarno system allowed Mussolini to pursue a dynamic policy in the Balkans and the Danube valley where his main concern was to diminish France’s influence.83 Both times when the League was called on to defend the integrity of one of its smaller members, first France and then Britain sought a solution by undercutting and bypassing the League.84

To sum up, Germany recognized the Versailles order in the west but this did not imply renunciation of territory in the east. For example, if Germany attacked an Eastern European country, France could only reply by counter-attacking in the west across the Rhine.85 Anthony Adamthwaite also argues that no military agreements were concluded between France and its Eastern allies. For example, in June 1928, France rejected a Yugoslavian request for military talks. On the other hand, according to William Shorrock, France hammered out a series of defensive military alliances with Poland and the members of the Little Entente between 1921 and 1927.86


Turkey as a Middle Power: A Status Inherited or Earned?
The increasing popularity of middle power studies in international relations has inevitably ramifications on studies of Turkish foreign policy. Among the works that rely on various different middle power conceptualizations, Hale’s study of Turkish foreign policy across 200 years set a short-lived trend.87 His work is conceptually grounded in a conventional understanding of middle powers. It resonates well with Holbraad’s “intermediate category of states,” as the latter argues that this category “... is the meeting place of once great but declining powers, tired from generations of power politics at the highest level but rich in experience, and of lesser but ascending powers, conscious of their potential and stirred by ambition.”88 This description is in turn obviously inspired by Martin D. Wight’s work on Power Politics which expresses a similar observation: “Middle powers appear when qualifications for great power status are being revised... The most obvious middle powers today are the powers which have lost the status of great power as a result of two World Wars: Britain, France, Germany and Japan.”89 Both versions of the story seem to suggest a plausible explanation to the historical evolution of Turkey’s status in the international system,

Seeking a general framework for his study of Turkish foreign policy of 200 years, Hale chose to conceptualize Turkey’s international status as a middle power which, he defines as a power that can “oblige other states to take actions which they would not otherwise have taken” and … resist pressure to do so from other states.”90 He locates the sources of middle power status in “a mixture of the country’s military strength… and its economic resources and level of development.”91 Finally, he identifies a behavior pattern for middle powers that emphasizes crucial role of external support in solving their security problems, “either through an alliance or through exploitation of a balance of forces between the great powers.”92 This view suggests oscillation between two choices, alliance and neutrality since they are compelled to adopt defensive strategies.

In a giant two-volume study of Turkish foreign policy, he edited, Oran adopted the middle power conceptualization of Hale’s work.93 As a result, Hale and Oran base their argument on the traditional definition of middle powers and calculation of power by employing indicators such as population, economic resources and military strength. By extension, they argue that middle power behavior is characterized by opposition to undue great power control, their growing tendency to act together and the influence they can individually exert. Both scholars measure the strength of middle powers in relation to the power of greater ones. Middle powers stand somewhere between the two extremes of the scale. In their intermediate positions in the power hierarchy, they may be able to resist pressure from more powerful states, and may, in turn, sometimes exert influence on (and even coerce) particularly geographically contiguous weaker powers. Since both scholars needed a conceptualization to enable them construct generalizations on Turkish foreign policy behavior with validity across a long span of time, their reliance on such a traditional definition may be justifiable and even inevitable.

However, this approach overlooks an important premise that “the middle power role is not a fixed universal but something that has to be rethought continually in the context of the changing state of the international system.”94 In that case, the finer points of Turkish diplomacy in particular periods are naturally sacrificed for the sake of general. For instance, it is difficult to suggest that Turkish interwar diplomacy consisted mainly of playing actors off against each another or hiding behind neutrality or non-commitment. This view does not adequately and convincingly explain Turkish activism beyond neighboring regions or on international issues of not immediate concern to it between the two world wars. The Abyssinian debacle is a case in point. Turkish activism regarding this issue substantially grew first as a member of the League of Nations, then as a member of the League Council. Nor does Oran’s approach account for middle power behavior in the absence of leadership from traditional sources particularly after the World Economic Crisis of 1929. Under nearly optimal conditions for middle power activism, Turkey enjoyed two distinct advantages. First, Turkey was undisputable heir to a major power, the Ottoman Empire. It had transformed into a middle power from higher status, rather than lower status. Second, in the 1930s, Turkey’s middle power behavior owed a great deal to the quality of its diplomacy which successfully adjusted itself to new domestic and international circumstances. As for the direction and magnitude of change in Turkey’s international status from the Ottoman Empire, the new republic undoubtedly started out on a much lower standing than its imperial predecessor.

The Empire’s own standing in the European states system is contestable at best. Conventionally, it is argued that “the only state which did not know its place in the hierarchy of power was the Ottoman Empire. Although it had extensive possessions in the Balkans and the Treaty of Paris formally admitted it to the Concert of Europe, it was never regarded as a European state.”95 In contrast, Yurdusev and Yurdusev argue that the Ottoman Empire’s involvement in the European states system as a major power had preceded its formal inclusion in the Concert of Europe in 1856.96 By that time, the Ottoman Empire had been reduced to a nominal great power or the weakest of all great powers. Holbraad identifies the Ottoman Empire as one of the two states that occupied intermediate positions in the European hierarchy of powers in the second half of the nineteenth century, Italy being the other one.97 However, he argues that, compared to Italy, the Ottoman Empire was a unique example of its kind.
“... it was not really a part of the international society of Europe. Geographically marginal, culturally alien and historically hostile, it was still a frontier country... though it was a member of the state system in the sense that it interacted with European powers and filled some role in the balance of power, its status in the system was uncertain. On the one hand, its large population of various races, nationalities and religions, its vast territories in Europe as well as Asia, and its strategic importance to several great powers, clearly marked it off from the minor powers and small states of the system. On the other hand, its military weakness, inefficient administration and long record of economic decline had long since taken it out of the rank of great powers. This combination of qualities placed the Empire in a particularly exposed position in relation to Europe”.98

Though, in his seminal work Holbraad stops short of recognizing the modern-day or republican Turkey as a middle power.99 His definition of middle powers is based on traditional indicators of size and national strength, namely population and GNP. In his attempt at producing, in accordance with these two criteria, a list of Cold War middle powers, Holbraad admits that Turkey would normally have qualified for the rank of middle power by virtue of its population and GNP (both comparable to those of Iran), if it could have been classed under Asia. However, as Turkey considers itself a European power, ranked as the eighth-strongest small power with its then-current population and GNP, it fails to rank among the European middle powers. The case of Turkey illustrates how much Holbraad’s relatively conventional conception of middle power status is contingent on the regional context. Although he offers a convincing argument for excluding Turkey from the league of middle powers of the Cold War period, he overlooks Turkey’s middle power credentials and behavior in the context of interwar Europe.100

Before we turn attention to behavioral aspects of Turkey’s middle power activism, it may be useful to employ traditional statistical indicators to ascertain if Turkey would qualify a statistical middle power. This should be a good starting point in identifying the potential to act as a middle power. Unfortunately, an accurate dataset covering traditional indicators of size and strength of countries for the period under study is not available. There is only a single compilation that attempts to bring together such indicators for the interwar period. It is The Yearbook of International Disarmament which was published regularly by the League of Nations from 1926 to 1938. The Yearbooks cover 60 states and remain to this date one of the few data series in hand to gauge conventionally the relative positions of states in the international power hierarchy for that period. These Yearbooks had been published as part of the League’s promotion of international disarmament efforts in the 1920s and 1930s. Notwithstanding their obvious shortcomings and major inaccuracies, the data compiled by the League offer at least how the relative strengths of these states had been presented and perceived back then.101 Accordingly, the available data may be used to provide a very crude presentation of Turkey’s size, population, and military strength in comparison to that of the others.102

Based on data presented in various years’ Yearbooks of International Disarmament, Turkey’s relative position in the international system may reasonably be compared to four other countries in Europe: Spain, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Poland. Our selection of these countries for comparison is inspired by a proposal made in December 1918 by General Smuts on the composition of the Council of the League of Nations. In a pamphlet titled, The League of Nations – A Practical Suggestion, General Smuts made a distinction between great powers and powers of lesser degrees, classifying the latter into intermediate powers and minor powers. He argued:


“In the first place, the Great Powers will have to be permanent members of [the Council]. Thus, the British Empire, France, Italy, the U.S.A. and Japan will be permanent members to whom Germany will be added as soon as she has a stable democratic government. To these permanent members, I would suggest that four additional members be added in rotation from two panels, one panel comprising the important intermediate powers below the rank of Great Powers such as Spain, Hungary, Turkey, Central Russia, Poland, Greater Serbia etc., the other panel comprising all the minor states who are members of the League.” 103

This proposal was unusual in two respects for its day. First, it boldly disregarded the distinction between winners and losers of the War. Secondly, it did not consider the perceived contribution of these to the victory in, or their responsibility for, the First World War.104 As Smuts originally cited Spain, Hungary, Turkey, Central Russia, Poland and Greater Serbia among the “intermediate powers,” his categorization (with the exception of Central Russia) is taken here as a basis for comparing the relative strengths of European middle powers. Interestingly, three of them, Spain, Turkey and Yugoslavia were also Mediterranean powers. Needless to say, when General Smuts made his proposal, his conception of Turkey referred to what would be left of the Ottoman Empire after the peace treaties. It did not necessarily correspond to the Turkey that came into being after the success of nationalist struggle. This gap between Smuts’ vision and the reality of new Turkey, however, does not substantially detract from or add to Turkey’s middle power potential.




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