In a non-devletist world, every nation aspires to ever-increase its power against other nations. Where the idea of genuine knowledge production has not been established yet, the survival of societies and nations is closely linked to the quality of inter-societal power relations. This holds especially true for nations with considerable economic weight. The greater the distance to other nations, in terms of power, is, the lower the danger of being in harm’s way. Surely, the Ukraine war has amplified the awareness of this situation. First and foremost, this conflict has shifted the power balance between two antagonistic actors: the west and Russia. Because the west holds a global media stronghold, the anxieties within the ruling elite have quickly been transferred to the citizens. Within such a constellation, Turkiye has strengthened its international presence and power position without being targeted by much more powerful states. Also considering the power vacuum in the USA and Europe, Turkiye’s position is quite a favourable one. What does it need to do to become a global Superpower?
For the sake of accurate analysis, the term Superpower needs further definition. As a side note: Superpowers cannot emerge in an international devletist order, but only in non-devletist international settings or hybrid settings of devletist and non-devletist states. The reason for that is that within a devletist world order, no state would structure its behaviour around considerations that involve other states in a destructive way (see DEVLET – chapter I: Philosophical Foundations). But because the current international order is not a predominantly devletist one, a mixed transition model must be applied, in order to ensure survival during the transition period to devletist systems. In principle, thinking of Superpowers as states with great economic, societal and military capabilities is surely not so wrong. However, the capabilities are not to be measured in absolute terms but in relation to the capabilities of other states, as well as the intrinsic reproduction capacity of a state. As an extreme form of a strong industrialised state, a Superpower is characterised by capabilities that enable it to influence at least two strong actors or regions simultaneously for at least two decades without compromising domestic development.
Using the Power Vacuum
In the case of Turkiye, the capabilities are currently limited – especially in economic terms. The main strength of Turkiye is its military capability. With one of the largest and best-organised armies in the world, Turkiye holds a valuable asset in the current geopolitical shift. Whereas just three years ago such an asset was not so worthy at the diplomatic tables around the world, today it is. Why is that? Currently, the leaders of the industrialised nations of North America and Europe are cognitively and technically vastly under-equipped, while being riddled by societal rifts. This is displayed in the poor conclusions drawn from the Ukraine war which caused those states to reassess their energy supply chains. Such a move led also to a reordering of multilateral energy relations by the producing states. In other words, the solidly functioning infrastructural agreements that upheld the power of Europe and the USA are now on shaky grounds. This reordering will lead to weaker and more expensive ties to other actors which will gain power.
Amid this reshuffling of bi- and multilateral ties, Turkiye positioned itself as a diplomatically valuable entity. As a mediator within the Ukraine conflict, it managed to bridge the widening gap between the west and the east – and this is what Turkiye needs to build on. In the next couple of years, Turkiye must extend its efforts to position itself in international conflict resolution by providing venues and resources and being the communicative key actor. It might not appear effective at first but with such an approach Turkiye becomes an agenda-setter and can subtly steer the dialogue in accordance with its interests. Further, Turkiye will gain an informal immunity from conflicts. If the power vacuum persists, which in all likelihood will be the case due to the nature cyclical development of societies, Turkiye will be among a circle of very few states that are not affected by external shocks, thus avoiding slowdowns in the development rate, due to easy access to cheap material and immaterial resources. An example is the fact that Turkiye today supplies the Ukrainian military with high-technology weaponry while closing multi-billion trade deals with Russia – all without being criticised once. The most important precondition, however, is that Turkiye needs to retain an offensive and assertive political cadre that can push this agenda with much rigour, but also with diplomatic sophistication.
In such a constellation, domestic development needs to become more streamlined. Over the past decades, Turkiye was strongly objectified in the global economy. Since other actors were simply too strong and had little that disturbed their focus to extend this economic power, Turkiye was always in the front rows of states targeted by foreign economic dominance. Now, Turkiye will have more breathing room but also the informational advantage that arises from continued economic cooperation with all relevant actors. Positioning itself as an intermediary state in which indirect economic conduct is made possible, it can gain massive structural importance. With the profit generated by providing the antagonistic sides with scarce goods, recourses and capital, Turkiye must then redirect the funds into the own innovative potential of its people – or better said: invest in national genuine knowledge production. Once in this position, all efforts must be concentrated on the preservation of this status quo. The longer the international conflict rages and Turkiye proves to be a vital link between warring parties, the more the advantageous resource-accumulation process with lessened interference risk will help bolster its ambitions to become a Superpower. During this time, Turkiye will need to build a well-balanced economic landscape which surely implies that a shift from merely profiting from international trade and business to domestic production and innovation of high-technology goods will have to take place during times of its prominence in the international diplomatic arena. Put differently, serving as the economic bridge between antagonistic actors should only serve as a booster. As Turkiye politically remains the bridge between different regions, the economic structure needs to shift.
Becoming and Staying Superpower
At some point, the circumstances will change. Turkiye cannot become stronger in silence without becoming a danger to other states. Diplomatic talent can prolong the discovery of Turkiye’s true strength but with increasing power states will turn their backs on Turkiye, or even respond violently (not necessarily physical violence). This is the situation in which Turkiye will have to transform into a Superpower. Such a process can never be completed by peaceful means. Either Turkiye will have to assert itself militarily against now antagonistic states or it needs to engage in normative warfare. In other words, if the shift of Turkiye’s role in the world is based on physical violence, meaning other states try to attack Turkiye directly or indirectly, Turkiye must dominantly win the conflict. If the shift is based on non-physical violence, meaning economic and ideological warfare, Turkiye must use its newly gained capacities to assert itself as an economic and ideological anchor for a number of other small and medium-sized states. Here, the first important step is made. Thinking back at the definition that “a Superpower is characterised by capabilities that enable it to influence at least two strong actors or regions simultaneously for at least two decades without compromising domestic development”, the offensive shift in state behaviour and first actions to sustainably influence other actors will open the gates for establishing Turkiye’s position as a potential Superpower. In the following decades, Turkiye will have to thoroughly defend its position and accumulate more capabilities by means of genuine knowledge production – a process that must never seize to run at full throttle throughout all societal and political levels. In the case of Turkiye, there is one great advantage that will make it easier to remain a Superpower: Turkistan. By intensifying relations with the Turkic nations of Central Asia, Turkiye will always have a reliable circle of alliances with significant geostrategic value. Mutually reinforcing each other’s development, Turkiye, once a Superpower, will also elevate the Turkic nations to strong nations.
Concluding, the current international order and recent correct foreign policy moves by Turkiye opened a very promising door for it to become a Superpower within the next century. Surely, such a development will not be as simple as described above and neither will it be straightforward and one-dimensional. Also, unexpected developments and shocks are not accounted for. However, given the opportunity to utilise amplifying effects in early development efforts, I assume little time is needed to establish a useful basis. From here, the detrimental effects of future external shocks are considerably lowered if a minimum of economic and political power is secured. Further, this roadmap is only a snapshot of the opportunities that the current situation provides. Maybe the situation becomes better or worse soon. However, as long as genuine knowledge production is central to political thinking, Turkiye will always have a realistic potential to become a Superpower.