How the looming end of a 100-year-old treaty exposes the existential paranoia at the heart of Erdogan’s foreign policy.
BY Nicholas Danforth
Foreign Policy - OCTOBER 2, 2014
While American commentators debate whether Turkey will join U.S. President Barack Obama's coalition against the Islamic State, some Turkish pundits are looking ahead to more serious foreign-policy challenges -- like what will happen in 2023 when the Treaty of Lausanne expires and Turkey's modern borders become obsolete. In keeping with secret articles signed by Turkish and British diplomats at a Swiss lakefront resort almost a century ago, British troops will reoccupy forts along the Bosphorus, and the Greek Orthodox patriarch will resurrect a Byzantine ministate within Istanbul's city walls. On the plus side for Turkey, the country will finally be allowed to tap its vast, previously off-limits oil reserves and perhaps regain Western Thrace. So there's that.
Of course, none of this will actually happen. The Treaty of Lausanne has no secret expiration clause. But it's instructive to consider what these conspiracy theories, trafficked on semi-obscure websites and second-rate news shows, reveal about the deeper realities of Turkish foreign policy, especially under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's pro-Islam Justice and Development Party (AKP).
After defeating the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Britain, France, Italy, and Greece divided Anatolia, colonizing the territory that is now Turkey. However, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk reorganized the remnants of the Ottoman army and thwarted this attempted division through shrewd diplomacy and several years of war. Subsequently, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne recognized Ataturk's victory and established the borders of modern Turkey. Lausanne then became part of the country's foundational myth. For a time it even had its own holiday, Lausanne Day, when children dressed in costumes representing contested regions of Anatolia for elementary school plays.