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Explaining risk-taking and risk-averse behaviours in peacemaking: a prospect theory reading of the AKP leadership’s behaviour vis-à-vis Cyprus and Armenia

Manis, Athanasios (2015) Explaining risk-taking and risk-averse behaviours in peacemaking: a prospect theory reading of the AKP leadership’s behaviour vis-à-vis Cyprus and Armenia. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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It is not only war and conflict that can determine the political fate of a leader but also peacemaking initiatives. Reversing long-standing national foreign policy choices that perpetuate animosity, friction and lack of diplomatic relations between states can put leaders in a precarious situation given domestic and external reactions. Accordingly, can foreign policy change of that respect be considered as risk-seeking or risk-averse behaviour on the part of leaders? Furthermore, if foreign policy change is considered as risk-seeking behaviour, then why do leaders and decision-makers spearhead and engage actively with these initiatives of peacemaking? This study, the first of its kind in the literature of prospect theory, analyses peacemaking initiatives under conditions of risk and uncertainty by shedding light on the decisions undertaken by the leadership of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), focusing specifically on its foreign policy choices vis-à-vis Cyprus and Armenia in 2004 and 2009 respectively. In particular, it raises questions as to the extent to which Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s and his inner circle’s decision to promote the resolution of two long-standing diplomatic issues was risky and what induced them to actively engage with the cases at hand. Using prospect theory’s analytical tools, it is argued that the revisionary policies that the AKP leadership, in particular Recep Tayyip Erdogan, introduced and promoted were riskier choices compared to Turkey’s long-standing policies vis-à-vis Cyprus and Armenia. This raises questions as to what induced Erdogan to push for a solution of the Cyprus issue during the Annan negotiations between 2002 and 2004, and the Annan Plan referendum in 2004, despite Turkish Cypriot leader’s, Rauf Denktas’s reactions and his support from the Turkish establishment at the time. Similarly, what induced Erdogan to seek the normalisation of Turkish-Armenian relations? This is a particularly puzzling question if one considers that Erdogan’s government signed the Zurich Protocols on 10 October 2009, which provided for the normalisation of Turkish-Armenian relations without any reference to the NagornoKarabakh issue - the foremost security concern for Azerbaijan and one of Turkey’s main prerequisites for normalising relations with Armenia – but then shortly after reversed the process. Towards that end, I have developed questions concerning the riskiness of these options, the risk propensity of Erdogan himself and the factors that affected this. After a comprehensive empirical analysis on the basis of two new prospect theoretical models (a. prospect theory-diversionary peace theory model, b. prospect theory-external balancing theory model) that provide alternative hypotheses about what induces risk-seeking and riskaverse behaviour in cases of peacemaking through concessions, I argue that the prospect theory-diversionary peace model’s main assumption about the effect of internal threats on decision-makers’ risk propensity is validated. Accordingly, there is a direct causal link between, firstly, the internal strife that took place between the AKP leadership and the Turkish establishment at the time, particularly the Turkish Army; and, secondly, the riskseeking propensity of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in revising Turkey’s traditional foreign policy. More specifically, Erdogan felt that he was in the domain of losses in terms of his political survivability and that of his government as well as in terms of the prospects for consolidating his power in the sphere of Turkish politics. In order to counterbalance the army’s subversive policies against the AKP and its clout in Turkish politics, he attempted to revise Turkey’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Cyprus and Armenia. It became clear to him that changing Turkey’s foreign policy in these two cases could, potentially, boost his personal image and that of his government amongst Turkey’s traditional allies, the EU and the US. In the case of Cyprus, EU member states directly connected the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey with its constructive role at the UN-sponsored negotiating table for a final settlement of the longstanding issue. In the case of Armenia, US institutions, particularly the US Congress and to some extent the US administrations had traditionally pressed for the normalisation of Turkey’s relations with Armenia and the opening of the borders. By revising, for the first time, Turkey’s long-standing foreign policy vis-à-vis Cyprus and Armenia, Erdogan and his government exhibited a risk-seeking behaviour compared to the reproduction of Turkish foreign policy that had traditionally taken place. The AKP leadership’s expectation was to increase its international popularity with Turkey’s traditional allies, the EU and the US, as a means of remedying the internal threat that the Turkish establishment, and particularly the Turkish Army, posed at the time to the survival and consolidation of Erdogan’s government. Parallel to that, the AKP’s revisionary policies were an attempt to discredit the Turkish Army’s international profile among Turkey’s traditional allies for being intransigent, while a potential final solution of the two problems would weaken the powerful domestic narrative that the Army had used to depict itself as Turkey’s guarantor of security against external threats. The frozen conflict on Cyprus and the enmity with Armenia had been important sources of legitimacy for the Turkish Army.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Athanasios Manis
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > European Institute
Supervisor: Economides, Spyros and Pamuk, Şevket

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