TUSIAD-GMF Trilateral Strategy Group (TSG) Project

The Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD) and the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), in cooperation with  European partners, have been organizing a multi-year program of meetings focused on specific questions affecting Turkey, the United States, and Europe called the Trilateral Strategy Group (TSG) since June 2009. The Project is designed to be carried out between 2009 and 2011. 

The purpose of the Trilateral Strategy Group is to address policy issues while taking into account the following three significant considerations.  First, Turkey’s ongoing EU candidacy and frictions in U.S.-Turkish relations have a critical backdrop in the form of unresolved questions about the future of transatlantic strategy.  Continued instability in Iraq, and policy differences over Iran and other questions, point to the risk of further turmoil in the next few years.  Most of the key policy dilemmas facing the U.S., Turkey, and Europe are shared, but new approaches are often developed and implemented in isolation – with limited success.  From the future of Iraq to counter-terrorism, from energy security to trade and investment, there will be few if any bilateral solutions.  Yet, current debates and dialogues involving Turkey are structured almost exclusively along bilateral lines: Turkey-U.S. or Turkey-EU.  On wider questions of transatlantic cooperation, the Turkish dimension is often marginalized or lost.

Second, policy debates about Turkey’s role and orientation continue to focus heavily on vague geopolitical and “civilizational” questions rather than concrete issues. To be sure, geography and culture matter.  But the future of relations between Turkey and the West is more likely to be defined by the quality of cooperation on shared policy challenges, including, but also looking beyond, the most immediate and neuralgic problems.  The rise of nationalism and the risk of a wider re-nationalization of strategies in Turkey, Europe, and across the Atlantic could well exacerbate already strained relations between Ankara and its Western partners.  There is a pressing need for a fresh, triangular approach to understand and address key issues, and to spur more imaginative thinking about the overall Turkish-U.S.-European relationship.

Third, the impressive expertise and influential networks – new and old – on all sides need a better forum for cooperative analysis and dialogue.  Increasingly, public opinion counts on all sides and on virtually all of the critical issues affecting triangular relations.  The Trilateral Strategy Group’s activity will not duplicate existing bilateral forums, but would augment these efforts and offer something structurally new, policy-oriented, and effective.

Meetings bring together a core group of roughly 30-35 people – officials, experts, and opinion shapers – for focused discussion of specific issues and “triangular” strategies. Debates are informed by expert briefings and papers commissioned from the best available analysts.  The activities place front and center the overall longer-term challenge of re-conceptualizing and reshaping Turkish-Western relations, but generally are designed around a selected theme, and the issue agendas are designed collaboratively and span foreign and security policy questions, as well as pressing domestic


May 16-18, 2012: Washington, D.C.

The 6th Trilateral Strategy Group meeting took place in Washington, D.C. on May 16-18, 2012. This session’s theme “Can the West Cope?” included discussions on the strategic consequences of the Euro-crisis, the shift from transatlantic to transpacific relations, the role of NATO and the new security challenges the West faces, especially in the Middle East and North Africa region. The final panel of the conference tried to bring all these topics together in an attempt to define the “West,” whether or not we need a broader West, to which the general concensus seemed to be “yes,” and how to best address together many of the challenges addressed previously.

For the first time the TSG conducted video interviews with participants on the sidelines of the conference. TUSIAD International Coordinator Bahadir Kaleagasi discussed the impact of the Euro zone crisis from a Turkish perspective. Below, he outlines possible scenarios for the future of the EU and explains why Europe is still key to Turkey’s economic success.

November 13-15, 2011: Warsaw

The fifth meeting of the Trilateral Strategy Group was held on November 13-15, 2011 in Warsaw, Poland on the topic “Geopolitics and Strategy in Revolutionary Times.” Discussions in this meeting included a further focus on the Arab Spring revolutions, discussing outcomes and opportunities, a reassessment of Eurasian politics from the Balkans to Eastern China and the new eastern strategy, and the consequences of the European financial crisis. The meeting closed with a discussion on the impact of new social media on international affairs and its policy implications.

May 25-27, 2011: Istanbul

The fourth Trilateral Strategy Group meeting was held on May 25-27, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. The meeting was attended by policymakers and experts in foreign ministries, think tanks, and the private sector from Turkey, the US, and Europe. The theme of this meeting was “Trilateral Perspectives on Power and Prosperity,” touching on topics such as demography and immigration patterns, the Arab Spring revolutions, emerging world powers, and the implications of these on regional politics and economics. The discussions highlighted the role of Turkey in light of the changing patterns in Turkey’s neighborhood.

Click here to access a policy brief from a US perspective.

October 3-5, 2010: Washington, D.C.

The third meeting of the Project was held on October 3-5, 2010 in Washington, D.C. It brought together a variety of experts in foreign ministries, think tanks, and the private sector from all three trilateral partners to address “Global Challenges and Trilateral Perspectives.” During the meeting the group held extensive discussions on the crisis in the eurozone, the future of energy

security across Eurasia, the rise of Asian powers including China and India, challenges in the Middle East, and the implications of domestic politics and elections for foreign policy.

January 28-30, 2010: Stockholm

The second meeting of the Trilateral Strategy Group was held in Stockholm, Sweden on January 28-30, 2010.  It brought together policymakers, experts, and opinion shapers from the United States, Turkey, and the European Union to discuss “Turkey, Europe, and the United States in a Multipolar World.” The group explored the idea of a common and unified “Western” orientation on foreign policy issues and the limitations associated with this viewpoint, particularly in regards to Turkey, its foreign policy, and its convergence with the West.

Click here to access a policy brief reflecting on the meeting from a US perspective.

Click here to access a policy brief reflecting on the meeting from a European perspective.

June 4-6, 2009: Istanbul

The first meeting of the Project was held on June 4-6, 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey. The meeting brought together public and private sector leaders and opinion shapers to discuss policy challenges affecting the United States, Turkey, and Europe.  In Istanbul, participants addressed “The Global Economic Crisis: Strategic Implications for Turkey, Europe, and the United States.”

Click here to access the summary and reflections note on the debate.

In addition, the Trilateral Strategy Group has published a series of policy papers on United States, Turkish, and European Union relations with Russia:

For the Turkish perspective, please click here.

For the European perspective, please click here.

For the US perspective, please click here.


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