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Turkey: The Balkans
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > External Security Concerns > The Balkans


As the principal successor state to the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the Balkans for centuries until its defeat in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, Turkey retains a keen interest in the fate of the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM -- the name under which independent Macedonia was recognized by the United Nations in 1993), and Albania. Turkey opposed the dissolution of Yugoslavia, fearing the resulting instability could create broader regional conflict. With the outbreak of war in Bosnia in 1992 and Serbian human rights violations, Turkey advocated Western military measures to contain the Serbs. It pressed for an end to the UN arms embargo to enable Bosnian Muslims to defend themselves more effectively against Serbian attack. Turkey contributed ships to the NATO naval force blockading Serbia and Montenegro and dispatched a squadron of eighteen F-16 aircraft to Italy to help enforce the no-fly zone over Bosnia. Unilateral Turkish military aid to Bosnia was impractical because of the interposition of Greek and Bulgarian territory in between. A Turkish offer of troops to the UN Protection Force in Bosnia was at first rejected by the UN Security Council because of Ankara's strong sympathies for the Bosnian Muslims and memories of the Ottoman role in the Balkans. In April 1994, however, after experiencing difficulties in obtaining force commitments, the UN accepted a Turkish deployment of about 1,500 soldiers in spite of objections by the Bosnian Serbs, Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria.

Albania also is receiving attention from Turkey. Once Albania ended its long isolation as a Stalinist state, Turkey proposed military cooperation accords that included officer training. The possibility of Serbian action against FYROM, whose independence Turkey recognized, and against Kosovo, a Serbian province largely populated by Albanians, is a concern of both Albania and Turkey. It seems unlikely, however, that Turkish military help will be forthcoming if the conflict in former Yugoslavia widens to Kosovo and FYROM.

Mutual distrust has long characterized Turkey's relations with Bulgaria, which, like Greece, has a short but strategically significant border with Turkish Thrace, the European region of Turkey. A major cause of friction was the Balkanization program instituted by the communist government of Bulgaria, which caused a mass migration of Bulgarian Turks to Turkey in the spring of 1989. After the communists fell in late 1989, Turkey moved to improve its security ties to Bulgaria's new government. A series of agreements were reached on formal notification of military movements, exchanges of military visits, and the establishment of a military security zone extending sixty to eighty kilometers on each side of the common border. Talks were also held in 1993 on cooperating in the production of military equipment, and the two countries conducted a joint military exercise with Romania.

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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