Political Science

Ripeness obscured: inductive lessons from Türkiye’s (transactional) mediation in the Russia–Ukraine war

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Purpose: Conventional wisdom tells us that mediation without ripeness is a fool’s errand (Zartman and Touval, 1985). What, then, is Türkiye’s motivation for mediating the war in Ukraine in lieu of ripeness – and what can its behavior as a mediator tell us about that motivation? In pursuit of this question, this paper inductively analyzes Turkish mediation in the Ukraine war to unpack the relationship between a contextual (ripeness) and actor-level (motivation) variable. Of particular interest is the decision-making and behavior of third parties (like Türkiye in Ukraine) who elect to mediate highly complex conflicts in which ripeness is indiscernible. The purpose of this research is not to propose or test a causal relationship between obscured ripeness and mediation, but rather to examine mediation behavior in situations where ripeness is obscured.

Design/methodology/approach: The impact of weaponized information on ripeness and third-party mediation is evaluated through an original, systematic and inductive case study analysis of Turkish mediation in the Russia–Ukraine war. As an intense theater of operations for information warfare for well over a decade, the war in Ukraine serves as an especially apt choice for an analysis of “obscured ripeness.” Likewise, Türkiye’s anomalous position as the only substantive source of mediation in the conflict lends significance to an empirical examination of its motivation and behavior as a mediator.

Findings: This research reveals that the pervasive use of weaponized information in the Russia–Ukraine war has distorted and disordered the information environment, thereby obscuring the ability of third parties to determine if the conflict is or could be ripe for mediation. However, the condition of obscured ripeness that prevails in the conflict has not proven a deterrent for mediation by Türkiye, which, as the only mediator in the conflict, has used a transactional approach to mediation motivated by self-regarding interests and animated by a manipulative mediation strategy. In sum, this inductive analysis of Turkish mediation in Ukraine reveals that the use of weaponized information in a conflict indirectly selects on transactional mediation (and mediators). The significance of this finding is magnified by the widespread use of weaponized information in contemporary conflicts as well as the declining frequency of third-party mediation.

Originality/value: There have been few, if any, systematic assessments in Turkish mediation of the Russia–Ukraine war, and none specifically concerned with the effects of weaponized information. Additionally, the paper proposes a typology of mediator motivation that is used to structure that assessment, while also introducing a new concept (“obscured ripeness”) and linking that concept both to the existing literature on ripeness and to the use of weaponized information in contemporary armed conflicts. As such, this manuscript represents an important contribution both to the empirical and theoretical landscape with respect to the study of mediation and international conflict management. © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.

Publication Title

International Journal of Conflict Management

Publication Date

2023

ISSN

1044-4068

DOI

10.1108/IJCMA-12-2022-0215

Keywords

Türkiye, mediation, obscured ripeness, Russia-Ukraine war, transactional mediation, weaponized information

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