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Research Report

Turkish Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century

Alexander Murinson
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2012
Pages: 35

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iv])
  3. (pp. 1-2)

    Since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power in 2002, especially after the 2007 presidential elections in which the party with Islamist roots consolidated its hold on power, Turkey has pursued a neo-Ottoman vision in its foreign policy. Neo-Ottomanism, which gives a prominent place to Islam and Turkey’s imperial history as soft power tools in the conduct of foreign policy, negates the country’s secular Kemalist legacy and republican diplomacy tradition.¹ The blueprint for this policy was outlined in the Stratejik Derinlik (Strategic Depth) doctrine propounded by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. It called for an activist engagement with...

  4. (pp. 2-4)

    Kemalist Turkey viewed the neighboring Arab regimes with suspicion. The republican governments adhered to the view of a permanent threat of an Arab “knife in the back.” This haunting image, which describes Arab support of the British goal of dismembering the Ottoman Empire during World War I, had a profound effect on shaping the Republic’s perception of its immediate environment.4 The Kemalist elite, the bureaucratic and political class in Turkey for than more than seventy years, viewed the period of Ottoman expansion into the area of the modern Middle East and the Balkans as disastrous policy that nearly ended in...

  5. (pp. 4-10)

    The shifts in Turkey’s policies towards its neighbors are dramatic and can be explained only by a confluence of international, regional, and domestic factors. The systemic change at the international and regional levels, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is responsible for a shift in general Turkish foreign policy. As Washington and its European allies march to fill a geopolitical vacuum in the Eurasian Heartland, they have tried to establish Turkey as a model country that combines a modernized or “moderate” Islam with secularism in this geographical space.10 In fact, some Washington policy-makers, including then President George H. W....

  6. (pp. 10-16)

    A substantial part of the Turkish political elite, including former Presidents Turgut Özal (1989-1993) and Süleyman Demirel (1993-2000), were convinced that in the post-Cold War era Turkey needed to return to its historical home, i.e. to fortify its position in the Middle East, improve its historical links with the newly-independent Turkic states, and ease tensions with its Russian neighbor.28 The Turkish observer Kivanç Galip Över, who served as the head of the Presidential Secretariat General of Information Production and Publication Department in Ahmet Sezer’s administration, argued in 2003 that “[recent] events demonstrated that positions of Turkey in the West will...

  7. (pp. 16-23)

    This last section discusses the Turkish hopes during the “Arab Spring” to position itself as the model for the new Arab aspirations to democracy. Turkey very much wants the Arab world to set for itself the goal of emulating Turkey’s democratic system. In addition, the “Arab Spring” created new dilemmas for Turkey’s foreign policy including a failure of the “zero problems” policy.

    Prior to the “Arab Spring,” Islamists in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia viewed the AKP as a model for the project of Islamization.56 Since the AKP is an heir to a chain of Islamist, religiously conservative...

  8. (pp. 23-25)

    Embarking upon the neo-Ottomanist foreign policy course, the AKP administration, in a sharp departure from the Kemalist principles of foreign policy, marked a new stage in the Republic’s history. Under the rule of the AKP since 2002, Turkey has tried to implement a balancing act in its foreign policy while constantly expanding its influence in the Middle East, the Caucasus, and the Balkans. On the one hand, Turkey has played the role of reluctant ally of the West, as a member of NATO, and is therefore deeply involved in the military and strategic interests of the Western allies. On the...

  9. (pp. 25-31)