Turkey has represented for more than ten years one of the most dynamic realities of the Eurasian scenario, both from an economic and a diplomatic point of view. Taking advantage of a strategic geopolitical position that places it at the center of the most relevant regional scenarios of the post-bipolar international system – from the Black Sea area to that of the eastern Mediterranean, from the Middle East to the Caucasus and Central Asia – Turkey she had actually managed to take on a leading role in the surrounding regions. From 2013 onwards, however, this role has diminished and Turkey has found itself having to deal with a changed surrounding reality and a readjustment of its policy – foreign and domestic – to the new equilibrium. Many contradictions emerged between 2013 and 2014 and Ankara, as well as other developing countries, found itself facing a series of new challenges that jeopardize its international credibility. Crises in neighboring countries, restrictions on press freedoms and political instability are the characteristics that differentiate Turkey today from last decade.
Heir of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Republic was proclaimed in October 1923 following the war of independence waged by General Mustafà Kemāl against the allied powers which, following the Ottoman defeat in the First World War, had occupied the Anatolian territory. In addition to representing the champion of the independence cause, Mustafà Kemāl – who from 1934 would have assumed the most famous surname of Atatürk, ‘father of the Turks’ – was president until his death in 1938. Inspired by European institutional models, he was a promoter of profound reforms social, institutional and economic which, in clear break with the Ottoman experience, have modernized and secularized the country, even in a violent way, laying the foundations on which the Republic of Turkey still rests in part today. For Turkey government and politics, please check a2zgov.com.
The westernizing push given by Atatürk also had significant repercussions on foreign policy, which from that moment on was attentive to the strengthening of Euro-Atlantic ties. Pillar of the Western security system since 1952 – with its entry into NATO – Turkey has long pursued the goal of full participation in the process of European integration, starting cooperation with the European Community in 1963 and opening, in 2005, negotiations for accession to the European Union (EU).
On the other hand, the desire to overcome the Ottoman experience typical of the Kemalist vision was reflected, at the level of international relations, also in a line of non-involvement of one’s borders in Middle Eastern affairs and, more generally, of the territories to the east.. This approach was partially revised only with the end of the bipolar system when, the dynamics that had limited its freedom of action no longer exist, Turkey exploited its cultural, economic, institutional and strategic characteristics to lay the foundations for a new regional activism which has resulted in a dense network of bilateral and multilateral relations.
From the beginning of the new millennium onwards, pursuing a line of ‘eliminating problems’ with its neighbors, Ankara had turned its foreign policy primarily towards its Middle Eastern interlocutors. By marginalizing the sources of bilateral tensions, in the first decade of the 21st century Turkey built privileged channels of dialogue and cooperation with most of its neighbors – from Syria to Iran, from Iraq to the Gulf countries – and, by capitalizing on its own economic growth, has at the same time taken the lead in development plans for regional economic cooperation and integration. The so-called Arab Springs and the upheavals that have ensued in some countries such as Syria and Egypt, as well as frequent diplomatic crises with Israel and tensions with the Iraqi government, however, they questioned Turkish foreign policy. From 2011 onwards, the government had to partially retreat from the activism of previous years in the Middle East, in an attempt to find a new location to better satisfy the aims of regional hegemony. Attempts to influence some national contexts have proved unsuccessful, as happened with support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; this has led Ankara to have to look for a new Middle Eastern neighborhood policy. The rise in Iraq and Syria of the jihadist movement of the Islamic State (IS) has contributed to making the situation in Turkey even more delicate, forcing the country to face the complex issues arising from the Syrian crisis, first of all the Kurdish and migratory ones..
From the point of view of international politics, after the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, Turkey has invested considerable diplomatic and economic resources also in strengthening the partnership with the Caucasian and Central Asian republics (many of which are similar from an ethno-linguistic point of view), as well as with the Russian Federation itself. Throwing behind the memory of the historical conflict that had characterized Russian-Turkish relations over the past two centuries, Ankara and Moscow have built a partnership strategic that has its cornerstones in energy cooperation and security. Turkish-Russian relations experienced a period of crisis following the November 2015 incident, when Turkish anti-aircraft aircraft shot down a Russian jet flying over Ankara’s airspace as part of Moscow’s operations against the IS in Syria.
The commitment to the reconstruction of the Balkan area and the interest in cooperation with African partners complete the picture of the multi-regional perspective of Turkish foreign policy. However, this broadening of the range of action has not led to a downsizing of the value attributed by Ankara to relations with traditional Western allies, although from 2011 onwards the alliance with the West has suffered repercussions from regional vicissitudes. The NATO remains important in Turkish security policies, but the initial ambiguity about Turkish intervention in Syria has created friction with allies, friction returned only after the entrance of the country in the coalition against ‘ Isa took place in August 2015. It also weighs on relations withBorn the Kurdish problem: the United States in fact support the Kurdish militias in Syria, while Ankara fears a strengthening their excessive.
Furthermore, entry into the EU no longer seems to constitute the strategic priority of Turkish foreign policy, as it had been in the first decade of the 2000s. Relations with the European Union have recently deteriorated following criticism from the European side of Erdogan’s authoritarian positions in domestic politics. However, the migratory emergency has seen the Union make a virtue of necessity, initiating a dialogue for a common solution to the problem and temporarily putting aside criticisms of civil rights.
The greater autonomy acquired by Ankara in foreign policy has therefore translated into decisions partially different from those of the Euro-Atlantic allies, generating moments of tension. Thus, the 2003 refusal to the US request to invade Iraq from the north or, again, the recognition of Hamas as a legitimate Palestinian interlocutor, generated friction with the traditional US ally and, nevertheless, with Israel. In particular, the Turkish attempt to present itself as a credible interlocutor and model of economic-institutional development for the Arab neighbors has led to a distancing from the work of Israel, all the more marked the more muscular the Israeli policy towards the Palestinian question proved to be.. Against this background,
With growing regional credibility, Turkey has promoted multilateral initiatives for the resolution of regional disputes – from the dialogue group between Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the conference of countries bordering Iraq and the Platform for stability and cooperation in the Caucasus, promoted in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008 -, while also engaging in mediation activities. With the start of the revolts in the Middle East, Ankara also attempted to mediate in the crises in Libya and Syria, countries with which it had solid economic and diplomatic relations. While these efforts proved unsuccessful, they nevertheless created new margins of understanding and collaboration between Ankara and its Euro-Atlantic allies.