Foreign policy after the June 24 elections

In the post-elections era, Ankara is set to follow a multi-dimensional independent foreign policy, facing both regional and global challenges by pursuing rational steps and strategies.

Foreign policy after the June 24 elections
Armoured vehicles of Turkish Armed Forces start to patrol between northern Syrian city of Manbij and Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield area on June 18, 2018. Turkish and U.S. troops in line with a previously agreed roadmap for eliminating terrorists and stabilizing the area. Anadolu Agency

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) have governed Turkey since 2002. Erdogan has massively restructured Turkey – both politically and economically – and has won every election and referendum in the last 16 years. The AK Party has become the most dominant force in Turkish politics, so much so receiving 40 percent of the votes was considered a defeat, albeit the main opposition was unable to cross 30 percent.

In the international arena, Erdogan has called for political and systemic reforms. He represents power in domestic politics and symbolizes one of the main oppositions to the current global order.

However, the more Erdogan emphasizes political changes in the current international order, the more the global powers alienate and "otherize" Turkey. They have mobilized every possible instrument to overthrow Erdogan's government. Despite the Western world's bias and other obstacles, Erdogan has managed to win yet another election.In this context, most observers now expect Turkey to adjust its foreign policy. For Western observers, it means the normalization of the country; for others, it is time Turkey accentuated its cultural identity in its foreign policy. For some, on the other hand, the new Erdogan government seems likely to continue on its previous foreign policy path.

Turkey will continue to take initiatives in its neighboring regions, namely the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. It will try to establish regional stability axes. Therefore, Ankara will continue to challenge the contradictive and divisive political discourse of Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia and will not allow any possible fait accompli against its national interests.

Moreover, Turkey has learned to compartmentalize its foreign policy, meaning that it does not approach its foreign policy with a "wholesale" mentality. For example, even though it opposes Iran on many regional issues, it is against the additional embargo imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration. Similarly, Turkey has opposed the involvement of global powers in many regional issues, which in many cases have resulted in further instability, but concurrently, it calls for combined efforts to solve the regional problems.

Turkey will continue to maintain its alliance and strategic cooperation with the Western world and at the same time, it will continue to be an active member of NATO, the Council of Europe and other Western organizations.

As Erdogan has said many times, Turkey will not stop its journey toward EU membership, even in the face of a strong anti-Turkish sentiment in the bloc. Both sides are aware that every passing day makes the possibility of a full membership even more difficult – if not impossible. However, interdependence between the two sides requires the expansion of their relations.

Turkey will continue to improve its relations with non-Western countries, Muslim and African countries as well. Erdogan's Turkey divides the world into two main political categories: Old Ottoman lands and beyond. Within this perspective, regions such as the Balkans, Central Asia and Africa are of crucial importance. Thus, Turkey has invested heavily and is financing many projects in these regions. As a result, it has increased its hard and soft power.Considering the fast-changing structure of the transitory global politics, balances of power, the consolidation of Turkey's domestic politics and its economic structure, the country will resist and struggle against massive Western economic and political pressure.

Ankara will most probably continue to challenge the waves of international and transnational threats against it. It will also continue to pursue a multidimensional, diversified, interdependent and Ankara-centered foreign policy. Changing international conjuncture, regional environments and increasing economic and political capacity necessitates Turkey to take the initiative in regional and international crises.

Source: Daily Sabah

Muhittin Ataman
Prof. Dr. Muhittin Ataman graduated from the Faculty of Political Science in the department of International Relations at Ankara University. Ataman obtained his M.A. at Central Oklahoma University and his Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Ataman is currently a faculty member at the International Relations department at Yildirim Beyazit University and is also SETA’s Deputy General Director.