Turkey’s Grand Unknown Strategy

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Barak Obama

Turkey’s actions and foreign policy are evidence of a well shaped long-term geopolitical strategy. Analysing the facts brings us to the understanding that Turkey’s foreign policy objectives extend further than it seems.
Overall, Turkey has aligned itself towards the West. It is an ally of NATO and the U.S, it seeks E.U membership, its government strives for democratization and westernization with a very expanded diplomatic agenda. On a regional level, it follows a peaceful ‘zero problems’ policy with its neighbours, in addition to becoming an energy transportation hub. Through these strategies the country seems to want to emerge as a regional superpower with strategic weight to the West.
Although the above illustration of Turkey is, to a great extent, valid, it is relatively simplified compared to reality. Ankara’s ambitions seem to be much greater. Although its relations with the U.S. remain largely stable, Ankara does not hesitate to challenge them by collaborating with Iran and Russia in the economic and energy/nuclear field. Furthermore, Erdogan’s recent statements on the Palestinian problem conflict show a hostile attitude towards Turkey’s traditional ally, Israel. This action primarily aims to approach the Arab-Islamic states using Islamic solidarism and also to internationally “alienate” Israel.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has released provocative statements on the importance of Turkey to the E.U. and also on the fact that Turkey does not need the E.U. to emerge as a major strategic power which indicate the balanced diplomatic rhetoric of Ankara.
Regarding the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, Turkey is doing everything it can to prevent the control – through mutual agreements and the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zones – of underwater energy resources from Cyprus, Greece, Israel and Egypt. Finally, regarding the Cyprus Conflict, although Turkey seems to want a solution, it keeps delaying it seeking more concessions or new parameters that would allow it to handle not only the North but also the South marine part of the island. However this does not seem to be easy because of the increased diplomatic relations of Nicosia with its neighbours.

A clear shift
The result of the above equation, which includes many other summands, is clearly indicative of an emerging Turkey spreading its “tentacles” in every direction. Turkey aims to play not only a regional but also a global role. Its changing relations with Israel, the provocative attitude towards the U.S., NATO and the EU, the prospect for its own nuclear program, its cooperation with Iran and Russia and the closer relations with the Arab-Muslim world show a gradual but clear shift of foreign policy towards a more autonomous, stronger and global role. It should be noted, however, that although this scenario is realistic, is not a near future scenario.

Means to an End
An important point to be made is that Turkey has currently an absolute need for the millions of Euros of EU funding it receives for its development and in order to achieve its objectives. In this light, Ankara appears to be using the EU for its own gain but at the same time is not showing the necessary political will to properly entering it. Let us not forget that while in past years Turkish public opinion was in favour of joining the EU, this has now changed dramatically. Erdogan’s government cannot just disregard this fact because the Turkish public opinion has always been a key factor in Turkish foreign policy and because, now more than ever, AKP (Erdogan’s party) needs the support of the people in the upcoming elections. Furthermore, Ankara seems to be using its position in the NATO alliance to seek funding and the placement of weapons facilities in its territory which is one of the reasons why Turkey still keeps close relations with the US and NATO.

Conclusion: Realistic but not so easy
To conclude, it is clear that Ankara’s ambitions extend beyond the borders of the Middle East and the greater Mediterranean region. The emergence of Turkey as a global power is visible and its efforts for a global and regional Islamic cooperation under the Turkish umbrella is not impossible to be materialised. To fulfil its goals mobilizes all means available; exploits all the resources; takes advantage of all of its allies and creates policies with long-term results. However, Turkey has still a long way to go and plenty of time to get there. We should not forget that a lot of things might happen during this course, given the fact that we live in a constantly changing local, regional and international system.

Zenonas Tziarras
Posted on http://www.global-politics.co.uk/ on December 10, 2010


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