New Perspectives on Turkish Foreign Policy

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In the last decade, Turkey’s foreign policy and its role in its neighborhood, from the Balkans to the Caucasus and the Middle East, have undergone profound changes at a time of extraordinary flux in the region and in the world. Turkey’s foreign policy has shifted from a zero-sum approach in international relations under the AK party government, which came to power in 2002.Turkey’s new foreign policy initiated by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, the architecture of the ‘‘zero-conflict with neighbors’’ policy, has replaced the Repuclic’s hard security centered ‘‘Hobbesian strategic culture’’, a zero-sum balance of material power approach to international relations  with a more Kantian strategic outlook. With this change , the use of soft  power has become the constitutive dimension  of a proactive multi-oriented  Turkish foreign policy and identity. The shift in the security and strategic culture began with new mind-set of the political elites in the mid-2000s.It was during  this period that they began to place greater emphasis on turkey becoming a regional power  with the growth of a wider civil and economic agenda  as a new priority. Consequently, Turkey’s diplomatic weight has increased in the region, and Turkey has increased its capacity for involvement in regional and global politics as a regional  power  and pivotal state. In addition ,in adopting the ‘‘zero conflict  with neighboring states’’ policy and creating mechanisms for resolving conflicts in the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East  ,Turkey has enhanced its influence  in the international community.

However, this development isn’t without its own risks. As its advantages became more apparent in light of the last decade’s political events, the enlargement of Turkey’s hard and soft power is expected to change its rivals’ evaluations and threat perceptions. Turkey’s increasing capability has not gone unnoticed by the traditional and potential future leaders of the region such as Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia. How Turkey deals with potential conflicting points and a prospective low-intensity competition for regional  leadership will depend on its own political positioning, in addition to other constraining effects dictated by economic necessities and  the influence of major global powers. Answering these questions  will shed  more light on Turkey’s internal capabilities and the impact of its environment.

One of the major drivers accelerating this process is the EU harmonization process that began in 2001,yet Turkey has given contradictory signals in its relations with  the European Union. Burak Küntay analyses the trajectory of Turkish-EU  relations in the article entitled ‘‘Turkey on the Path  of the EU’’.

The rise of the  Arab spring has challenged Turkey’s zero-conflict policy and it has brought troubling developments in nearby regions; yet it has also provided Turkey with news risks and opportunities. In the meantime, Turkey’s relations with Israel have become tense following the Gaza flotilla crisis. How will Ankara deal with the risks and opportunities for Turkey in a conflict-ridden Middle East where there are old and new political memories concerning the Ottoman Empire  and the Turkish Republic? In this issue three articles analyze Turkish policy in the Middle East, namely,(i) ‘‘Turkish Foreign Policy and Libya’’, by Gamze Coşkun; (ii) ‘‘Turkish-Israeli Relations’’, by Deniz Tansi; and (iii) ‘‘Arab-Turkish Relations from the Emergence of Arab Nationalism to 1916’’, by Gizem Çakmak.

In the age of uncertainty, what are the options for Turkey? Is Turkey becoming a more globalized actor and more closely integrated into Europe and the West, with a multilateral approach toward the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans? Its leadership, national and Islamic identity and various geopolitical and global security dynamics will certainly play a role in shaping Turkey’s future and its external relations. Selcen Öner, in the article entitled ‘‘The Identity of Turkey and its Influence on Turkish Foreign Policy’’ discusses  the identity dynamics shaping Turkey’s  foreign policy. What type of security roles will be undertaken by NATO? Süha Atatüre, in his article entitled ‘‘An Evaluation of NATO’s New Strategic Consept in the Framework of a Constructivist Aproach’’, analyzes NATO’s new strategic consept by adopting a constructivist approach and relates the analysis to Turkey’s security issues.

The analyses on Turkey and its foreign policy should provide insight to students of political science and international relations, and they should be of interest to policymakers and observes in Turkey and in the world.

Burak KÜNTAY & Nilüfer KARLI