Turkish Foreign Policy in Flux

John Martin Lecture: Prof Ziya Öniş on Traditional Alignments with the West versus the New Eastern Orientation

February 27, 2021
Event needs to be booked four days in advance here

The British Association for Turkish Area Studies Annual John Martin Lecture

Ziya Öniş is Professor of International Political Economy, Koç University, Istanbul

Abstract: Turkish foreign policy has been dramatically transformed over the course of the decade. Recent foreign policy behavior, characterized by an anti-Western orientation, has become increasingly assertive and aggressive. The pendulum of Turkish foreign policy has been shifting towards the Russia-China axis. Furthermore, there has been a strong emphasis on the use of military power as amply illustrated by interventions in Syria and Libya and more recently in Nagorno-Karabakh. How do we explain the dramatic shift in Turkish foreign policy over the course of the past decade? The focus will be on the complex interplay of dramatic global power shifts, regional crises, and domestic transformations. Also, attention will be paid to the domestic political roots and the “populist dividend” associated with the new style foreign policy. Will Turkish foreign policy in the coming years continue to swing further in the direction of the Russia-China axis? I will argue that a lot will depend on the strength and durability of the authoritarian presidential regime. The current presidential regime will try to follow a balancing act between maintaining a transactional relationship with the US and the EU, based on common economic and security interests, whilst shifting the axis of foreign policy towards the East. This balancing act, however, may be increasingly difficult to sustain as the S-400 issue clearly illustrates, in an international system of geo-political competition at a critical historical juncture when China, in contrast to its cautious rise over the previous decades, has started to gradually assert itself as an aggressive and confident global power.

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