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Understanding Turkey’s Foreign Policy

Speaking of Turkish foreign policy, Foreign Policy has a contribution from the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who explains the formal guiding principles that Turkey is following when conducting its relations with other states. Anyone interested in understanding what the Erdogan government was thinking as it pursued this nuclear deal with Iran should read the entire article. Most relevant was the following passage:

The third operative principle is proactive and pre-emptive peace diplomacy, which aims to take measures before crises emerge and escalate to a critical level. Turkey’s regional policy is based on security for all, high-level political dialogue, economic integration and interdependence, and multicultural coexistence.

As well as this one:

The fourth principle is adherence to a multi-dimensional foreign policy. Turkey’s relations with other global actors aim to be complementary, not in competition. Such a policy views Turkey’s strategic relationship with the United States through the two countries’ bilateral strategic ties and through NATO. It considers its EU membership process, its good neighborhood policy with Russia, and its synchronization policy in Eurasia as integral parts of a consistent policy that serves to complement each other. This means that good relations with Russia are not an alternative to relations with the EU. Nor is the model partnership with the United States a rival partnership against Russia.

Yes, Davutoglu is stating his government’s formal position and he is outlining principles that are not going to be, and probably cannot be, observed at all times, and we should all be appropriately skeptical that any government can maintain the balance necessary to sustain a policy that is both activist and, as he puts it, multi-dimensional. As we have seen over the last two years, Turkey’s efforts to engage in its “proactive and pre-emptive peace diplomacy” have irritated some of its close allies. Despite the hope that relations with Russia and the U.S. or the U.S. and Iran can be complementary, in practice Washington views improving Turkish relations with Iran as coming at the expense of U.S.-Turkish ties. This is largely a product of our flawed Iran policy, but it remains a difficult diplomatic problem for Turkey.

Even though Ankara may not intend for its “zero problems” model to be interpreteted as a tilt towards Russia and Iran and away from the U.S. and Europe, this is how many people in the West perceive it. The Western reaction to this nuclear deal is a case in point. It is not just that Turkey has irritated its Western allies by inserting itself into the process, but that they regard it as effectively having taking the Iranian “side.” These Westerners are mistaken to perceive Turkey as they do, but that doesn’t change the problem for Ankara that its intent of cultivating good relations with all of its neighbors and partners can be and will be misunderstood by its long-standing allies that have been accustomed to a reflexively loyal Turkey.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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