“Turkey’s Foreign Policy in Europe’s Eyes: The Difficulty to Make Sense of a Rising Power Diplomacy” in The New World Order: Shifting Dynamics in a Post-Pandemic World (forthcoming)
This paper looks at particular aspects of Turkish foreign policy with which Europe is uncomfortable. It examines, in particular, Turkey’s assertiveness as a regional power in the Middle East region, its approach of the Syrian conflict and the Kurdish issue, and the country’s constant shuffling between old allies (NATO, the US, Europe) and new partners (Russia, Iran). The paper explores the political and sociological factors that explain Europe’s discomfort with Turkey’s foreign policy in general, and in the MENA region in particular. The main argument is that Europe, like the United States, is still unready to digest the new international reality: that the old Western-centric world order is gradually vanishing, and that a new era is ushering, characterized by power diffusion and by the growing assertiveness of middle rising powers and the Global South.
The paper examines other explanatory factors for Europe’s negative perception of Turkey’s erratic foreign policy. It argues that Ankara’s neo-ottoman path in foreign affairs, combined with the country’s resurgent nationalism and growing power, have reawakened in the collective memory of Europeans the image of “the Turk” as a historical competitor, even enemy, of the West. The paper contends that President Erdogan himself has contributed to reawakening the historical fears of Europe, as he embodies, in the eyes of many Europeans, the image of “the powerful Turk” who confronts Europe and the West with his strong language and national pride. Lastly, the paper analyzes the benefits, for both Turkey and the EU, of turning mutual distrust into trust, and looks at ways to steer their relations back onto a mutually beneficial path.