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Turkish foreign policy in a post-western order: strategic autonomy or new forms of dependence?

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Mustafa Kutlay and Ziya Öniş,"Turkish foreign policy in a post-western order: strategic autonomy or new forms of dependence?", International Affairs 97: 4 (2021) 1085–1104

Abstract

Turkish foreign policy has dramatically transformed over the last two decades. In the first decade of the Justice and Development Party's (AKP) rule, the ‘logic of interdependence’ constituted the driving motive of Turkish foreign policy. In the second decade, however, the ‘logic of interdependence’ and the soft power-driven ‘mediator–integrator’ role were gradually replaced with a quest for ‘strategic autonomy’, accompanied by interventionism, unilateralism and coercive diplomacy. This article explores the causes of this dramatic shift. We argue that ‘strategic autonomy’, which goes beyond a moderate level of status-seeking compatible with Turkey's material power credentials, has a double connotation in the Turkish context. First, it constitutes a framework for the Turkish ruling elite to align with the non-western great powers and balance the US-led hierarchical order. Second, and more importantly, it serves as a legitimating foreign policy discourse for the government to mobilize its electoral base at home, fragment opposition and accrue popular support. We conclude that the search for autonomy from its western allies and the move towards the Russia–China axis has led to Turkey's isolation and permitted the emergence of new forms of dependence.