Erdogan’s foreign policy has reached a dead end - CNN

CNN journalist Tamara Qiblawi says that Turkey’s regional power projection over the last 10 years is coming to a logical conclusion. Turkey’s foreign policy goal of becoming a regional power has backfired, according to analysts who spoke to CNN.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) changed the country’s foreign policy orientation away from Europe and the West, especially after the stalling of Turkey’s accession process with the EU after 2007. Its new foreign policy was heavily influenced by a book published in 2001 by former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, called ‘Strategic Depth’. The book suggested that Turkey could become a regional power and could use its influence to create a ‘Pax Ottomanica’ in the region.

A key aspect of this policy was that Turkey would avoid conflict with its neighbours, what Davutoğlu called a ‘zero problems policy’. However, the start of the Arab Spring in December 2010 derailed these goals, and especially Turkey’s relationship with Syria, which had previously been good.

Backing the Muslim Brotherhood and similar ideological groups in other countries soured Turkey’s relationship with many Muslim nations in the Middle East. Non-democratic countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt see Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to their stability, and this leaves Turkey with few friends left besides Qatar and Hamas in the Palestinian Territories.

Meanwhile in the Eastern Mediterranean, the lack of progress in establishing clear maritime boundaries and in resolving the Cyprus issue has led to tensions with Greece, Cyprus, France and the wider EU. Sinan Ulgen, a Visiting Scholar at Carnegie Europe said the blame for the deterioration with European states was not all Turkey’s fault: "I (also) think the EU, and the US particularly did mismanage the relationship with Turkey”, he said.

Soner Cagaptay, the Director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told CNN that Turkey’s regional policy had backfired. Despite aiming to be a regional power with good relations with its neighbours, Turkey “has good ties with no Muslim majority country nearby." 

With other strategic relationships failing, Turkey has now turned to support for its traditional ally, Azerbaijan, in its ongoing conflict with Armenia and the breakaway Armenian republic in Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to Cagaptay, Turkey’s economic situation may bring an end to Turkey’s current foreign policy position. "The economy is Erdogan's Achilles heel, not only domestically but also in foreign policy," he said. "Not only does the economy determine if Turkey can continue to flex its muscles, but if the economy tanks, Turkey won't have the budget to devote to all these battles and fronts."