Turkey’s foreign policy unlikely to change when Erdoğan’s career ends - analysis

Turkey’s foreign policy under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is not solely the product of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s personal beliefs and expecting a U-turn in Turkish foreign policy after Erdoğan leaves the scene is unrealistic, political scientist Spyridon N. Litsas said on Wednesday.

Conflicts with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, a rapprochement with Russia in defence procurement and Syria policy, an anti-Israel stance and support to Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East are some features of Turkey’s current policy Litsas listed in an article he penned for the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies. 

“Some analysts believe this state of affairs reflects Erdoğan’s personal views regarding Turkey’s international power position. Because of this, they anticipate a spectacular U-turn from Ankara as soon as Erdoğan leaves the scene,” Litsas said.

“If Erdoğan’s foreign policy is solely a product of his personality and belief system, the problem is soluble, because no politician lasts forever,” he said. 

But Turkey’s policy choices such as not allowing the United States the Incirlik air base in Turkey for strikes against Iraq in 1996 and 1997 provides evidence that Turkey’s foreign policy can be a result of the systematic changes in the international arena after the end of the Cold War, Litsas said.

Therefore, analysts that believe that Turkish foreign policy will systematically change after Erdoğan are mistaken as the multipolar system is helping the nationalism rooted in the collective subconscious of the Turkish state come to the surface, according to the analyst. 

Turkish megalomania will cause more instability in the eastern Mediterranean, but a strong bond between Jerusalem, Nicosia and Athens together with U.S. involvement in the region could be the best strategy to guard against it, Litsas said.