Militarization, Islam redefining Turkish foreign policy – Prof. Erdi Öztürk

Turkey’s new understanding of civilization marks a rupture with the country’s pro-Western legacy endorsed by the founding fathers of the republic, Ahmet Erdi Öztürk, an associate professor at London Metropolitan University and Coventry University, said.

There are four pillars that define Turkey’s new foreign policy - changing state mentality about militarization, Islam, civilization and power - Öztürk told Ahval’s editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar in a podcast.

The new Turkey as defined by these pillars represent a transformation of state mentality, according to the analyst.

Turkey’s new foreign policy relies on inter-sectionality of domestic and foreign issues as Turkey is withdrawing from old world order.

Referring to recent data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Öztürk notes that Turkish military expenditures have increased by 86 percent over past decades, pointing to a dramatic increase, which refers to an ontological insecurity of the country.

At the beginning of its rise power, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) allied with the Gülenist movement, as well as left-wing liberals and moderate political groups but is now allying with secular nationalist who championed Eurasianism with an anti-Western political outlook, according to Öztürk.

The Blue Homeland doctrine, which is introduced by Eurasianist wing of military officials, is one of the locomotives of militarization, which resulted in Turkey’s involvement in eastern Mediterranean.

Rather using its soft power, Turkey used its hard power, engaging in military conflicts, inducing last year’s war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. This marks the end of the so-called zero-problem era espoused by former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, according to Öztürk.

The instrumentalization of Sunni Islam in foreign policy is the second pillar, which shaped Turkey’s foreign affairs. Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs is one of tools that have led to the instrumentalization approach in foreign policy.

Öztürk maintains that religious orders in Turkey are currently used to justify current policies of the government at home. Previously, Turkey was seen as a moderate Muslim and pro-secular country. However, pro-government media outlets depict Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the leader of a global Muslim ummah (religious community), Öztürk remarked.

Since the introduction of neo-Ottomanist foreign policy of Davutoğlu, pro-government circles have defined Turkey as a unique non-Western civilization, which should pursue its own path, Öztürk said.

Some pro-government figures argue that Turkey is now stronger, more independent and a game changer. But political scientist Öztürk disagrees with this parochial understanding of civilization.

The very idea of what civilization means has a lot to do with the ways in which you are going to sit at the negotiation table with different countries, according to Öztürk.

When it comes to the final pillar of new Turkey, Öztürk says Turkey is still a middle power and it should maintain limits.

Turkey’s economy is not eligible to become a major power in regional and global affairs, he says.