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Turkish Foreign Policy In Flux

Turkish Foreign Policy In Flux

Date(s) - 02/27/2021
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

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The British Association for Turkish Area Studies

Annual John Martin Lecture

27 February 2021, 17.30 (GMT)

Turkish Foreign Policy in Flux: Traditional Alignments with the West versus the New Eastern Orientation

Ziya Öniş

Professor of International Political Economy,

Koç University, Istanbul


Turkish foreign policy has been dramatically transformed over the course of the decade. Recent foreign policy behavior, characterized by an anti-Western orientation, has become increasingly assertive and aggressive. The pendulum of Turkish foreign policy has been shifting towards the Russia-China axis. Furthermore, there has been a strong emphasis on the use of military power as amply illustrated by interventions in Syria and Libya and more recently in Nagorno-Karabakh. How do we explain the dramatic shift in Turkish foreign policy over the course of the past decade?

The focus will be on the complex interplay of dramatic global power shifts, regional crises, and domestic transformations. Also, attention will be paid to the domestic political roots and the “populist dividend” associated with the new style foreign policy. Will Turkish foreign policy in the coming years continue to swing further in the direction of the Russia-China axis? I will argue that a lot will depend on the strength and durability of the authoritarian presidential regime. The current presidential regime will try to follow a balancing act between maintaining a transactional relationship with the US and the EU, based on common economic and security interests, whilst shifting the axis of foreign policy towards the East. This balancing act, however, may be increasingly difficult to sustain as the S-400 issue clearly illustrates, in an international system of geo-political competition at a critical historical juncture when China, in contrast to its cautious rise over the previous decades, has started to gradually assert itself as an aggressive and confident global power.

Ziya Öniş is Professor of International Political Economy at Koç University in Istanbul. He is the former Director of both the Center for Research on Globalization, Peace and Democratic Governance (GLODEM) and the Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Koç University. His recent research focuses on rising powers and the emerging post-liberal international order, varieties of populism in a global context, democratic backsliding and authoritarian turns in the global South and the European Periphery, domestic politics-foreign policy linkages and the new wave of economic crises in emerging powers. His articles have been published in Review of International Political Economy, New Political Economy, Global Governance, Journal of Democracy, Comparative Politics, Government and Opposition, Development and Change, Mediterranean Politics, Third World Quarterly, Democratization, Political Science Quarterly, inter alia. He is the co-recipient of the Elizabeth Meehan Prize for the best article published in Government and Opposition in 2019.

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