Ankara overturns post-Cold War diplomacy

Ankara building ties with Russia does not mean it is moving away from the Western-bloc, but instead adopting a multiple-axis foreign policy

Due to the recently strained relations with the U.S., clashes of opinion with the EU, the purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems and the convergence with the Kremlin, it is currently being asked if Turkey is drifting away from the Western alliance. I will try to answer this question.

First of all, I would like to start by saying Turkey is compelled to ask this question and incline toward one particular side by some circles on the assumption one is obliged to be unidirectional in foreign policy. Certain stereotypes are being instilled in this respect. To illustrate, it is suggested that if one has good relations with Russia, then they have to diverge from the West, or if one is influential in the Middle East, there is an axis shift.

The latest scandal erupted in a NATO military exercise that was the product with this exact mindset. There is no ruling that can expel Turkey from NATO. Turkey can leave the alliance only through its own decision. And several agents have been trying to push Turkey to make such a decision for a while.

I think this fact has been seen by the political authority and some measures have been taken to thwart the plots aimed at Turkey. Turkey has recently had some disagreements both with the U.S. and Europe. Although the country formerly covered such differences, Turkey is currently persisting independently. Therefore, the country can no longer be steered as easily as before, which is ostensibly not welcomed by the West, particularly the U.S. Accordingly, the Reza Zarrab case currently ongoing in the U.S. is overtly enacted as an operation to intimidate Turkey.

Despite all the challenges, however, Turkey places emphasis on its relations with the West with a broader perspective that does not only consider minor or short-term problems. The West also knows that it is not easy to give up on Turkey. It is possible to see many instances of these considerations over the recent past. For example, some important messages were articulated during Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s visit to London. Yıldırım said: “It is certain that we will not leave NATO, in which we have been an ally for more than 50 years.” He also said that Turkey and the U.S. need to cooperate much more in the medium and long term, adding that the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile systems is a component of a certain process and NATO allies did not make a good offer. Yıldırım also issued some positive messages to Germany. In a nutshell, the prime minister reminded the world that Turkey still wants good relations with the West.

Following this visit by the prime minister, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is heading to Athens this Thursday. Athens attaches great importance to this visit since it is the first time a sitting Turkish president is to visit Athens in 65 years. Even this detail alone summarizes the vitality of this visit. In addition, this visit will also indicate Greece’s support for Turkey’s EU membership while displaying that Turkish-Greek relations have entered a new phase based on bilateral dialogue after the strained relations experienced in the past.

It seems that the relations with the U.S. will gain momentum in the following days. It is said that a list, including some steps that can be taken for visa exemptions, has been prepared and submitted to the president. If the list is approved, it will be presented in the meeting scheduled on Dec. 10. Meanwhile, Erdoğan held a critical telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and a Paris visit is scheduled for the following days.

To sum up, the schemes aimed to provoke Turkey to leave NATO and the Western bloc have already been taken care of. Turkey insists on maintaining its multidimensional foreign policy. By building good ties with Russia and other countries on its axis, Turkey aims to take significant strategic steps without leaving NATO. Unlike what has been said so far, this is not an axis shift, but a multiple-axis foreign policy.


Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hand with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) during a press conference on October 10, 2016 in Istanbul.
Putin visits Turkey on October 10 for talks with counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pushing forward ambitious joint energy projects as the two sides try to overcome a crisis in ties. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

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