Erdogan's Weathervane Foreign Policy

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On June 27, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey would be normalizing relations with Israel and Russia. This 180-degree policy shift came after his outreach to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two countries with which Ankara has squabbled over the Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood. Now there is talk among government circles that Erdogan might be ready to initiate a reconciliation process with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The question now is, do Erdogan’s maneuvers represent a coherent ideology or is his wavering foreign policy simply an expression of his goal to establish one-man rule at home?

Thirteen years of rule by the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has steered Turkey from its traditional Western-oriented trans-Atlantic foreign policy. In stark contrast to the 80 years of secular-republican diplomacy, Erdogan has combined the rhetoric of pan-Islamism and neo-Ottomanism with the pragmatism of trade diplomacy and transactionalism. This explosive mix, along with the Turkish president’s personal self-righteousness, has been a recipe for inconsistency and embarrassment.

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