Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2011

A Place in the Sun or Fifteen Minutes of Fame? Understanding Turkey's New Foreign Policy

Sinan √úlgen

December 2010

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Turkey’s vote against additional UN Security Council sanctions on Iran this year was viewed by many observers as a sign that Turkey is drifting away from the West. In reality, Ankara’s relationship with the United States and the EU is much more complicated. Turkey’s ambitious foreign policy and growing influence present the West with an opportunity to demand that Turkey play a more constructive role in the international community. There is no doubt that a reorientation of Turkish foreign policy is under way, an evolution that began after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power in 2002. This transformation was underpinned by the strategic vision of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who pledged to establish Turkey as an important player in international diplomacy. Turkey’s new foreign policy has been driven by three key factors: reconceptualizing Turkey’s identity and international role, desecuritizing its foreign relations, and increasing its strength as a trading state. As a result, Ankara has become a more confident and assertive international player, vastly improved its relations with Arab neighbors, and grown its economy to the sixteenth largest in the world. With a balanced web of relations with other countries, the EU and the United States no longer occupy the central place in Turkey’s foreign policy. While this does not mean that Turkey is moving away from the West—or that the West has lost Turkey—Turkey is striving to create more space in its neighborhood to further its ambitious foreign policy position.