A New Turkish Foreign Policy: Towards Proactive “Moral Realism”


Insight Turkey Volume 19 No. 1, 2017

The imploding political stability and multiplying security threats over a vast geography, from the greater Middle East to Europe’s gates, have set in motion a global tectonic shift. A refugee crisis of biblical proportions, the problem of ISIS, increased terrorist attacks targeting urban populations, and the mushrooming of “failed states” in the region suggest no single nation or community is immune from the tightening grip of insecurity around the central tenets of humanity. Turkey is not immune from these challenges and security risks; on the contrary, it is at the epicenter of this global shift. Both its domestic affairs and foreign policy are exposed to these developments. While expectations vis-à-vis Turkey’s role and involvement in the Middle East increase, challenges originating from the Middle East confront Turkey more than ever before. Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy choices will shape not only the future of this region but also the effectiveness of any international, concerted effort for enduring peace and stability.

In order to respond more effectively to these unprecedented challenges and security risks, Turkish foreign policy has been radically reset over the last two years. While its proactive mode of operation since 2002 has remained, its vision, its identity, and its strategy have evolved. The radical reset of Turkish foreign policy since 2015, as will be analyzed in detail throughout this paper, involves a rupture rather than continuity with the 2002-2010/15 “Davutoğlu era.” I argue that over the last two years we have been witnessing not only a foreign policy reset but also the emergence of a new Turkish foreign policy whose proactive nature and main principles are shaped by what I call proactive “moral realism,” which combines hard power-based military assertiveness and humanitarian norms.

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