Will Turkey abandon its Western allies and pivot to the “East”? My report for The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.
Could Turkey really bid “adieu” to the West in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of 15-16 July 2016? This was one of the questions on the minds of policymakers and pundits around the world as the government in Ankara was consolidating power and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was feeling abandoned by his Western allies.
For decades, Turkey has been among the most important strategic partners for the West and also one of the most difficult. Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the strategic sea lanes of the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, and straddling a vast area from the Balkans to the Caucasus to the Middle East, Turkey is one of the most crucial pivot states of the modern age. Its support is needed in the fight against ISIS, to solve Europe’s refugee crisis, and to end the longstanding Cyprus dispute. In 2014, HCSS placed Turkey among the top four countries in the world in terms of its strategic importance to the great powers.
The critical role Turkey plays in international affairs adds to its pivotal status. Whether it is tackling the problem of ISIS, ending the atrocious civil war in Syria, curbing the flow of refugees into Europe, or serving as a conduit for meeting Europe’s energy needs, Turkey is simply too important to ignore for the EU, NATO, and the United States. The traumatic coup attempt has turned the question of Turkey’s pivot from a thought exercise into a potential game-changer that could alter its foreign policy, as well as those of its Western partners. At the same time, if Turkey sticks with the West, the question of its reliability and cooperation will continue to dominate discussions.