Erdogan’s election victory: a new era in Turkish foreign policy
President Erdogan’s election victory represents a significant turning point in Türkiye’s foreign policy. Thanks to this success, Erdogan will have the chance to solidify Türkiye’s foreign policy gains in recent years. As an approved leader by the people, Erdogan is now in a strengthened position to shape Türkiye’s national security strategy and foreign policy goals on the international stage. Türkiye will continuously feel the need for a dynamic foreign policy in the unpredictable environment created by global power balances and regional conflict areas. This situation makes predictable and strong leadership a prerequisite for success in international politics.
Especially after the attempted coup on July 15, Türkiye has taken calculated risks to elevate its foreign policy to a more effective level. From 2011 to 2016, Türkiye was constantly seeking international alliances for intervention in Syria, but after the coup attempt, it became actively engaged in the field through direct military operations. It was observed that diplomatic effectiveness also increased alongside the advancement of military and intelligence capabilities. Thus, Türkiye gained the capacity to determine the dynamics on the ground through the Astana process with Russia and Iran and also managed to take steps to limit the US support for the YPG.
In the past year, Türkiye’s negotiations with Syria have come to the forefront. The main objectives of these negotiations were to ensure the voluntary return of refugees and to restrict the operational area of the PKK. The determination and resolve of Türkiye in ensuring stability in Syria were demonstrated by setting and implementing these objectives. Erdogan’s election victory has strengthened Türkiye’s capacity to enhance this diplomatic process, thus further strengthening the country’s hand in foreign policy maneuvers and negotiations.
In the war in northern Syria, where Türkiye has become a major actor, efforts to maintain the Ukraine-Russia balance have come to the forefront. While Türkiye continues to support Ukraine without joining the sanctions imposed by the US and Europe on Russia, maintaining its relationship with Russia can be seen as an achievement. However, in the coming period, depending on the course of the war, Türkiye may face a series of challenging choices. If the war continues without a conclusive outcome, Türkiye may face difficulties in areas such as Ukraine’s further rapprochement with NATO and the continuation of agreements with Russia, for example, in the context of grain trade.
By lifting the veto on the F-16 training and export to Ukraine, the US has begun to establish the infrastructure for the country’s de facto integration into the NATO alliance. Türkiye is in a position to have the final say on NATO’s further expansion after Finland and Sweden’s entry. Of course, the ball is in Sweden’s court in this regard, and the country needs to address Türkiye’s concerns regarding terrorism. It is also true that Türkiye’s acquisition of F-16 fighter jets is tied to the Sweden issue by the US Congress. Even if this process yields positive results, the continuation of Washington’s support for the YPG/PKK will increase tension in bilateral relations.
Expecting Türkiye’s role within NATO and its relations with the US to quickly improve may not be realistic, but the West being aware that it will have to work with President Erdogan for the next five years will strengthen Türkiye’s hand. We have recently seen Middle Eastern countries trying to manage the balance between the deepening Russo-Chinese alliance and the Western alliance. A period is beginning where regional countries will come together more to reduce tension generated by the global power struggle and alleviate regional conflicts. Türkiye’s efforts to normalize relations with Gulf countries and the normalization between Iran and Saudi Arabia can be cited as examples. This situation will accelerate Türkiye’s efforts to normalize relations with regional countries.
Developing economic relations with Europe can strengthen Türkiye’s ties with Europe and improve its economic situation. Türkiye can deepen its economic integration with Europe by increasing direct investments, becoming a manufacturing hub, developing tourism, and enhancing advanced technology collaborations. In parallel, Türkiye can elevate its profile in global issues such as climate change, migration, and food crisis. With its new natural gas resources, Türkiye can utilize these sources to meet its national energy needs and continue its goal of being a central country in international energy transit.
President Erdogan’s election victory will help Türkiye achieve a stronger position on the international stage. The congratulatory messages from world leaders and their expressed willingness to work together are indicative of the critical role that Turkish diplomacy under Erdogan’s leadership will play. Turkish foreign policy is faced with the task of preserving the gains it has made in various critical issues, from Libya to Azerbaijan, Ukraine to the Eastern Mediterranean, while improving economic relations with Europe, increasing effectiveness within NATO, and managing the impacts of global power shifts. The support given to Erdogan by Turkish voters will allow these challenges to be turned into opportunities and enable Türkiye to become a prominent player.