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President Erdogan: Pushing to make Türkiye a global actor

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Türkiye under Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership is advancing well and committed to being a global actor despite pressure by Western powers.

Scholars often use a variety of established facts and theoretical concepts to better explain the patterns of international politics.

Since these conceptual frameworks are not static but subservient to changing events and circumstances, they can influence the scholarly work on international politics over time.

In this sense, Turkish foreign policy and the Western ‘Türkiye’ policy may be rooted in the existing works of thinkers. As conceptual explanations, influenced by repeated events, shape political narratives, Turkish foreign policy and the West’s Türkiye policy have also emerged in light of a fast changing geopolitical landscape.

On an appropriate examination, American political scientist, the late Immanuel Wallerstein – one of the fiercest critics of the global elite – deserves an appreciation for analysing and synthesising Türkiye’s struggle to expand its seat in the international realm and the western efforts to impede it.

Wallerstein tells us about the ‘world system theory’ with his original contribution to Lenin’s ‘core-periphery state’ explanation of imperialism. The theory argues that the ‘core states’ build supremacy over the ‘periphery ones’ – terms he uses to denote the developed and under-developed nations – while the semi-periphery states serve the core ones as a bridge to the peripheries.

For Wallerstein, semi-peripheries cannot be a member of the core community in terms of holding control of the world system. In other words, a core-states club is about setting consensus to jointly dominate the international realm where the semi-peripheries and peripheries are subjected to the imposed order.

This explanation may be applied to the G7 and G20 summits, where the first group represents the core states while the second bloc provides the foundation for the meeting of the core and periphery states.

The roles of the semi-peripheries, for the sake of limited and regional incentives, are determined through the consensus of the core – G7.

The Turkish experience

The West, or core states, regard Türkiye as a semi-periphery one in the designated ‘world system’. More precisely, the core states expect Türkiye to rely on their ‘order’ and observe the fruits afforded to them.

The expectation is to have Türkiye not challenge their order in a vehement manner. Moreover, rising anti-Muslim sentiments after 9/11 and the strained relations between the US and Türkiye complicate the offers and expectations between the two sides.

The decision of Türkiye on March 1 2003, not to allow American soldiers deployed to Iraq en route Türkiye to set foot in the war-affected country, marked a turning point as it resulted in Türkiye being punished for non-compliance with US demands and to serve as an example.

In parallel with the decision of the Parliament, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policy of expanding Türkiye’s capacity to be a regional power was the first alarming bell for the dominating core states. The thriving economy of the 2000s reminded us that a prospering Türkiye could intervene in the regional issues that could harm the interests of them.

Then, a semi-periphery state like Türkiye is expected to have a favourable pro-government and comply with the imposed order of the core states, say the USA, as stated by Joe Biden in a meeting with the New York Times editorial board.

The course of achieving such an end was to encourage internal political factions and proxies to challenge the Erdogan government.

In this sense, there happened a series of events to topple the democratically elected Turkish government which were the Gezi incidents of 2012, the plots against the able Turkish Armed Forces through the ‘arranged’ Balyoz and Ergenekon lawsuits, the 2013 plots on the Erdoğan-led government by the hands of FETO judges and prosecutors, the 2015 wide scale attacks in the cities of Türkiye by the hands of the PKK cells, and finally the July 15th coup attempt of FETO, which failed due to people’s resistance.

The response of the Erdogan leadership has been to drive strategic autonomy for the sake of ‘survival’ through a ‘self-help’ system. In this context, Erdogan responded to the internal and external challenges and pursued a policy of promoting Türkiye as a regional power independent from the core states.

Once the West imposed an order urging Türkiye to accept their demands, Erdogan commenced a wise balancing strategy. The Eastern Mediterranean issue has been a significant case to observe in terms of understanding the attitude of the core states and semi-periphery – the West and Türkiye.

The political and military escalations of 2019 underlined the competing interests of both parties and their competition across the region with the coverage of Syria, Cyprus, Libya, and Greece.

The response of the West to the policies of the Erdogan government had been to apply underhand and overt sanctions on Türkiye while isolating the Turkish government in the Western hemisphere.

The counter response of Türkiye was twofold. The initial course was to pursue a new foreign policy that adopts the normalisation with the other semi-peripheries to prevent the infiltration of external diffusion.

Turkish foreign policy has gained new momentum, competing and cooperating with others.

Military and defence: primary success stories

The Turkish leadership has started diplomatic efforts bargaining in the halls of Washington, Brussels, and Moscow while militarily confronting the interests of these states in Syria, Libya, or Karabakh.

The second course was to eradicate dependency on the other states. For instance, the US had rejected selling the Patriots to the Turkish Armed Forces during the tense period of the Iran and Syria tensions.

Türkiye purchased a more efficient air defence system from Russia and started the air defence program to manufacture the locally made short-range HISAR A+, medium-range HISAR O+, and long-range SIPER air defence systems.

The American response was to expel Türkiye from the F35 program, despite Türkiye being the founding partner of the program.

The Erdogan government enhanced the Turkish aviation program with HURKUS, HURJET light attack aircraft, and 5th generation KAAN fighters other than a wide spectrum of precise ammunition.

Anadolu Amphibious Warship informed the global public about the capability of force projection to remote crisis-laden regions. The Turkish defence industry proved that Türkiye can find alternatives manufactured in Türkiye through the dedicated efforts of Turkish engineers to reach the capabilities of a core state.

Military and defence have been the primary success stories in repelling the sanctions of the core states, though; the essential challenge is about manufacturing such Turkish commodities with high-tech solutions to find room in the global competition.

The TOGG – a Turkish e-automobile has taken its seat across the streets of Türkiye, most probably to replace the flags of the Western automobile industries.

The nuclear energy plant in the city of Mersin is proceeding well to distribute cost-efficient energy to Turkish homes and industries. The natural gas, discovered in the Black Sea, is now heating the homes of Turkish citizens. The new oil reserve identified in Gabar Mountain will reduce oil imports by 10 percent annually.

The low-interest policy of the government prevented unemployment after the Covid-19 pandemic and the low exchange rate boosted exports.

Türkiye augmented its regional leadership status-quo to expand toward the surrounding regional systems. After these achievements, it may be too early to claim a global status, though; Türkiye is advancing well and committed to being a global actor.

This reality has been perceived as a risk for the supremacy of the core states specifically in the neighbourhood of Türkiye. Consequently, this pattern reflects the intention of being ‘independent’ rather than being a mere subject in the world system.

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