AL-MONITOR - May 17, 2017
Turkey’s April 16 referendum enabled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch a structural transformation in the state apparatus on his way to executive presidency. The fundamental question now is which direction Turkey will take in the coming period. Erdogan’s first four foreign trips following the vote — all of them to the East — are indicative of a new orientation. After visiting India on April 30-May 1, Erdogan traveled to Sochi on May 3 for talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. He then visited Kuwait on May 8 before heading to China less than a week later to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and attend a regional cooperation forum. In the meantime, Ankara took a severe blow from Washington. Overriding harsh Turkish objections, the administration made a decision to supply heavy weapons to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, without even waiting for Erdogan’s May 16 meeting with President Donald Trump. Following Washington’s decision, the surging Eurasianist wave in Turkey has become even more pronounced. The Eurasianist perspective now seems to go beyond ephemeral discussions, gaining intellectual and institutional depth. The trend is likely to further intensify if Erdogan’s highly critical meeting with Trump and the May 25 NATO summit in Brussels result in great disappointment for Ankara. So what are the basic features and competing variants of this perspective? It is important to keep in mind that the Eurasianist visions in Ankara do not originate solely from Erdogan. Over the years, they have gained prominence in the state bureaucracy, the security sector, think thanks and academia. Hence, Erdogan’s strategic foreign policy preferences are a necessary but not a sufficient condition to understand this perspective. To start with, one should note that this rising trend is more apparent in terms of foreign policy, defense and security rather than economic and social life. Turkish think tanks such as the Anka Institute, 21st Century Turkey Institute, Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies and the Institute of Strategic Thinking have come to increasingly articulate the idea that the West is getting broken and it is time for Turkey to turn East.