In the ever-shifting landscape of international relations, Türkiye finds itself at a crossroads, juggling the delicate art of diplomacy between the East and the West. In a world where multipolarity is the new norm, the nation’s ability to navigate these contrasting alliances and cooperation mechanisms is being put to the test.
As the recent G20 summit in India brought Türkiye’s position into sharp focus, it has become evident that the country’s leadership faces the formidable challenge of maintaining equilibrium in an increasingly complex geopolitical arena.
Türkiye’s recent absence from the India-Middle East-Europe corridor agreement at the G20 summit has sparked a national debate about the country’s foreign policy direction. Türkiye’s leadership has often projected a ridiculous image of “precious isolation,” where the country appears self-reliant and confident in its foreign policy.
However, this narrative was put to the test when Türkiye found itself conspicuously missing from the global corridor agreement. Given the problems and consequences that Turkey has experienced with its neighbors, it has actually proven to be wrong and delusional in many cases so far.
The most contentious issue during the summit was the Ukraine paragraph, requiring a delicate balance between Western and Russian interests. This situation begs the question: Is Türkiye failing to find favor with both the West and the East?
In the current multipolar world order, countries are encouraged to foster relations with various alliances and cooperation mechanisms. Türkiye, for example, has the unique ability to bridge both Western and Eastern worlds. However, striking this balance requires precision and nuance.
Western nations are Türkiye’s allies, whereas Eastern counterparts are business partners. The distinction between these relationships is crucial. If Türkiye’s leadership fails to manage this delicate equilibrium, it risks alienating both sides.
President Erdogan’s recent statement, “If necessary, we will part ways with the EU. I trust Russia as much as I trust the West,” raises concerns. While Türkiye has every right to criticize its Western allies, presenting a message of “I have alternatives; I’m not dependent on you” may not yield the desired outcomes.
Meanwhile, Türkiye’s ties with Asia’s rising superpowers are also under scrutiny. Relations with China remain strained due to the Uighur issue, and Pakistan’s influence complicates Türkiye’s ties with India. Finding a balance in supporting Pakistan without provoking India’s ire is crucial.
However, blindly supporting Pakistan without considering Türkiye’s own interests risks undermining relations with India, Asia’s second superpower. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent actions, such as not visiting Istanbul during his trip to Greece, signal Türkiye’s diminishing geopolitical importance to the East.
In a recent survey by the German Marshall Fund, only 25% of Türkiye’s Western allies viewed the country as trustworthy. The feeling of mistrust seems mutual. While it’s acceptable to criticize Western nations and express frustration, sending messages of “I have alternatives” may not be in Türkiye’s best interest.
As the world shifts toward a multipolar order, Türkiye has opportunities if it plays its cards right. However, attempting to play one side against the other without earning trust and being overly transactional can undermine Türkiye’s standing in both the West and the East.
Türkiye’s foreign policy is at a crossroads. The country’s unique position as a bridge between the West and the East gives it a unique opportunity to thrive in a multipolar world order. However, Türkiye’s leadership must carefully navigate this complex geopolitical landscape to avoid alienating both sides.
President Erdogan’s recent statements and actions suggest that he may be trying to play a risky game of balancing between the West and the East. However, this approach is fraught with peril. If Türkiye is seen as untrustworthy by both sides, it could find itself isolated and marginalized.
Instead of trying to play one side against the other, Türkiye should focus on building trust and cooperation with both the West and the East. This will require Türkiye to adopt a more nuanced and pragmatic foreign policy approach.
Türkiye should also avoid being overly transactional in its relations with other countries. Instead, Türkiye should focus on building long-term partnerships based on shared interests and values.
In the complex multipolar world order, Türkiye must navigate carefully to avoid falling into the traps of unpredictability and mistrust. It’s a challenging balancing act that requires astute diplomacy and a nuanced approach.