M. Ali Samay                                                                                                                           Date: 2019-10-11
PhD Candidate

This Article examines the fundamental and key objectives of the Eurasianist foreign policy strategy, redefinition of geopolitical position, and the possible international balance of contemporary Turkey towards East and West.

In Turkey, the ideology of the Eurasianism roots back in late 1990s, being linked to nationalist political parties like the so called Patriotic Party (Vatan Partisi). The most prominent political figure representing the idea in Turkey is Dogu Perincek, the leader of the Patriotic Party. In modern day Turkey, the Eurasia oriented foreign policy strategy is one of the critical areas because it is an anti-Western approach and an ultranationalist sentiment in domestic politics. The fundamental meanings of Turkish Eurasianism for Turkey are leaving NATO, ending the bit for European Union membership, shifting to the East by joining the Russia-China-led anti-imperialist camp. According to Emre Erşen, the idea of Eurasianism entered into the Turkish political era and became especially popular and attractive among the Turkish national-patriots with the translation of Alexander Dugin’s seminal book “Foundation of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia” to Turkish language in 2003. Ever since, the number of publications and articles that focuses on introduction and implementation of Eurasianism in Turkish domestic politics and regional and international relations has dramatically increased. Beside that, Alexander Dugin invited for several times to participate in debates, lectures, and conferences in Turkey where high-level Turkish politicians and military leaders were also present.{1}

Selçuk Colakoğlu refers to Erol Manisalı, one of the prominent Eurasianists who states, “Turkey is acting in accordance with the United States, Israel, and the EU. However, Turkey has common strategic interests with Russia, China and Iran. Turkey’s improving relations with prominent Asian powers such as Russia, China, and Iran Are, all things being equal, a natural outcome of the local dynamics of the region”. In addition, according to Doğu Perinçek in the Selçuk Colakoğlu’s artice, “The Turkish nationalists would befriend China and Russia in order to get rid of the United States. Turkey will inevitably be at the forefront of the emerging ‘Eurasian civilization’. Ankara is a servant in Atlantic, but an equal partner in Eurasia.[2]

The most important consideration of the Turkish Eurasianism is to develop its defense and military technology cooperation with Russia and China. Due to its limited capacity, the Eurasianist movement could not affect Turkey’s foreign and security policy until 2014 because the liberal Turkish governments wanted to minimise the Eurasianist influence in Turkish politics. The year 2014 was a turning point for the Eurasianists in Turkey as due to some challenges in domestic affairs, the AKP was forced to build a de-facto coalition on Eurasianist and Islamist Ideologies. The first sign of the new Eurasianist shift appeared in 2013, when Prime Minister Erdogan discussed with Russia’s president about the possibility of Turkey’s withdrawing EU candidacy and becoming a full member in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Since that, the Eurasian oriented domestic, foreign and security policies drastically increased in Turkey. According to Selçuk Colakoğlu’s conclusion, in a realistic view Turkey’s Eurasianist shift is still a rhetorical approach and lacks a well-structured and sustainable strategy. For us, it is a policy option – not a practical policy priority. Turkey is a member of NATO. Its military and economy are structurally dependent on West and deeply integrated into Western institutions.[3]

According to William Armstrong, The Eurasianism in modern Turkey is encompassing the idea that Turkey should reorient away from the West in favour of an Eastern and Central Asian hinterland.[4]

Ahmed Davudoğlu in his book ‘Strategic Depth’ focuses on Turkey’s international position. According to him, Turkey‎’s geopolitical position highly undermines its political, economic and security position. Turkey has to rethink and redefine its foreign policy strategy’s fundamental parameters for the next one hundred years, accordingly. For its long-term foreign policy strategy based on re-settlement of geopolitical and geo-strategic position towards other great powers and power centers, the build-up of the “hinterland” through an increased cultural, Economic, and political relations is one of the most outstanding factors. The redefinition of Turkey’s foreign policy strategy improves Turkey’s position in opening towards the international environment and sphere in the current world order, the country has to gain on three geopolitically important areas: [5]
1. The surrounding land area: Balkan, Middle East, and Caucuses
2. The surrounding sea area: Black Sea, Adrian Sea, the Eastern Basin of the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Caspian Sea.
3. The surrounding continental area: Europe, North Africa, South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Asia.
In Turkey’s Foreign policy strategy, the hinterland means the zone of influence. The increasing regional influence over its hinterland will help Turkey to develop its international influence over the global situation. In this regard, Alexander Murinson describes the strategic depth doctrine of Turkish foreign policy from a traditional and historical experience point of view as following:
“The main sources of the traditional foreign policy of the Turkish Republic are the historical experience of the Ottoman empire (the tradition of the balance of power); the nationalist kemalist revolution and creation of the republic itself (hence, isolationism); Western orientation experienced in the policy of Europeanization and modernization; the suspicion of foreign powers and interests (the Sévres Syndrome). There were two other ideological sources of this traditional foreign doctrine, which surfaced in the pre-First World War years: pan-Turkism and pan-Turanism. Pan-Turkism was a movement to unify the eastern (Central Asia and Caucasus) and the western (Anatolian) Turks. Following Russian expansionism in the Balkans under the banner of pan-Slavism in the later half of the nineteenth century, pan-Turanism arose as a romantic idea to unify Turkic, Mongol and Finish-Ugorian peoples. It later served for a short time as a basis for the Turkish-Hungarian collaboration during the first two decade of the twentieth century to stem the Russian threat.[6]
Turkey is seeking a new political view and foreign and security policy shift, which can guarantee a regional great power status and helps its opening to the world strategy. The practical meaning of Turkey’s redefined foreign policy strategy is ending with its Cold War era’s commitment and shaping balance of power with all other great political, economic and military powers in the region and in the world. In our view, Turkey’s new strategic shift is a shift towards a global partnership in which every country seeks its own way without being committed to or under influence of other powers. As far as its power status is concerned, Turkey is a middle power in Eurasia and it can play a significant role regarding regional stability in Eurasia mainly in the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and Central Asia. Turkey’s geopolitical location helps it to be one of the geo-strategic players, pivots and partners towards East and West at the same time, but its economic relation will remain interdependent with the West.
Turkey’s economic relations are deeply dependent on the West, mainly on the European Union. Due to its big and balanced trade outcome, the European Union is the most great and important trade partner of Turkey. However, its trade relations with Russia, China, Iran, and India are yet to be balanced. The large part of Turkey’s trade deficit is coming from its Eurasian partners. According to Turkey’s top export partners, Russian Federation is partner 12th, China is partner 16th, Iran is 19th and India is partner 37th. At the same time, these countries are between its top 10 import partners according to International Trade Center and European Commission trade statistics as we show in charts below.

Figure 1

[7]Trade Map: International Trade Center, Internet, www.intracen.org/.

Figure 2

[8] Trade Map: International Trade Center, Internet, www.intracen.org/.

Figure 3
figure 3[9] European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/turkey/.

To conclude, Turkey needs to cooperate and coordinate some parts of its foreign and security policies and military technology with the other Eurasian great and middle powers by refreshing and reshaping its regional and international partnerships and alliances. At the same time, Turkey can play a balancing and connecting role between the West and the East by retaining a good rapport with its Western partners and alliances. Additionally, in the new shape of its foreign policy strategy, Turkey’s geopolitical value can increase considerably in both the East and the West.



[1] Bassin, M., & Pozo, G. (2017). The politics of Eurasianism: identity, popular culture and Russia’s foreign policy. Chapter 13. Geopolitical Traditions in Turkey: Turkish Eurasianism. Rowman & Littlefield International. page 266.

[2]. Selçuk Colakoğlu (Apr, 2019): The Rise of Eurasianism in Turkish Foreign Policy: Can Turkey Change its pro-Western Orientation?. Middle East Institure. Internet. https://www.mei.edu/publications/rise-eurasianism-turkish-foreign-policy-can-turkey-change-its-pro-western-orientation. 2019-09-05. 04:42.

[3].  Selçuk Colakoğlu (Apr, 2019): The Rise of Eurasianism in Turkish Foreign Policy: Can Turkey Change its pro-Western Orientation?. Middle East Institure. Internet. https://www.mei.edu/publications/rise-eurasianism-turkish-foreign-policy-can-turkey-change-its-pro-western-orientation. 2019-09-05. 04:42.

[4] William Armstrong (): Eurasianism in Modern Turkey. Daily News. Internet. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/william-armstrong/eurasianism-in-modern-turkey-113224. 2019-09-05. 05:50.
[5]  Davutoğlu, A. (2016). Stratégiai Mélység–Törökország nemzetközi helyzete. Budapest. published by Antal József Tudásközpont. Pages 57-118.
[6] Murinson, A. (2006). The strategic depth doctrine of Turkish foreign policy. Middle Eastern Studies, 42(6), 945-964.
[7]  Trade Map: International Trade Center, Internet, www.intracen.org/.
[8]. Trade Map: International Trade Center, Internet, www.intracen.org/.
[9]. European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/turkey/.