In the last years it has been fashionable to label Turkey’s policy as “neo-Ottoman”, a fascinating but rather inconsistent definition for a policy combining soft and hard power as in Syria, Libya, the Caucasus and the Balkans. Much more important are other dimensions of contemporary Turkey (Pan-Islamism, Eurasianism, Kemalism and Pan-Turkism).
Erdogan himself tends to have a vision of his country as a regional power on many levels. In this respect, symbols play an important role: the project of a crescent-shaped “Turkish Pentagon” announced at the end of August 2021 and Hagia Sophia’s reconversion into a mosque in July 2020 are signs of president’s willingness to leave a grandiose mark, possibly for the ummah.
At diplomatic level, Ankara has opened difficult dossiers on two relevant issues: the Eastern Mediterranean migration route management and the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Aegean. On the other hand, by the end of October a friction at diplomatic level on the imprisonment of a 2013 Gezi Park activist was quickly defused by the government.
Unfortunately, these ambitions have to deal with worrying economic performances that may compromise the country’s domestic and regional affairs. The last diplomatic crisis had immediate repercussions on the Turkish lira, that had already lost 25% of its value in the last twelve months, hitting a new low (almost 10:1 with the US$), before recovering 1,5 points. Moreover, rating agencies noted negatively Turkey’s central bank announcement to cut interest rate more than expected, a decision that failed to stop an inflation rate up to 20% in October 2021, increasing internal discontent.
Ankara may risk a serious overextension: without Qatari financial support, its fragile economy could come under considerable pressure in order to keep substantial military expenditures and to launch impressive and costly geopolitical projects like the Istanbul Canal.
Ph.D. Candidate in Institution and Policies and Teaching Assistant in Geopolitics, History of Islamic Asia, History of Civilizations and Political Cultures at the Catholic University of Milan. His research areas include Arab and Mediterranean geopolitics, history of MENA region, Arab secular and religious movements.