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Understanding Oscillations in Turkish Foreign Policy: Pathways to Unusual Middle Power Activism

Kutlay, M. ORCID: 0000-0003-4942-1001 & Onis, Z. (2021). Understanding Oscillations in Turkish Foreign Policy: Pathways to Unusual Middle Power Activism. Third World Quarterly, 42(12), pp. 3051-3069. doi: 10.1080/01436597.2021.1985449


The conventional literature on the role of middle powers emphasizes the importance of soft power, niche diplomacy, and coalition building. This article explores a case of unusual middle power activism with a focus on recent Turkish foreign policy behaviour. It demonstrates how the interaction of domestic politics and external dynamics produced an unusual degree of foreign policy activism, going well beyond conventional middle power behaviour, with the government increasingly employing coercive diplomacy and militaristic methods. We demonstrate that unusual middle power activism in a shifting international order yielded “populist dividends” to the ruling elite in the short run but led to a “triple governance crisis” in the economy, politics, and foreign policy, with each element feeding into the others in a path-dependent fashion.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. This article has been published in Third World Quarterly, doi:
Publisher Keywords: Liberal international order, Turkish foreign policy, triple governance crisis, political economy of foreign policy, middle powers
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
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