Burak Bilgehan Özpek
Dr. Özpek is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Ankara.
After the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority in the June 2015 national elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked the re-emergence of nationalism and changed the course of Turkish politics. This was a vulgar, populist version of nationalism based on pillars such as a militaristic approach toward the Kurdish question, anti-Americanism, conspiracy theories, and a refusal to accept universal norms. With the help of this nationalism, Erdoğan managed to stop the decline of the AKP and further consolidate his power. Russia has been the primary beneficiary of rising nationalism in Turkey. President Vladimir Putin has been able to manipulate the irrationality at the heart of Erdoğan's populist nationalism. First, the withdrawal of Turkish-backed rebel groups has enabled the government of Bashar al-Assad to establish authority over Aleppo in Syria's north. Second, Turkey has accepted guardianship over Idlib, an isolation camp designed to ensure that jihadist groups do not pose a threat to the Assad regime. Third, Russia has expanded its sphere of influence to the west of the Euphrates by setting up bases in Manbij, Raqqa, Haseke, and Kobane. Fourth, Russia received $2.5 billion in cash for its sale of S-400 air defense systems to Turkey. Finally, Turkey's shifting foreign-policy axis has jeopardized the harmony among NATO members. This picture shows that nationalism not only helps governments to rally people around the same flag; it is also an opportunity to maximize other states’ foreign-policy goals.
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