Turkey and the West – distant yet inseparable

President Erdogan in front of a portrait of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has distanced himself from, but not entirely abandoned, his predecessor Ataturk’s strategy of aligning with Europe (source: dpa)
  • President Erdogan started as a modernizer but now appeals to an anti-Western base
  • The rift has fostered a bolder regional policy and a tactical alliance with Moscow
  • Turkey’s relations with NATO will stay cool, but there will be no pullout

Every Turkish citizen is familiar from their school days with the guiding principle of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic: “Yurtta sulh; cihanda sulh” (“Peace at home, peace in the world”).

That maxim revolves around domestic stability and a foreign policy that seeks peaceful political relations with the country’s neighbors. Most importantly, it means a policy of nonintervention outside of Turkey. This reflects Ataturk’s understanding that conflicts in Palestine, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and the Caucasus helped bring down the Ottoman Empire in the First World War.

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