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Deciphering Turkey’s Assertive Military and Defense Strategy: Objectives, Pillars, and Implications*

This article argues that the change in Turkey’s defense and military strategy stems both from Turkey’s changing security landscape following the post-Arab spring regional disorder and Turkey’s quest to be an assertive regional player. The reasons behind the change in Turkish defense and military strategy also include a desire to gain political influence in the international arena and improve Turkey’s military capabilities to deter emerging security threats near its borders and abroad. The article seeks to unpack Turkey’s growing assertive military and defense strategy by taking into account its main drivers, primary objectives and essential pillars, as well as its tangible repercussions on the military mindset. The article has two main sections. The first section contextualizes Turkey’s new military and defense strategy by taking into consideration its main drivers, objectives and pillars. The second empirically scrutinizes Turkey’s military strategy by focusing on its military activism in extra-territorial domains. In this section, Turkey’s military interventions in Syria following the failed military coup and its strategy of power projection are examined to explain the question of how Turkey operationalizes its new military and defense strategies.

Deciphering Turkey s Assertive Military and Defense Strategy Objectives Pillars
 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The recent strategic moves in Turkey’s military and security policy remain an interesting puzzle for those interested in Turkish foreign and security policy. Over the past two decades, Turkey has been fundamentally transforming its military strategy in the fight against terrorism at both the domestic and regional level, particularly since the failed military coup attempt in 2016. However, it has also been adopting a more ‘assertive military activism’ to protect its national security interests, prevent counter-balancing moves and ultimately gain strategic leverage against its adversaries in the regional and international geopolitical competition. As an integral part of its military and foreign policy activism in approaching different regional issues, Turkey’s adaptation of assertive defense industry policies, such as acquiring S-400s from Russia while attempting to develop its own short-range to long-range surface-to-air missile system alongside its other hard power instruments, raises a wide set of questions ranging from tactical-operational level challenges to geopolitical ones. Why has Turkey adopted more assertive practices in which the use of military force and power maximization has become the linchpin in its new military and defense strategy formulation? What drives Turkey’s new assertive military and defense strategy as the major foreign policy perspective shaping its bilateral relations and its motivation in regional and international politics?

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