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Erdoğan’s Personal Diplomacy and Turkish Foreign Policy

In recent years, one of the most popular concepts in Turkish foreign policy has been public diplomacy, which refers to government activities to increase the country’s image among foreign societies. While the concept is important, the problem is that a similar emphasis and attention is not given to personal diplomacy, another state practice of modern diplomacy. This article illustrates that personal diplomacy is most effective in crisis periods, when there is dominant leadership, and when the political leader is confident about his/her ability to shape policies. As all these factors exist in Turkish foreign policy today, it is not surprising to see that Ankara increasingly relies on personal diplomacy in its relations with foreign countries.

Erdoğan s Personal Diplomacy and Turkish Foreign Policy
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R), U.S. President Donald Trump (L), and French President Emmanuel Macron (C) speak during the 2018 NATO Summit on July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. TURKISH PRESIDENCY / MURAT ÇETİNMÜHÜRDAR Handout/AA Photos
 

In recent years, one of the most popular concepts in Turkish foreign policy has been public diplomacy. Public diplomacy refers to a government’s engagement with foreign societies in ways that improve these societies’ perceptions about that government’s country.1 Public diplomacy attempts to increase the positive image of a country within foreign societies so that these societies can constitute an effective pressure group on their own governments, thereby influencing their government to pursue positive relations with that country. Increasing a countries’ attractiveness can be realized through several means, including student exchange programs, radio and television broadcasts, establishing cultural centers abroad, and cultivating relations with foreign non-state actors.2 Sometimes public diplomacy efforts may include military means if their primary objective is to improve the status of a country among foreign audiences. Theodore Roosevelt’s famous Great White Fleet demonstration in which the United States Navy showed its gigantic battleships to foreign people in a world tour between December 1907 and February 1909, or Turkey’s increasing number of military bases in African countries where Ankara does not have any major security interests, can be considered as examples of public diplomacy through military means. Yet, public diplomacy is mainly linked with the concept of soft power, as it constitutes an inexpensive way to increase a country’s image and interests, and thus its power abroad, without relying on the production and usage of expensive military weapons.3

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