Turkish Foreign Policy in Nagorno-Karabakh: The influence of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.
An exploration of Turkish-Azerbaijani Ties
This research was motivated by the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine and its currently understudied impact on the geopolitical climate of the European continent and the surrounding regions. It focuses on Türkiye’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between the South Caucasus states of Azerbaijan and Armenia and how it evolved since the start of the invasion. Moreover, it focuses on Turkish ties with its regional ally Azerbaijan, with which it shares cultural and linguistic ties. The invasion is relevant because Türkiye’s policy dynamics in the South Caucasus are in direct relation to Russia, which is now isolated by NATO and the EU because of its actions in Ukraine. Thus, by observing how Türkiye is adjusting to a new status quo with a relatively weaker Russia, the paper sheds light on how other states and regions might similarly adjust their policies. Additionally, Türkiye’s recent move to a more independent foreign policy means its actions have consequences in regions such as Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
The Second Nagorno-Karabakh War ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire, with Azerbaijan regaining most of its internationally recognised territory from Armenia. However, due to issues surrounding the status of the Armenian minority and certain corridors, there has not yet been a definitive agreement. Russia was the main guarantor of the new status quo, thus when it became occupied in Ukraine, Türkiye and Azerbaijan used the opportunity to improve their positions and consolidate further gains. This was made possible due to Azerbaijan’s growing importance as an alternative energy source for Europe and Türkiye’s role as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia.
These changes were analysed through a qualitative comparative case study, where documents, reports, and statistical data from before and during the War in Ukraine were interpreted. This interpretation was primarily done through a neorealist lens, meaning that foreign policy decisions are rationalised as strictly furthering respective national interests. In Addition to neorealism, identity aspects were also researched, more specifically the Pan-Turkic ideology of Turanism. Moreover, the concept of “one nation two states” referring to Azerbaijan and Türkiye was also scrutinised for its practical implications. Methodologically, this research adds to the theories of foreign policy analysis, neorealism, and identity, by combining all three aspects into a qualitative comparative case study. It also enriches the academic understanding of Türkiye and the effects of the Russian Invasion, which is shaping the politics of the Western world and beyond.
Subsequently, Türkiye’s stance on Azerbaijan, focusing on Nagorno-Karabakh, is understood to largely be based on a pragmatic neorealist rationale. The identitarian aspects may benefit the government’s justification of these policies, but they do not obstruct or direct Türkiye’s foreign policy directly. For example, Türkiye’s support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity can be linked to its own separatist issues and cannot be wholly rationalised by just focusing on identity.
Finally, this research concludes that Turkish foreign policy became more daring in the Caucasus as its regional rival Russia is occupied in Ukraine, resulting in a more favourable status quo. However, Türkiye’s policy decisions were found to result not from a sense of brotherhood with Azerbaijan but from pragmatic foreign policy considerations.
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