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Learning New Roles and Changing Beliefs: Turkish Strategic Culture in Transition

Kadri Kaan Renda

This paper is devoted to investigating change in Turkish strategic culture, and adoption of new narratives, new roles, and new values. This paper constrains itself to understanding changing features of Turkish strategic culture rather than its influence on Turkey's policies. Hence, the main purpose is to put forward a theoretical framework to account for the change in Turkish strategic culture in a more theory-driven way. The main research question is that since the EU gave Turkey the candidacy status what kind of roles Turkish foreign policy elites have adopted and to what extent their beliefs and values about security and defence have changed at a time when Turkey's neighbourhood is in a state of flux and its domestic politics is in a process of transformation. Under these circumstances, Turkey has taken on new roles as being 'soft power' and 'central country' in her vicinity in addition to adoption of new norms such as 'good neighbourly relations' and resurgence of beliefs such as self-confidence and independence from the West in her foreign policy. From a constructivist point of view, I argue that strategic culture consists of lessons drawn from the past, perceptions of threat and risk, and the roles and positions crafted for a political community and shared by the most influential actors and social groups within that particular political community. Thereby, I analyze the change in Turkish strategic culture by doing a discourse analysis in three issue areas; these are i) new narratives of history, ii) discursive change in threat perceptions, iii) adoption of new roles and values. The main unit of analysis is the discourses of state elites which include top statesmen such as prime minister, president and foreign ministers and foreign policy bureaucracy such as diplomats and the military. I analyse the speeches given by these actors and I also conduct interviews with some parliamentarians from both ruling and opposition party and diplomats to primarily get their views and consequently understand their reaction to the new narratives, perceptions and roles.

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