Journal Article: Turkey’s emergence as a middle power

Drones are considered one of the key technologies facilitating remoteness in warfare and therefore this article review is interesting when it comes to discussing the rise of a new drone superpower. In this case, it is about Turkey’s remote influence.

In this article, Dr. Soyaltin-Colella and Dr. Demiryol discuss the growth of emerging middle powers in the global south. Their focus is on Turkey’s ambitious development, which raises concerns for the stability of the liberal international order. The authors argue that Turkey’s development in drone technology has led to its domestic regime survival and international growth. The authors discuss three strategies in-depth that contribute to Turkey’s middle power growth. These include: the promotion of techno-nationalism and national pride, strengthening border security and shaping regional order, and the contestation of global dynamics.

Dr. Soyaltin-Colella and Dr. Demiryol indicate that Turkey was historically dependent on its Western allies, however, this changed after the 1964 Johnson Letter to prevent Ankara’s use of U.S.-supplied military equipment in Cyprus. This instigated Turkey’s initial development in their military industry, which, according to the authors, bolstered Turkey’s nationalism in promoting their self-sufficiency. Alongside this, their production in drones have supported their counter-terrorism strategies.

The second strategy touches on Turkey’s use of drones in strengthening its borders. The authors discuss Turkey’s presence in Libya and Syria where they first started using drones. Ankara’s key interests in Libya involved the “protection of investments by Turkish businesses”, as well as maritime disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean (Soyaltin-Colella and Demiryol, 2023). In Syria, the Turkish state was concerned about Kurdish militia groups and Islamic State threats. These conflicts and their use of drones has advanced their regional power and border security. According to Dr. Soyaltin-Colella and Dr. Demiryol, their ‘successes’ have also led the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to stay in power (Soyaltin-Colella and Demiryol, 2023).

The final strategy focuses on Turkey’s drone programme’s impact on the global landscape. Turkey became a fast-growing drone exporter to approximately twelve countries, such as Qatar, Azerbaijan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine. The authors indicate that these exports have important implications to Turkey’s regional and international success for six reasons. The main points that are important to take note of include their marketing opportunities, their position as an “alternative supplier” to countries who cannot obtain drones from the U.S. or other arms sellers, their relationship with NATO, their influence on the global norms, as well as Turkey’s presence within the political system.

This article therefore provides us with an understanding of Turkey’s growth as a middle power in the global south. According to the authors, their fast development may undermine the stability of the liberal world order. This is important to take note of, seeing that Turkey’s drone industry may lead to more detrimental effects.

For those willing to read more, click on the reference below to read the article.
S., Digdem, and T. Demiryol. 2023. ‘Unusual Middle Power Activism and Regime Survival: Turkey’s Drone Warfare and Its Regime-Boosting Effects’. Third World Quarterly 44 (4): 724–43.

This post is written by IRW LAB student Eva Akerboom.