To bother or not to bother with the middle power concept? The case of Türkiye

The current transformation of the world order has led to a renewed interest in the role of states that do not fall into the category of great powers, but whose foreign policy choices nevertheless matter. These are discussed under the heading of ‘middle powers’, and also referred to as ‘global swing states’. The role of such states appears to be crucial, but in what way precisely remains unclear. A review of the middle power debate suggests that much of the ambiguity of the concept has to do with the desire to offer a solution without agreeing on what the problem is. Using the case of Türkiye, this article argues that, in order to understand the foreign policy choices of states that matter, it is helpful to look at how they themselves perceive their place and role in the international arena. The article thus seeks to contrast the concept of a middle power with the concept of a central country, as developed in official Ankara’s foreign policy discourse. The analysis shows that one of the key limits of the middle power concept lies in its statism, whereas a focus on the self-understanding of actors would provide a dynamic view of their foreign policy preferences, highlighting the impact of regional developments and systemic transformation.

Authors: Daria Isachenko