Three processes define Turkey's strategy. The first is its rise in relative power. In a region of destabilizing powers, Turkey's relative strength is increasing, which provides Ankara with new options. The second is the possible dangers posed to Turkish interests by the destabilization, which draws Turkey outward, as Ankara seeks ways to manage the instability. The third is the reality that the United States is in the process of redefining its role in the region following the Iraq War and no longer is a stable, predictable force.
Turkey is emerging as a great power. It has not yet become one for a host of reasons, including limited institutions for managing regional affairs, a political base that is not yet prepared to view Turkey as a major power or support regional interventions, and a region that is not yet prepared to view Turkey as a beneficial, stabilizing force. Many steps are required for any power to emerge as a dominant regional force. Turkey is only beginning to take those steps.
At present, Turkish strategy is in a transitional stage. It is no longer locked into its Cold War posture as simply part of an alliance system, nor has it built the foundation of a mature regional policy. It cannot control the region and it cannot simply ignore what is happening. The Syrian case is instructive. Syria is Turkey's neighbor, and instability in Syria can affect Turkey. There is no international coalition prepared to take steps to stabilize Syria. Therefore Ankara has taken a stance in which it refrains from overt action, but keeps its options open should matters become intolerable to Turkey.
When we consider the Turkish periphery as a whole, we see this transitional foreign policy at work, whether in Iraq or in the Caucasus. With Iran, it avoids simply being part of the American coalition while refusing simply to champion the Iranian position. Turkey has not created a regional balance of power, as a mature regional power would. Rather, it has created a Turkish balance of power in the sense that Turkish power is balanced between subordination to the United States and autonomous assertiveness. This period of balancing for an emerging power is predictable; the United States went through a similar phase between 1900 and World War I.