Decoding Turkish foreign policy in Abkhazia (2008-2022). A theory-testing process tracing approach to understanding Turkish actions in Georgia’s contested break-away region



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Over the past three decades, the foreign policy of Türkiye towards its near-abroad regions, consisting of the Caucuses, Black Sea, Middle East, Africa, and the Mediterranean, has taken on remarkably assertive characteristics. The interventionist turn has resulted in engagements and disputes with numerous neighbouring states, enmeshing Türkiye in conflicts with Libya (Harchaoui, 2020), Greece (Republic of Türkiye, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, n.d.c), Nagorno-Karabakh (Yildiz, 2021), and Syria (Al-hilu, 2021) to name a few. While these conflagrations have absorbed a majority of scholarly attention in recent decades, Türkiye’s increasing levels of engagement with the de facto state of Abkhazia has gone understudied and relatively misunderstood by regional scholars and experts alike. This has resulted in a gap in the scholarly record on why Türkiye behaves the way it does towards Abkhazia. The goal of this paper is to bridge the gap in scholarly knowledge on Türkiye’s engagement with Abkhazia. By applying a wide-angle hybrid theoretical lens, incorporating the Multiple Hierarchy Model of Power Transition Theory & the Two Goods Theory of Foreign Affairs, I examine key events transpiring between Türkiye and Abkhazia from 2008-2022. I apply Theory-Testing Process Tracing, alongside rigorous document analysis in an attempt to better parse out the motivations and rationales surrounding Türkiye’s foreign policy towards this disputed region. The resulting causal mechanisms, tailor-made to map out each of the four events examined in this paper, reveal a partial explanatory match of my chosen theoretical lens and the behaviours exhibited by Türkiye in its dealings with Abkhazia. This forms a solid foundation from which to argue that Türkiye’s engagement with Abkhazia is driven largely by entrepreneurial and self-interested policies of extraction and influence-growing in Abkhazia.