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Bucharest
November 27, 2021
EDITORIAL

The coup in Turkey: The geopolitical magnitude (II)

Therefore, what are the geopolitical consequences of this major crisis?

Obviously, Turkey’s geographic situation was making it to be a real turntable of a huge planetary region, which includes landmarks of bi-continental strategic importance: Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits , connecting Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea; the wide seaside owned in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea; the strategic approach to the continental Europe by the position to the Aegean Sea.

Any internal crisis in the today Turkey – especially with the dimensions of the current one – cannot avoid strongly producing consequences in the surrounding regions: in Caucasus, in the port waters of the Black Sea, Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea, in the whole Middle East and towards Iran and the Gulf, to Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the Asia Minor and Northern Africa. What are the vectors of such a wide influence?

First of all, they have a geopolitical nature. From the above enumeration of the geographic vectors specific to the today Turkey, it can be concluded that a political reorientation of this country would have an overwhelming influence in the neighbor regions, radically changing the current strategic equations. A separation of Turkey from the Western alliance, for instance, would reshape decisively the force balance in certain areas. If Ankara, under Erdogan, would opt for Russia-Iran orientation (in the Syrian case, among others), it would result a massive span of Russia and Turkey to the Black Sea (actually, it would be a hegemonic condominium) as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, and to the same extent, redefinitions of the balance of power in Caucasus and in Central Asia. Or, a Turkey positioned as an opponent of NATO and EU would cause a strategic nightmare in Europe, considering the current situation of the Syrian refugees from Turkey (more than two million).

We know what was the impact of the unimpeded massive passing from Turkey to Greece last year, and then their influx to the European countries (Germany, first of all). Around one million migrants have caused divisions in EU, they have made some of the countries to build walls towards the flow, to defend their own societies, they have put in jeopardy already established realities, such as the Schengen formula of the free movement of persons.  Is such a danger, of Turkey’s geopolitical reorientation, present today, after the failed coup? Some of the EU or NATO officials’ statements, consequences of some developments after the Turkish coup, make us think to this possibility. Thus, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy, F. Mogherini, urging Ankara to be reserved and to avoid revenge against the coup’s promoters and supporters, warned Ankara that the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey will entail the exclusion from the Council of Europe and the cessation of the negotiations for the accession to EU. Other officials of the European countries have supported this position.

At the same time, unsubstantiated allegations of the Government’s representatives from Ankara have appeared, related to the expulsion of the cleric Gulen from the USA., since any country that is sheltering him is in war with Turkey (“Any country that stands behind him is no friend of Turkey, is engaged in a serious war with Turkey”, the Turkish PM stated); it also appeared the possibility of reviewing the alliance with USA (a statement made by the Labor Minister from the Turkish Government, in the terms: “The United States of America is behind this coup … The psychopath named Fethullah Gulen is being supported by America” ).

Towards these position, a trenchant answer came from Washington, and it has to give thought to the President Erdogan. Namely, Turkey could be excluded from NATO if it violates the rule of law and continues the thoughtless repression. In this regard, the head of the American diplomacy J. Kerry, stated that US “will measure very carefully what is happening” in Turkey, and that “the level of vigilance and scrutiny is obviously going to be significant in the days ahead”. On the other hand, we can also notice that Turkey is making explorations in the opposite direction of the objectives of the alliance it belongs to.

Right after the coup, the ideologue of the Eurasianism, closed to Kremlin, A. Dugin, visited Turkey and had talks with representatives of the governing party. The press has made speculations on the mutual benefits which an approach or an alliance of Turkey with Russia could produce. A Finnish politician wrote in an article suggestively entitled “Coup Could Lead to a Russo-Turkish Alliance”:  “If Russia and Turkey manage to find enough common ground to form an alliance or at the very least non-aggression pact, it could spell disaster to those nations that currently are under pressure. Most obvious are Georgia /…and the Kurds /../.Russia gains several advantages. It will no longer have to worry about NATO on its southern flank. This will allow Russia to move from 4 to 6 motorized infantry brigades from the southern regions into other theaters of operation. Russo-Turkish alliance would also de-facto rule the Black Sea, allowing Russia to operate against Ukraine more freely.” On July 19, the comment of the British newspaper “The Telegraph” was significantly entitled “Erdogan’s purge may give NATO no choice but to expel Turkey from the alliance”. In Turkey’s neighbor Iran, the authorities from Teheran have watched closely the events and sentenced the coup from the very beginning. An Iranian politician stated that “A coup in Turkey isn’t something Iran can tolerate/…/ It’s true that there are differences over Syria, and sometimes in Iraq.

Yet the fact is that there is no direct problem between Iran and Turkey; on the contrary, [bilateral] relations are always advancing for the better. Besides, Iran is opposed to any kind of change by force, and especially when the government [in question] is democratically elected.” He concluded: “The most important thing is that this experience [the coup attempt] might be an opportunity for Mr. Erdogan to understand the situation in neighboring Syria.” Therefore, it was a hint to a possible adhesion of Turkey to the trilateral paradigm Russia – Iran – Assad regime.

Secondly, but not at the last, among the Ankara’s significant vectors of influence in Eurasia, is the historical and ethnical traditional one. The Ottoman Empire, the direct predecessor of the modern Turkey, has exercised its domination on a wide geographic area for hundreds of years, from the Persian Gulf to Caucasus and from the Northern Black Sea to Hotin, Budapest and Tirana, in the whole Northern Africa, in the Asia Minor and in its hinterland, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen of today being administratively organized and depending on the medieval Istanbul. Eastern Mediterranean Sea was basically a real Turkish lake, together with Black Sea at the time of the Ottoman domination in the medieval age.

Therefore, for a long time, it was an imperial unit on a huge territory with common networks having commercial, political and administrative, religious nature and of a different nature with historical dimension. In Central Asia, the five “stans”, namely Kazakhstan (pop. 17 million), Kyrgyzstan (5.7 million), Tajikistan (8.0 million), Turkmenistan (5.2 million), and Uzbekistan (30 million), amounting around 66 million in 2014, share not only  a far common origin with the today Turkey, being nations of Turkic language, but they also share a cultural background with many similarities. Also, in the same frame, even more close to Turkey, we have to mention Azerbaijan. The geographical location of these ex-Soviet republics cover an important part of the ancient Silk Road (inaugurated in the 2nd Century B.C.), while today it is the target of a dynamic action of China, in order to revive this Eurasian path – the great strategy launched in 2013 by the Chinese President Xi, called “Belt and Road” -, with one of the large European terminals in Istanbul. Besides, in the post-Cold War period, Ankara tried even to express its interest for these Eurasian areas, which they were very important in the past for the Ottoman Empire, inaugurating formulas of wide economic cooperation – such as the Economic Cooperation Area at the Black Sea, including states from Adriatic Sea to Central Asia, and also Russia, an organization recently entered into decline – or to emphasize its common origin and implicitly its common destiny with the “stans” from the Central Asia, by initiating wide educational or economic programs. In 2009, Turkey and Asian countries established the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council), an intergovernmental organization including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kirghizstan, in the purpose of promoting the multilateral cooperation between Turkic countries.

Therefore, a geopolitical reorientation of Turkey will obviously have a major impact in the surrounding areas. On the short term, for instance, Russian analyzes show that „ Ankara can withdraw into the shadows and proffer support for the U.S.-Russian initiative process” in Syria. On the long term, the same source – one of the important Russian experts, F. Lukianov –hinting at Shanghai Cooperation Organization with the Russia-China binomial as the spine to which Turkey wished to join in 2013, wrote: „Despite their obvious differences and even antagonisms, Russia and Turkey are united by one thing — the fact that they are two great powers connected historically, culturally and geographically to a Europe that never fully accepted them as one of their own.”

Turkey’s evolution after the coup must be watched very carefully and, especially, for the direct interested countries, like Romania, it becomes a matter of national security.

 

 

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