Saturday, 13 September 2008

Russia’s Turkey gambit

The Americans, with the assistance of the British, have long wanted to anchor Turkey to 'the West' by manoeuvring it into the EU. This is a forlorn enterprise, not only because Turkey's entry would pervert the European project and will never be accepted by France, Germany and others; but also because Turkey is incapable in the foreseeable future of abandoning its authoritarian hyper-nationalist quasi-fascistic political system and the ideology that underpins it and embrace the kind of liberal democracy that characterises every other EU country.

With Turkey's EU desires unfulfilled, the Anglo-American fear has been that the Turks will turn to Iran, Pakistan and Syria for economic and political alliance and add to the instability in a variety of regions; but perhaps more likely is that proving itself unfit to join the EU, Turkey will turn to Russia and the economic union it is trying to create with a number of former Soviet Union countries.

Certainly, if the speech given earlier this week in Constantinople to a Turkish think tank by Sergei Markov, an advisor to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is anything to go by, Russia would like nothing more than to provide Turkey with an alternative political and economic future.

Here are excerpts from Markov's speech as reported in Zaman:

'Markov warned that Turkey should not rely on the EU because it will not accept Turkey as a full member. He said Turkey could still have relations with the EU and continue to have its NATO role.'

'The Russian and Turkish economies are compatible and their “political cultures have similarities.” He said Turkey and Russia would complement each other in many areas. “We have energy for Turkey’s needs. We have many construction opportunities for Turkish firms. We need labor, and Turkey can provide it,” he commented.'

'He also said that Turkey’s Caucasus initiative has a chance of success if it includes Russia and excludes the United States. “The United States is a dangerous power. The neocons in Washington are the main threat to international stability.”'

Read the whole thing here.


Anonymous said...

There are some interesting things here. There has been a strong Eurasian movement in Russia for many years which one strand advocates a Slavic-Turkic union sometimes led by Aleksander Dugin. Other strands advocate a French-German-Russian union based on Harold Mackinder's geopolitical ideas. Whatever fit there is between Turkey and Russia is mainly driven by Russia's desire to have access through the Dardanelles. Also, Russia wants to bring Turkey into their energy fold. Turkey has been wildly unsuccessful in forging any relationship with their Turanian cousins in Central Asia but they may think friendly relations with Russia will help them out. However, there are a few stumbling blocks to this drive. Turkey remains the American poodle in the region and has excellent relations with Israel. Will they sacrifice that for a relationship with Russia and central Asian states? Also, Russia would prefer to have better relations with Europe; particularly, Germany and Italy. So any kind of union is a pipedream at the moment.

From our perspective, if Russia wants free access through the Dardanelles then why not invade north west Turkey and drive them out. Then they can leave us as custodians of Thrace, Bythinia and Constantinople.

Hermes said...

The previous post was by Hermes

john akritas said...

A Turko-Russian union is a pipedream; but it does reveal some interesting trends. One is a Russian strategy to flatter Turkey and detach it from 'the West', particularly from America. The Turks resent their unequal relationship with the Americans, the restrictions it places on their ability to assert themselves and are open to Russian overtures. The Turks would like to think that the Americans need them more than they need the Americans. The Russia/Central Asia option particularly appeals to the Kemalo-Nationalists because it means that Turkey won't have to change in the way the EU wants – Kemalo-Nationalism and Putino-Nationalism have similarities, as Markov noted in his comment about Turkey and Russia sharing political cultures. The Islamists or neo-Ottomans are only interested in the EU in as much as it protects them from the Kemalo-Nationalists, and even if the Islamists were committed Europeans – which, of course, they're not – they are not in a position, given the balance of powers in Turkey, to implement the reforms to make Turkey even half-ready for EU entry. Ultimately, where Turkey ends up will largely depend on who wins the power struggle in that country – the Kemalists or the neo-Ottomans. The clash between these camps will come to a head sooner rather than later. The other interesting thing to note is the decline of the American empire all this reflects.