7: Relations with Central Asia and the countries of the Caucasus
The cradle of the Turks is located in Central Asia, and four of the five countries in the region have main languages belonging to the Turkish language group. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkey wanted to invest heavily in cooperation with the new Central Asian states, but these relations have never been as expected. This is partly due to cultural differences; on the one hand, several of the former Soviet republics have maintained their close relations with Moscow.
Relationship with Armenia / Caucasus
History was written when President Abdullah Gül went to Armenia in September 2008 to watch the World Cup qualifier in football between his home country and Armenia. Turkey does not have diplomatic relations with its neighbor, and its borders have been closed since 1993.
Relations with the Armenians have been strained since the Turkish massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. When Armenia occupied the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan shortly after independence in 1991, the Turks responded with a political boycott. The Azeris are the ethnic cousins of the Turks.
According to rrrjewelry, the situation in the Caucasus has been explosive for many years. The Russian military intervention in Georgia in the summer of 2008 showed how dangerous this situation is. But it was not just Turkey that was intimidated. Armenia has traditionally had good relations with Russia, but the war in Georgia was an indicator that the Russians do not accept so many political antics in their backyard. A lot was therefore in place for Abdullah Gül’s “football diplomacy”. Since the sensational visit, there have been thaws in relations between Turkey and Armenia.
Turkey and Russia have rival interests in the Caucasus, not least because of strategically and economically important oil and gas pipelines. The oil pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to the Turkish port city of Ceyan passes through Georgian territory.
8: Soon municipal elections
There are municipal elections in Turkey on March 29, and some have speculated that Erdogan had these elections in mind when he left Davos in anger at the end of January. “Action power” at the meeting should pay off in the election, some believe. In any case, it can give AKP votes. But for many Turks, this is more than an election campaign.
Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, many Turks have felt inferior and humiliated in relation to the Western world. Atatürk gave them back a lot of pride, but the negative attitude of many EU countries in recent years has strengthened the feeling of being seen as second-class. Many Turks felt that Erdogan was doing something great in Davos; he showed that the Turks would not let themselves be ignored in the international arena.
Domestically, Erdogan and his party have fairly good control, especially since the Turkish electoral system favors the two to three largest parties – especially the largest. There are also many indications that the military is not as strong as before, although one should never ignore the generals in Turkish politics. With relative calm at home, both Erdogan and President Gül can focus more on expanding Turkey’s geopolitical role.
9: Important route choice
So where will Turkey go in the years to come? The country and the people there have one leg in Asia and one in Europe , both geographically , historically and culturally . There are great cultural differences both in cities like Ankara and Istanbul – and not least between the middle and upper class in these cities and the countryside in Anatolia. But no matter what happens, the Turkish authorities will focus on modernity, whether moderate Islamists or not are in power.
As things stand now, it is uncertain whether Turkey will ever join the EU. If the country were to be accepted, it will hardly happen until after 2015, perhaps even later, the experts believe. Then it is asked what happens in the meantime.
The AKP will probably focus on strengthening its relations with the Middle East. It can also be a security to have many economic and political partners in a time of global financial crisis. Relations with Israel may be cooler, but defense cooperation is so close that there is unlikely to be any rift between the two states.
Perhaps Turkey is also turning more towards the Islamic world in general. The country has been a member of the Organization of Islamic States (OIC) since 1969, but it was only after the AKP took power that this cooperation became a real priority. In 2004, Turkey took over the chairmanship of the organization.
With its geographical location, Turkey is in a special situation . Both the Iraq war and last year’s war in Georgia have given the country increased importance. As a bridge builder , Turkey can prove important, if the country’s authorities play their cards right.
As a transit country for gas and oil, Turkey will also become more important in the years to come. The Ceyan oil pipeline already exists, a gas pipeline called Nabucco is planned from Turkey to Central Europe. It will be connected to pipelines from Azerbaijan and Central Asia and will be very important for Europe, not least to reduce dependence on Russian gas.
On 19 January 2009, Prime Minister Erdogan threatened to withdraw Turkey from Nabucco cooperation if the EU did not speed up membership negotiations. Only a few hours later, he stated that Turkey would not use the gas pipeline as a political weapon. But he had at least reminded Europeans how important Turkey is and will be in the years to come.