02.10.2023 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Turkey announces its new key state strategy

Turkey announces its new key state strategy

The modern world is on the path towards the formation of a new world order, and the alignment and role of many countries will change, with some developing countries becoming developed nations and others taking their place, while yet others are highly likely to disappear entirely. Unfortunately, just like hundreds of years ago, our world is far from just and is still plagued by the struggle for resources, which are inevitably monopolized by the strong to the detriment of the weak. Sadly, force continues to determine what is right.

As David Hurst, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye writes on this subject, “The old world order is on the way out, although NATO does not seem to know it. But the new world order is a long way from forming. What you have instead is a diplomatic minefield…

Dividing the world into Manichean blocs – democracies and autocracies – falls as a conceptual model at the first hurdle. To protect their way of life, liberal democracies are shedding their liberalism, particularly towards ethnic minorities, and becoming more nakedly mercantilist abroad. The most egregious abusers of human rights are rewarded with bailouts and arms sales.”

Unfortunately, the current international system fails to guarantee peace, stability or justice for much of the world. The rivalry between the leading global powers is fueling increasing tensions and polarizing international relations, and a multitude of economic, social, political, military, technological and other challenges remain unaddressed. And many representative international organizations (in particular, the UN) are in the throes of a systemic crisis and are unable, or unwilling, to remedy this unsatisfactory troubling situation. The current trends are being led primarily by highly organized and nationally oriented states which are focused on their own interests and capable of driving new changes in regional and global politics. And, in this context, the new “Turkish Century” foreign policy demands particular attention.

In a speech he made at the 14th Conference of Turkish Ambassadors on August 7 this year, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan stated that the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey will mark a new frontier in the country’s modern history, as it confidently expands its role in international relations, politics and economics. Hakan Fidan, formerly a top intelligence officer and now a diplomat, believes that Turkey will occupy a key place in the world, and will be looked up to and depended upon by a number of countries. In his speech he declared that, “Under the leadership of our re-elected President, we will work tirelessly to strengthen Turkey’s position as a fully independent, effective, and influential actor, which sets the international agenda, and sets or breaks the game when necessary.”

And it must be admitted that Turkey in the first quarter of the 21st century has made many confident steps towards the realization of the “Golden Age of the Turks,” which was first proclaimed in 1992 by President Turgut Özal. In terms of both foreign policy and economic activity, Turkey has been particularly active under the leadership of its charismatic President Recep Erdoğan. The “Turkish Century” foreign policy has focused on and achieved success in a number of geographical regions, including Western Europe (the UK), Eastern Europe (Hungary), the Balkans (Kosovo, Bulgaria), the Middle East (Libya, Syria, Iran, Israel), the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Karabakh), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan) and Russia.

Turkey is now pursuing a more independent economic policy and diplomatic path, which are based on its growing strengths and capabilities. In particular, Turkey has become a key energy hub for the supply of oil and gas to foreign markets, has joined the club of nuclear energy nations with the construction of its first Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, has modernized cross-border transportation routes (land and sea routes, energy infrastructure), and initiated partnerships with key global players, especially Russia and China. And, pragmatically, in all these projects Ankara is seeking to further its own interests, and succeeding.

Naturally, Turkish policies owe much of their success to geography – specifically, the country’s strategic location at the meeting point of three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa). And the combination of geography and diplomatic efforts will be essential to the Turkish state’s new achievements and successes in this new century.

As readers may remember, in 2009 Recep Erdoğan’s government proclaimed a new neo-Ottoman doctrine, developed by then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, as central to Turkey’s foreign policy. Many experts, especially outside Turkey, met this new development in Turkish diplomacy with caution, while others viewed it with skepticism. This reaction on the part of the expert community was based not only on simple ordinary envy, but more on two assumptions, firstly, that Turkey lacks the resources to implement such large-scale ambitions and return to the club of major world powers; and secondly, that this doctrine will be absolutely rejected by virtually all Turkey’s neighbors who once formed part of the Ottoman Empire (which had significant Arab, Armenian, Bulgarian, Greek, Georgian, Jewish, Persian, Serbian etc. communities.).

But in time it became evident that Ankara adheres not to a single doctrine of neo-Ottomanism, but to a whole range of doctrines (Turkish Eurasianism, Turanism and (neo-) pan-Turkism), which, together, form the basis of the new “Turkish Century” foreign policy concept. Ankara remembers the history of the Ottoman Empire – both at its height and during its decline – just as well as anyone else, and it also understands the real attitude of its neighbors to modern Turkey’s integrationist role and the existence of problems in its relationships with these neighbors. In addition, in the three decades that have passed since the fall of the bipolar world order in 1991, Turkey’s politicians have made consistent efforts to build the foundations (cultural, linguistic, economic, energy, communications, financial and credit-related, military, political, and institutional) for the integration of the community of Turkic states, which, Turkey hopes, will drive the renewal of the Turkish nation and form a Turkish pole in a new world order.

Turkey pays a great deal of attention and attaches great importance to cooperation with major economic powers, and has made effective use of its favorable geographic location to enable the transit of goods and services to the important European market. This focus on geoeconomics began with joint oil and gas projects – in partnership with major energy companies and financial organizations – to export energy resources from Azerbaijan’s energy resources via Turkey to Europe, thus bypassing Russia.

A more recent success of Turkey’s independent economic policy has been its constructive cooperation with Russia itself, which has provided it with two Russian gas pipelines (Blue Stream and Turkish Stream), and will in the future provide it with two nuclear power plants, Akkuyu, currently under construction, and Sinop, still at the planning stage, and possibly also a gas and grain hub. Together, these projects promise to reinforce Turkey’s economic and political sovereignty.

Finally, against the background of a global crisis of international relations generated by the West’s attitude to Russian and Ukrainian affairs, Turkey is continuing to pursue a flexible policy aimed at obtaining geoeconomic access to the richest Turkic areas of post-Soviet Central Asia, and developing new transit arteries for the export of natural resources from the Caspian and Asian basins to global markets through Anatolia. This policy primarily relates to the resource wealth of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Its commitment to the above strategy has not prevented Turkey from getting involved in mega-projects led by the two “Asian Tigers,” China and India. President Erdoğan recently stated that his country should become part of China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative. As he emphasized after returning from the recent G20 summit, “Without Turkey, this transport corridor could not exist. Turkey is an important manufacturing and trading center. The most convenient route from the East to the West should pass through Turkey.” Ankara’s goal is to create an alternative transport corridor from China through the Turkic Central Asian states, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey, to the Marmaray Tunnel under the Bosporus.

Turkey also sees itself as a link in another similarly ambitious global project, the India – Middle East – Europe international economic corridor. This project, costing some $500 billion, involves connecting the Indian port of Mumbai with Dubai, in the UAE, via 2,000 kilometers of railroad and pipelines running through the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Recep Erdoğan wishes Turkey to be part of this Indian project, given the country’s geographical location and economic significance. Ankara proposes linking the Israeli port of Haifa with the Turkish port of Mersin. Turkey is interested in India’s “Middle East project” because of its great potential and the fact that it involves key regional and global powers such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the US, Germany, France, Italy, and India itself.

The Indian project not only includes a Middle East transit option, but also a Transcaucasian option, along the route India – the Persian Gulf – Iran – Armenia – Georgia, the Black Sea – Europe. In relation to this route, too Turkey is closely monitoring developments, especially in relation to control over the Zangezur corridor. The Meghri border region of Armenia may become the “crossroads” of two major transit routes, one from China to Turkey and Europe, and one from India to Iran and Europe. If Turkey, Russia and Iran together with the Transcaucasia countries (Armenia and Azerbaijan) can reach a compromise that allows a trading, economic and political partnership as part of a “3+3” grouping, Turkey may have a role in this mega-project.

It follows from this analysis that Turkey’s involvement in the implementation of the above-mentioned geo-economic projects will enable it to play a greater geopolitical role in regional and global affairs, including by giving it more influence over the EU and enabling the formation of a new Turkic common market in Asia. Such a prospect would do a great deal to help Turkey achieve a key position on the global stage in this century.


Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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