Thursday, February 25, 2021

Ankara is growing its role in the Caucasus and Central Asia

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Turkey and Azerbaijan are conducting military exercises near the Armenian border. The 12-day exercise includes tank divisions, air and “emergency” forces. Turkish-made weapons occupy a leading place in it.

Turkish drones played a crucial role in Azerbaijan’s defeat of Armenian separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. In the military confrontation over Nagorno-Karabakh, the victory of Azerbaijan is also perceived as a triumph of Turkey. Now the two countries are deepening ties.

The disappearance of Turkey in the Caucasus region, according to some analysts, is an indicator of Ankara’s geopolitical reorientation.

“Turkey has invested heavily in the Azerbaijani military,” said Sehrat Güvenç, a professor of international relations at Kadir Haas University in Istanbul. Countries are linked by ethnicity and their relationship is defined as “one people, two states.”

The speed and decisive action of Azerbaijan’s military success has strengthened Turkey’s influence in the Caucasus.

“Turkey … will do even more in the future,” said Hussein Bagci, head of the Ankara-based Foreign Policy Institute.

Bagci points out that Ankara is preparing for a change in foreign policy.

“Turkey is no longer playing the card of Islam and the Middle East. Instead, it is more nationalistic and its position is Turkish nationalism,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has traditionally defended the rights of global Islamists, particularly Palestinians. Ankara has also strongly supported the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East and Hamas, which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.

However, it is now more likely that Ankara will reorient itself from the Middle East to the Caucasus and Central Asian countries such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. However, Ankara will have to consider Moscow’s interests there.

“Russia, which considers the region as its area of ​​interest, will not really accept it. “Turkey has already lost the fight for influence in the region with Russia, and at the same time, China’s influence is growing there,” Guvenc said.

Previous attempts by Turkey to expand its influence in Central Asia have been thwarted by Russia, although Zaur Gasimov, an expert on Russia and Central Asia at Bonn University in Germany, says Ankara is a much more accountable competitor today.

“Compared to 1990 and 2000, Turkey today has much more leverage to gain influence in the Central Asian republics. “It can use its own economy and immigration policy in the same way that Russia does,” Gasimov said.

Turkey’s growing involvement in Central Asia, as a counterweight to Russia’s powerful influence, may be welcomed by the region.

“Kazakhstan’s elite is concerned about Russia’s policy towards Ukraine and feels vulnerable because of its own ethnic Russian-populated northern provinces. Recently, some high-ranking Russian politicians have complained about Kazakh territory,” Gasimov said.

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Ankara is growing its role in the Caucasus and Central Asia