26 July 2006

866) Eurasia as the center of the conflict among great powers: Potential developments and Turkey

The Eurasian geography, over which the great powers have been fiercely fighting since the beginning of the 1990s in the pursuit of their economic interests and in which they aim at exporting their own institutional systems and socio-cultural understandings, obviously bears vital importance for Turkey as well. . .

The fact that the U.S. has taken much interest in Eurasia, which bridges Europe to Asia, and has included it into the Greater Middle East Project, inspires some strategists to dwell on the Greater Eurasia Project. Located at the center of Eurasia, Turkey should at once benefit from its economic and strategic advantages granted by its unique geographical position and develop new policies concerning the region, which will certainly undergo significant socio-cultural changes in the coming years. Turkey needs to reassess its own geography in this way.

Extremely open to external influences, the Eurasian region has been experiencing a sudden cultural shock common to all peoples that found themselves independent unexpectedly and unprepared consequent to the termination of long-lasting Soviet pressure. Yet, they have been suffering considerable hardship while trying to accord their institutional settings in tune with the new world order and democratic practices. These are the two prominent characteristics of the region. At this stage, it appears imperative to judge accurately this current situation, understand the past and present state of affairs in the region by taking into account both the history and recent restructuring of Eurasia and thus draw some useful conclusions.

Retrospectively, first of all, the countries in the region, mainly due to the power asymmetry caused by their geopolitical situation, were no more than semi-colonies within a center-periphery relation during the bi-polar era. In this respect, almost all states in the Eurasian geography had to develop external relations based on one-sided dependence, primarily to the USSR. In other words, most of the so-called axis countries of the Cold War were, in varying degrees, related to and dependent at different levels on either the United States or the USSR, which in this context constituted the center. Once emancipated from this one-sided dependence in the post-Cold War era, these states had to come to terms with their disadvantage of power asymmetry. After years of dependence on another state, the Eurasian countries then found themselves in the position to survive on their own. Thus, multilateral alliances and regional co-operation projects have gained much importance.

At this point, it is necessary to elaborate on the regional interests, goals and designs of the United States, which is generally seen as the only global factor, and those of other countries, which are inclined to share the United States' global power.   

Soft war fought by the imperialist states in the region:

At a quick glance of the novel political trends, one would see that the Greater Middle East and North Africa Project of the United States unfolds to an American Eurasianism. Today, consequent to a shift in its rationale, the United States seems to ground its strategies in the notion of land power and thus aims to extend its support, through land forces, to the Anglo-Saxon naval civilization, which is in fact greatly under American control. This scheme of acquiring territorial dominance in Eurasia points to a new phase in American policy, reinforcing the United States' uniqueness as a superpower. After years of dependence on another country, the Eurasian states, in the post-Cold War era, have acknowledged the fact that they now have to take care of themselves.

The regional cooperation initiatives and multi-dimensional alliances have gained significance for them. Nevertheless, due to their socio-cultural characteristics, these countries have at the same time gone through a change of consumer practices and a complete cultural shock. Taking notice of the newly-emerging demands in these countries, the Western powers have set their eyes on the region to make the most of the situation. Of course, what these Western powers possess as the instrument of influence is not delimited to their communication means. The influence created by military and economic institutions such as NATO is an important factor in this respect. It is plausible to note here that the eastward enlargement of NATO, which is an efficient power under American control, poses a potential threat to not only Russia but Europe as well. The American tendency first to control certain states militarily and then to shape them culturally has become a common practice of the United States. The United States desires that NATO operates on that principle. This fact may even lead to the Americanization of Europe and give way to a very effective cultural imperialism.

Moreover, such usage of NATO by the United States may harm the way that Europe is perceived globally and thus weaken the EU in the international arena. One point worthy of mentioning in this context is that when compared with the Eastern culture or Russian hegemony, the Western culture may appear more appealing to the peoples of Eurasia, which are targeted in the war of economic and cultural influence -- or, as one may say, in the competition of distorting their cultures, societal values or simply their way of living.   

Turkey and Russia:

Nonetheless, it is important to underline here that Russia and Turkey, both of which are at once European and Asian, have the potential to come up with more realistic approaches towards the region's peoples in compliance with their values, habits and cultures. Both granted with the advantage of geographical proximity, both states could be influential upon the socio-cultural setting of the region with much lesser effort. On accounts that Russia, as an Asiatic power, leans towards the West and Turkey shows the same orientation, these two countries both have an upper hand in the Western attempts at socio-cultural shaping of the region's peoples. Russia, which has nowadays returned eastwards via the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is fully aware of such an advantage. Unfortunately, however, Turkey, like in any other matter, is throwing its historical chance away by not appreciating this potential. Turkey cannot currently put into motion a Eurasian project because the government does not seem to take interest in the issue and, second, the geographical distance between Eurasia and Turkey sometimes breaks up the communication. Similarly, it is a great disadvantage that Turkey does not share a common border with Azerbaijan. In order that our country rules out such a disadvantage and plays a remarkable role in the region, it is necessary to ally with Azerbaijan and keep constant the currently tense Armenian-Georgian relations on the verge of crisis.

Moreover, it is essential for Turkey, which is 75 percent dependent on external energy suppliers, to exercise socio-cultural influence over the region by making use of its historical legacy and thus to access more easily Eurasian natural resources. Nevertheless, it should here be emphasized that Russia as Turkey's potential, alternatively, ally or rival in the region and its version of Eurasianism is nothing to be underestimated.

Firstly, it is clearly a fact that the Russian Orthodoxy, which is in essence a strict belief with nationalistic implications, plays an important role in this region. As its economy enhances, Russia is soon going to employ more coercive measures within its Eurasianism. Particularly, the Central Asian republics, in which Russian culture has been already fiercely maintained as the dominant power, will be aimed at. Thus, Russia will succeed in cutting loose the peoples of the region from the increasing American influence. Yet, it will do this systematically in order to challenge the United States, which is the prominent global power. The Eurasian geography, in that sense, opens to the impact of the interplay of various ethnic, religious, cultural and socio-economic factors and this situation could lead to a change in the perceptions of sovereignty and unity in the region.

* Ali Kulebi is the acting president of the National Security Strategies Research Center (TUSAM). He can be contacted at akulebi@tusam.net

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News


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