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The forgotten option: Turkish Eurasianism 26 août 2006

Posted by Acturca in Caucasus / Caucase, Central Asia / Asie Centrale, History / Histoire, Russia / Russie, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE, USA / Etats-Unis.
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Turkish Daily News, Wednesday, August 23, 2006, (Part 1 of 2)

Ali Külebi *

Whereas we turn our faces to the West, the Western countries try to extend their influence to Central Asia, the Turks’ fatherland. This region, which has been central to theories of world supremacy throughout history, is known as Eurasia 

Turkey, which has been making its future plans according to the prospect of EU membership for 40 years, is now facing the ambiguity of the “open-endedness” that has been offered to, or rather imposed on, us at this stage of the accession negotiations. What does the EU plan for Turkey, while Turkish society seems completely focused on EU affairs and our once untouchable and nonnegotiable red lines have turned pink? Cyprus, which is about to be lost in the same way that Crete was lost, the Aegean Sea, subject to schemes aimed at Turkey’s geostrategic pre-eminence in the region and Greek designs on Istanbul together with incessant Armenian demands, which have both received the generous support of the EU, are signposts on a long, narrow and crooked road and warn against the danger awaiting us. The EU, for which we have greatly compromised our identity and national honor, seeks to play an influential role beyond the northeastern border of Turkey. Whereas we turn our faces to the West, the Western countries are trying to extend their influence to Central Asia, the Turks’ fatherland. This region, which has been central to theories of world supremacy throughout history, is known as Eurasia. The EU’s newly emerged interest in the area is simply based on the existence of abundant energy resources there, but for us, it is the homeland of the Turkish states and the font of all Turkishness.

Where is Eurasia ?

It is possible to answer this question in 10 different ways. Answers vary according to one’s nationality and historical and political convictions and hence remain relative. Our versions of the definitions of Eurasia are listed below:

  It is the vast region that encompasses the entirety of Europe and Asia from Atlantic to Pacific; Lisbon to Vladivostok.

  It is the region stretching towards the west and the east of the Ural Mountains.

  It is the region that has sheltered the Turkish and Slavic peoples — Turkish, Mongolian, Slavic, Hungarian and Finnish — for centuries.

And finally, in its narrowest sense, Eurasia can be defined as the region the Turkish states, in other words, the Turkish world, inhabit.

Eurasianism in the early 20th century:

It was a truism in the 19th century that the power that commanded the oceans has a position much more advantageous than its rivals. From the early 20th century onwards, however, with the advancement in railroads, territorial powers acquired the same degree of mobility as maritime powers. Within this context, the power that had the potential to command Eurasia territorially would emerge superior to the maritime powers. While the latter had to sail miles, at great cost, in order to arrive at the same point, the land powers could reach it with far more ease through the “shortcuts” offered by the railroad. 

Therefore, it was common knowledge in the early 20th century that the state which controlled the heart of Eurasia could also control all of Europe and Asia, even Africa to some extent. Although such thinking had a part in the eruption of two world wars, the subsequent advancement of naval-air forces, such as those of the United States, added an extra-region actor to the hegemon of this globalizing world. This fact should be seen as confirmation of what some American strategists suggest, that the control of the center lays in the power of the peripheral states. However, we cannot claim that “he who commands the peripheral states commands Eurasia, he who commands Eurasia determines the world’s future” is a perfect statement.

Nevertheless, today it is apparent that the United States acts on a strategy based on subordinating the peripheral states of Eurasia with the purpose of preventing Russia from emerging in the region as a global power.

Eurasian strategies during the Cold War:

Even after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., strategic assessments concerning Eurasia — no different than those pertaining to the Cold War era — focus on hindering in the region the supremacy of Russia, the world’s second biggest nuclear power, and hence Russian attempts at becoming a world power once again. For this particular reason, the United States demonstrates much interest in the Turkic countries and deploys forces there. It seeks to both stop the spreading of the Russian influence through Eurasia and protect China from Russia. The nuclear assets of China, an eminent nuclear power, do not, in fact, exceed the capacity stored in a single U.S. Trident-type submarine. Therefore, contrary to the common point of view, it is unlikely that China will challenge the United States’ global power in the future. Furthermore, Chinese development is hindered by the scarcity of its energy and uranium resources. As China proceeds towards the end of its development strategy, its oil demand is increasing considerably. All in all, it can be argued that the United States, in order to pursue further its Greater Middle East Project, counterbalance Russia and safeguard its abundant investments in China, seeks to settle down in Eurasia. Meanwhile, the pretext that China needs American support in the region serves this U.S. design most conveniently. 

‘Eurasian Balkans’ – past empires’ encounters:

Over the past 50 years, the role to be played by Eurasia in plans for world supremacy has been assessed by taking into consideration the developments on the three fronts, namely Europe, the Near East and the Far East. Recently, Turkey-Caucasia and the Central Asian Turkic Republics, together called by Brezezinski the “Eurasian Balkans,” have been added to the three fronts. This new front, with its unique underground richness and oil resources, has an immense geostrategic value. 

Eurasia has a central place not only in the formation of Turkish identity but also in Russian designs on supremacy. Under the strategic guidance of his consultant Alexander Dugin, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been forcing Turkey out of any plans concerning the future of Eurasia, which is in fact inherently Turkish. The motive behind such an exclusive attitude could possibly be explained by Russia cautious approach to the Turkic Republics in the region and the potential for them to be powerful and unified one day. On this account, Russia has been following the Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Tehran-Tokyo axis in shaping its Eurasian policy. Nevertheless, Putin’s latest visit to Turkey and his offer of cooperation and friendly advice to not get so caught up with EU affairs could be read as a sign that Russia may put an end to its attempts to exclude Turkey from Eurasia. Also, Dugin’s latest visits to Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) and the speeches he delivered there also signal a change of heart in the Eurasian policies of Russia and thus underpin our argument. Dugin highlighted the vast possibilities of cooperation ranging from economic to strategic, even in Eurasia.

Dugin’s theory of Eurasianism bears much resemblance to the Soviet imperialism of the past. First and foremost, it is essentially anti-American. The Putin administration, which has been seeking ways to increase even further its influence in the Central Asia through a kind of neo-imperialism, is also active in the region by means of successful organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Thus Russia enhances its regional existence by strong bonds of economy, culture and politics. However, Putin, who envisages challenging America’s design of world supremacy through the Paris-Berlin-Moscow-Tehran-Tokyo axis in accordance with Dugin’s viewpoint, has chosen to neglect the Turkishness embedded in the characteristics of the region. The implications of this apparent negligence in Eurasian policy will soon weaken Russia in a region where Turkish elements are dominant and will eventually facilitate the entrance of the United States into Eurasia as an extra-regional but omnipotent actor. Still, Putin’s visit to Turkey indicates that a change in this attitude is on the horizon. 

Theories based on Turkish-Slavic unification:

There is another theory based on Turkish-Slavic unification proposed by Bagramof that is more realistic than Dugin’s theory of Eurasianism. This theory suggests the restoration of the rights of Turkish Muslim minorities and Altınordu in the region.

Within this approach, as orientalist Alexander Kadirbayev emphasized, the ideal of a stronger Eurasia lies in the unification of the Turkish and Slavic peoples. According to Kadirbayev: “Eurasianism is grounded on the steppe and forest, in other words on the unification of the Turkish and Slavic peoples. Expansionism, crossing borders and foundation of mighty states are all results of the steppe culture. This is how the Turkish character was formed. The consciousness of coming from Turan and partaking in Turkish Union has prevented the assimilation of the Turks.” In compliance with the maxim “what makes the Eurasian continent is not the geographical union but the cultural one,” extra-regional actors such as the United States and Germany, encouraged by Russia to be active in the region, are incompatible with this aspect of the region’s nature. Therefore, designs built on the existence of outsiders are not realistic. As Kadirbayev held, Soviet imperialism rose on the harmonious coexistence of the Turkish and Slavic cultures. The most important determinant of the Eurasian culture is, however, the Turan (Turkish) element. Still, the third continent situated between Europe (West) and Asia (East), namely Eurasia, stands on the harmony of its Turkish-Muslim and Russian components. The first is represented by Turkey, the latter by Russia. Both countries built empires in the region and had a say in the shaping of Eurasia’s future.

The US quest for supremacy in Eurasia:

Against this background, it would not be wrong to suggest that American endeavors such as the Greater Middle East and North African projects are indeed the tools of 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 deployed in Eurasia, to the Anglo-Saxon naval civilization, which is in fact greatly under American control. The invasion of Afghanistan, acquisition of military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and the obtaining of a military permit for passage to the Central Asian republics could all be perceived as the unfolding of the Eurasianism as Brezezinski prescribed. The next steps in this American version of Eurasianism will probably be Iran and Syria. Despite Russian resistance, American supremacy in Caucasus, which started in Georgia, could continue to grow.

Confirmation of Eurasianist theories, in terms of territorial superiority and power, can be seen in the fact that all the civilizations that advanced to greatness in the region built long-lasting empires. The Roman, Alexander the Great’s Macedonian, Genghis Khan’s Mongolian, Persian, Russian, Turkish Seljuk and Ottoman empires all illustrate this. Therefore whoever commanded this heartland commanded not only Eurasia but also much of the known world, thus becoming a super power.

Fully aware of this historical fact, the United States aims to keep the peripheral states of Eurasia under its influence and prevent Russia from acquiring global power again. Within this context, by manipulating peripheral states such as Korea and the Philippines in the Far East and Germany and Poland in Europe, the United States strives to hinder Russia’s dominance over Eurasia.

Turkish Daily News, Thursday, August 24, 2006, (Part 2 of 2)

Given the varying perceptions of Eurasia and the diversity of its peoples it is likely, albeit after considerable hardship, that a new concept of cooperation based on multi-polarism will emerge. Today, it could be possible for Turkey, Iran, the Turkic Republics, Ukraine, Russia, China and even Japan to unite around a certain Eurasianism defined in terms of politics and economics. However, as a realistic Eurasianism requires geographical and cultural unity, and the above-mentioned countries lack such unity, especially with respect to their cultural identities: This version of Eurasianism does not seem to be a viable option.

Another view, which is similar to the one recently acknowledged in Russia as “neo Eurasianism,” claims that “there can only be Turks at the heart of Eurasianism.” As this view has it, “Russia could partake in Eurasianist designs only under the condition that it recognizes the Turkish-Muslim reality and acts accordingly. This principle does not divide Russia, but instead unifies it.” The Russian intellectuals, who argue for this ideal, desire religion to be important, while at the same time pursuing a secular Eurasianism.

If Iran begins to take a secular line, it will be a realistic approach to include it in this Eurasianism. It is important to mention that Iran is a country where, in fact, people of Turkish origin founded empires and states, lasting until 1924. Although the Eurasianist tendency that exists among Turks and Slavs does not exist among the Persians, the presence of the Turkish element in that country’s demographic profile could lead to such a development.

However, such Eurasianism encounters fierce opposition from the mainstream political groups in Russia and the pro-Atlantic and pro-EU groups in Turkey. Additionally, in Russia views similar to those of Alexander Dugin, consultant to President Vladimir Putin, in their anti-imperialist approach and to those of Putin in their quest for making Russia a global power, may overshadow this Eurasianist argument.

Nevertheless, in the pursuit of Eurasianism in the region Turkey should be cautious of the manipulative attempts of both the United States and Russia, because although cooperation is required, it may disguise subordination. 

A realistic Eurasianism should not be dominated by one power, cause religious conflicts or antagonize the people of the region. Besides, this lack of conflict with any state, alliance or ideology will increase the chances of this Eurasianism to be successful. This ideology can succeed on its own terms. It would also be realistic to form a Turkish-Eurasian integration.

If neo-Eurasianist doctrine presupposes a Turkish-Slavic union, by allying with Turkish Eurasianists, Russians could remain influential to the east of the Ural Mountains, where the Turkish peoples are predominant. One of the world’s greatest energy resources lies in the area that encompasses the Caspian region, Tataristan and Siberia. This indicates that economic cooperation within Eurasia, which could lead to the emergence of modern welfare states, is a very profitable prospect. However, Russia has not been very successful recently in building solid alliances unaided, and feels the potential threat of the American oil companies active in the region. It should seriously take into consideration the Eurasianist option, requiring a Turkish-Slavic union. In the near future, Russia might experience a second dissolution. In order to prevent this, it should cease seeking eminence through the outmoded Eurasianism of the Tsarist era.

Turkish Interpretation of Eurasianism:

If Russians choose to neglect completely the prospects of cooperation, then Turks should not hesitate to concentrate on Turkish Eurasianism and help it flourish in the Turkish world.

Whereas Slavs form a majority to the west of the Ural Mountains, they seem to be outnumbered by the Turks and semi-Slavic and Mongolian peoples in the East. This situation, hinting a perfect geographic and cultural integrity in Turan, offers a fine starting-point for Turkish Eurasianism.

Of course, certain hardships today hinder the further growth of Turkish Eurasianism. From Dugin’s point of view in particular, Turkey, which has been long on an opposing front to Russia, gave up on its imperial pursuits subsequent to its transformation in to a nation-state. It has now an overtly pro-Atlantic stance. According to this viewpoint, Turkey and Russia, two rival powers, will remain in constant antagonism in the region and Turkey would be unable to build relationships with the Turkic states any more than allowed by Russia. Furthermore, Russian statesmen living in nostalgia for the Soviet days will always stand in the way of a real cooperation with Turkey.

The United States is evidently yet another obstacle to Turkish Eurasianism. At the outset, the American version of Eurasianism and, as its extension, the Greater Middle East Project, aimed at limitless access to the natural resources of Central Asia with the help of a friendly Turkey and pacified Iran. This was all, in fact, in compliance with Brezezinski’s Eurasianism. Nevertheless, the United States presently requires no help to enter the region, as it stands powerful at the heartland of Eurasia, with military bases in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan as well as its military presence in Iraq. On this account, it is questionable to what extent the United States will need potential rival Turkey in the region or whether indeed it will permit Turkey to be active in Eurasia.

In line with the current trends of Eurasianism and further to the U.S.-Russian alliance, the United States has enabled Russia to dominate the Turkish geo-strategic zone which was once safeguarded by the United States to serve Turkish interests. This fact reveals that it is imperative for Turkey to focus on an Eurasianism designed solely for the Turkish world. 

Once pursued, such Eurasianism would provide Turkey with many considerable benefits. Turkey could, above all, form a bridge between the Central Asian Republics and the EU and skillfully manage an energy network spread throughout both continents. In comparison with the EU, Turkey is a vastly more advantageous player in the region, given its geographical, ethnical and cultural proximity to the Central Asian states. It would be wrong to suggest that at the summit of December 17, 2004 the EU completely ruled out the possibility of Turkey’s accession, in spite of the fact that the materialization of this possibility will make Turkey the biggest member state, because Turkish Eurasianism is likely to result in a very profitable union from which the EU would not want to be excluded.

In the future, Turkey should, on one hand, preserve its national borders and unitary structure and, on the other hand, summon the Turks, Persians, Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis, Kyrgyzs, Kazaks and Turkmen under a geographical unity. It is Turkey’s historical mission to grow from a regional to a semi-global power by means of, first economic cooperation and then political integration.

Turkey’s most helpful tools in its quest for greatness are its geo-strategic advantages in areas where oil pipelines are being constructed as well as its military power and human resources, fortified by technological training. Its commitment to democracy is a further asset that would help to bring about the leadership that Turkey aspires to.

Turkish Eurasianism envisages advancement towards a full integration of Turkey and Azerbaijan. “One nation, two states” is a motto shared by both countries. However, not hiding their discontent with the prospect of such rapprochement, Russia and Iran seek ways to prevent any integration between these two major Turkish states of the region. Their support to Armenia and opposition to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline should be understood within this context. Russia, which aims to subordinate Azerbaijan, and Iran, which pursues very cautious policies towards the 30 million Azerbaijani Turks within its borders, both desire to pacify Azerbaijan with the help of Armenia and to obstruct communication and cooperation within the Turkish world.

Resistance to EU interference in Turkish Eurasianism: 

Another step to be taken within Turkish Eurasianism is to reinvigorate the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). ECO has the potential to be the motor that will kick-start an enhanced industrial, commercial and cultural integrity between Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Turkish Republics of Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, our commitment to the EU acquis does not allow further enhancement of the current integration with these countries.

When Turkey entered the customs union, the EU promised full membership in return. After Turkey’s entrance to the customs union, most of our small and medium-scale enterprises could not compete and went bankrupt. Our imports from EU member states has consistently increased over the past 11 years and finally reached $28 billion this year. Our current trade deficit amounts to $5.8 billion. Turkey ranks sixth in the world as an EU export target. It is now time to say no to the customs union, which has virtually made our country an open market for the EU, curtailed the progress of our relationship with the Turkish world and quite simply enslaved us. If the open-ended negotiations with the EU mean to leave Turkey in a vast ambiguity and uncertainty for a period of 10 to 15 years, then we should freeze commitments to the customs union until a final date for accession has been set. We therefore demand the right to trade freely again with our neighbors and relations in the region. It is vital and urgent that Turkey put an end to the unfair and asymmetric relation with the EU and take a stand against its impositions and assertions which should, in fact, remind us of phenomena from our own history — the Capitulations! 

* Acting president of the National Security Strategies Research Center (TUSAM) akulebi@tusam.net


1. Nikolyay - 20 février 2007


Senks, its very interesting !!!

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