Chuck Spinney Sends…
As someone who has lived in Turkey for most of the last two years, I have watched the development of her foreign policy with great interest, not to mention a good deal of confusion
It is hard to make sense out this rapidly-emerging, vibrant country of 70 million, increasingly well-educated, industrious people. While its remote interior is still very traditional, Turkey’s coastal regions are already beginning to blossom into an outward looking, modern multinational consumer society, and the effects of rising incomes and education are very visible. In the coastal regions, I would say that living standards are now higher than those of Portugal, about the same as those of Greece, and somewhat lower than those of Spain. To be sure, the interior is poorer, especially as one travels east, but even in the east, there is growing modernity. Everywhere, markets are chock a block with high-quality healthy food and vast quantities middle income consumer goods, and there is fresh water galore, especially in the coastal regions.
The attached op-ed by Patrick Seale is a good summary that brings clarity to much of what is going on with Turkey’s foreign policy and is well worth reading.
But there is more. Not mentioned are Turkey’s bilateral overtures to Russia, Georgia, the Ukraine, and the various Turkic countries in great swath of Central Asia (including the Uighurs in NW China), as well as a bewildering variety of multilateral environmental and economic initiatives in the Black Sea region (involving Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Greece, and Turkey).
On a personal level, when talking to individual Turks, I have sensed occasionally some faint echoes of a revival of the kinship links which once connected the cosmopolitan inhabitants around the Black Sea littoral (Turks marrying Ukranians and Russians, Turkish Tatars reconnecting with distant relatives in the Crimea or Kuban, Turkish Las east of Trabzon connecting to Georgians, etc.)
Much of this dynamism is definitely due to the proactive leadership of Prime Minister Edogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu in the sense described by Seale, but part of the impetus, I think, also comes from Turkey being sucked willy-nilly into the power vacuum that arose suddenly with collapse of the Soviet Union, and then was deepened more recently by the escalation of US bungling in the Middle East and Central Asia (especially wrt Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan,and Syria). The interplay of chance and necessity is now shaping unfolding events in an unpredictable way.
What this political/social evolution means for the Greater Middle East as well as relationships among Turkey, the EU, and the US is unknowable at this point in time, but we may be witnessing the beginning of what may turn out to be one of the most important geopolitical realignments of the 21st Century.
One this is clear, however: The Neocon dream of Turko-Israeli regional military-economic cooperation sphere is now in tatters. How Israel adapts to these changes and how Israel attempts to use its pernicious lobbying influence in the US to shape our response to these changes is likely to be one the great strategic headaches for President Obama and his successors for the foreseeable future.
November 5, 2009
The Rise and Rise of Turkey
The Turks like to say that whereas Iran and Israel are revisionist powers, arousing anxiety and even fear by their expansionism and their challenge to existing power structures, Turkey is a stabilizing power, intent on spreading peace and security far and wide.
Turkey is extending its influence by diplomacy rather than force. It is also forging economic ties with its neighbors, and has offered to mediate in several persistent regional conflicts. It has, however, not hesitated to use force to quell the guerrillas of the PKK, a rebel movement fighting for Kurdish independence.