Dangerous map games around Turkey

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Crimea’s annexation to the Russian Federation is already a fait accompli. Western authorities are so occupied with the uprising in eastern Ukraine and possible Russian intervention that nobody is talking about the agreement between Russia and Crimea. One would expect more activism from Ankara, given the fact that Crimea was a part of the Ottoman state for three centuries, but the best the Turkish state could do was to give an official medal to the former leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (assembly), Mustafa Abdulcemil KIrImoIlu. With this symbolic move President Abdullah Gul expressed Turkey’s support for the cause of the Crimean Tatars. But nothing further was done. Given Turkey’s self-isolation from the Western World and its dependency on Russia for oil and gas resources, nothing more could be done, either.
Maps and regimes around Turkey do change en masse. Map changes in this region have a domino effect. The separation of Crimea from Ukraine and its eventual annexation by Russia will not remain as an isolated accident in history. It will certainly provoke similar processes in the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia. During such an era of redrawing the world map, Ankara should have been much more active in international politics. Iraq and Syria are on the verge of dismemberment. The leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan have already made public their intention to turn the Iraqi Federation into a confederation and in time becoming fully independent. Syrian Kurds are going to follow a similar path. Turkey’s Kurdish politicians have started to mention democratic autonomy. Despite the fact that there is not enough support for such integration among the Turkish Cypriots, many Turks have started to speak about an annexation of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) by Turkey if the recent attempts for a final resolution on the island do not give sustainable results. Yemen, Northern Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Mali and several other African nations are also challenged by separationist movements.

It would be naïve to believe that all these insurgencies are taking place based solely on the internal dynamics of the related states. Foreign powers are playing with future maps of our region. The results of these map games will define the political context of Turkey’s future international relations, be they political, economic or cultural in nature. Whether Turkey will be an isolated half-actor in world politics or a global actor will be decided according to Turkey’s activism during this era of remapping. Unfortunately, Ankara is so busy with domestic power games that it is unable to understand the dynamics of this new era.

As the Sykes–Picot Agreement redrew the maps of the Asia Minor and of the Middle East 100 years ago, new agreements may well have been reached about the future maps of the Black Sea, Caucasus and Middle East and Africa regions. In such an era of remapping, China will also try to settle its own sovereignty discussion regarding certain islands and pieces of land with its neighboring countries. Similar attempts will be seen in Central Asia and the Indian sub-continent. This era can also be turned into an era of opportunities to resolve disputes between the Azerbaijani and Armenian nations. Whereas the Sykes-Picot Agreement disregarded the geography and linguistic pluralism of the region, the new maps will be drawn in line with the linguistic, ethnic and tribal distinctions. While the Western world is moving toward a reunification, the East will pass through an era of disintegration and the establishment of small, yet uncontrollable states in the region.

Turkey is unprepared for such an era. The linguistic and ethnic maps of our region have not yet been drawn, yet Turkish diplomats do not perceive regional politics in line with linguistic differences and similarities. Turkey also lacks something like the Highly Skilled Immigration Program of the UK that would bring in skilled workers from all these different linguistically defined lands. Map games necessitate control of information about linguistic divisions of the regional countries.

KERIM BALCI (CihanToday’s Zaman)