HASAN – Turkey’s role as Central Asia turns towards the West

Turkey’s role as Central Asia turns towards the WestIn the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the various Soviet republics on the European continent (starting with the Baltic republics)hose the path headed towards unification with the Western world. In the meantime, the South Caucasus, a political piece of Europe, continue to become closer and closer with the West.

And most recently, Ukraine turned its face starkly towards the West in November 2013, while Moldavia did so in December 2014. As for the European region of the Russian Federation (to the West of the Urals), it also desires further unification with the West.

The real reasons behind Vladimir Putinand#39s sharp response to Ukraine were not the latterand#39s turning its face to the West. Instead, it was the fear in Russia that after Ukraine it would be the European stretches of Russia that would push to join the West.

The West has approached Moscow for the first time in such a andldquopermanentandrdquo way by taking apparent root in Ukraine.In counterpoint to all this, however, there are the former Soviet republics of Central Asia — and Mongolia — which remain close to both Russia and the organizations formed by Russia, like the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

It is not, however, the real strategy of these Central Asian republics to stay close to Russia In fact, the main strategy at work in these countries is to use Russia as a venue through which to become closer to the Western world. So the closeness to Russia we see now in these former Soviet republics is not ideological but rather tactical.

Moscow, rather than being angered and surprised by this, ought to be questioning why it does not have more of a pull in these regions.In the general Central Asian basin, there are only three countries which can proffer up Western civilization.

These are the Russian Federation, Turkey and India Of these three countries, only Turkey has a compelling state structure that possesses both Western values and social rights.In the southern reaches of Central Asia, Iran has enjoyed an historic influence over language, ethnicity, culture and even architecture.

But Iran these days does not have a strong image in this region, which is why it has neither political nor economic clout there.As for China, its economic influence is on a steady rise in Central Asia However, with a population nowhere near that of Chinaand#39s, the entire Central Asian region tends to view China with some consternation, meaning that, in the long run, China looks unlikely to be a defining force in Central Asia The fact that China is home to very different values and cultures found in the West also blocks its path forward in Central Asia The Uyghurs of China fall into the same ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural categories found throughout Central Asia, so it is that China, only in building some strategic alliances with the Uyghurs, would be able to become a greater key player in that region.

As for India, this vast country might well be an important player in Central Asia in the future. Indian culture has traditionally had a positive effect on the southern reaches of Central AsiaRussia is still a political, military and economic force to be reckoned with in Central Asia First of all, it knows the region well.

It ran the region for many centuries. Russian is still the main language spoken throughout Central Asia While the Western world has supported the spread of the English language in the post Soviet Central Asian region, the fact is that global capitalism has made inroads through this region by way of Russia and the Russian language.

When it comes to Turkey, it is indisputable that this country holds some serious aantages in Central Asia in the area of ethnic roots, language, religion and culture. As Turkey moves closer to the European Union and Western democracy, the Asian peoples in Turkeyand#39s vicinity move closer to Turkey.

Conversely, the further away from the EU and Western values Turkey moves, the less attractive Turkey becomes to the various peoples of the Central Asian republics.Turkeyand#39s foreign policy not only has strategic problems but is marked by a weakness when it comes to the creation of a andldquohinterland.

andrdquo The Turkish Republic, which came in the wake of the Eastern Roman and Ottoman states, has lost the reflexes that great states need to possess. Though the Justice and Development (AK Party) leadership hopes to reunite Turkey with these great state reflexes, the truth of the matter is that the structure and capacity to do so are lacking from the Turkish bureaucracy, business world and intellectuals.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman