Turkey’s peaceful march to the East

Turkey’s peaceful march to the East

For too long, Turkey has ignored or misinterpreted its own interests in the East. Its ignorance has mostly come from a blind engagement in favor of Western liberal democracies.

Its misinterpretations, meanwhile, were predominantly created by its total abdication in face of American strategies in the region.

Now, however, the situation has changed. Turkey is rediscovering its potential as a sovereign and independent nation. With sovereign willpower comes a new perspective regarding the geo-strategic environment that surrounds us. Turkey is trying hard to free itself from Western imperial dominations.

Russian-Turkish cooperation in Syria, Libya the Caucasus and mutual defense strategies – along with the concrete achievements realized so far – clearly demonstrate Turkey’s commitment to paving the way for a more constructive role in international relations. Aside from fruitful bilateral relations with Russia, Turkey is also pushing forward its alliance with states like Azerbaijan, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Trilateral dialogue with Azerbaijan and Pakistan gathered serious momentum lately. Azerbaijan’s liberation war in Nagorno-Karabakh crystallized and strengthened existing historic ties between the three countries. Fraternal solidarity hit sky-high. Now the tripartite coalition speaks of “three states one nation” in reference to the traditional Turkish-Azerbaijani “two states one nation” slogan.

On the other hand, Turkey and Iran are actually building up their collaboration with one another and extending this cooperation to Afghanistan, embracing the new peace process.

As a new national status quo develops in Afghanistan, the Turkish-Iranian duo (with the active participation of Azerbaijan and Pakistan) is determined to help Afghanistan overcome sectarian hatred and defeat destructive ISIS-sponsored terrorist organizations, both fomented by Western imperialists.

A national and sovereign Afghanistan will represent a keystone to regional empowerment, stability and peace efforts. Both Turkey and Iran, along with other allies, will greatly benefit from this new scenario, as the flow of migration to the West will also slow down.

Moreover, a peaceful and developed Afghanistan is crucial to preserve power balance in the region as Indian Hindutva is becoming more and more aggressive towards neighboring Muslim countries and its own Muslim population. Prosperity in Pakistan and Afghanistan is imperative for Turkey as Turkey wants to reconnect with the Turanian region.

Nonetheless, it should be duly noted that Turkey’s recent Turanian strategy is fundamentally different in contrast to its old one – and especially the one in the 90’s – since Turkey is no longer enslaved by political actors working solely in the interest of the Atlantic pole.

Turkey’s Turanian strategy has no imperialist goals whatsoever: Turkey deeply respects existing national borders and national sovereignties. This is equally true for Iran, Russia, China and other countries that may have doubts about it.

Turkey’s Turanian goal in the 21st century can be summarized as a process of ensuring that cultural/religious identities are respected and playing a positive role in fostering trade.

Destabilizing areas where Turks live, making them enemies and playing the Western imperialists’ games is not and cannot be Turkey’s Turanian policy for the coming century. Of course, this does not and should not mean that Turkey will abandon Turks to abuses, nor that Turkey will be subjugated by other forms of imperialism.

Ensuring the security and prosperity of peoples of Turkic origin wherever they are

Turkey and Turkic peoples in the East have much more to win from a peaceful but frank dialogue rather than by playing dirty. This is at the center of Turkey’s Turanian projection: mutual peace, mutual sovereignty, mutual trade and mutual progress with regional powers. States like Russia, China and Iran also have a lot to gain from such a prospect.

A scenario in which Turkey assists in Western aggression would be unbearable for Eastern states on many levels. If Eastern powers take Turkey’s cultural sensibilities into consideration, furthermore if Turkey’s whole Eastern policy is fairly negotiated, Turkey’s friendly and allied stance could have a positive impact on a large variety of geo-strategic issues. In short, a win-win situation is possible and desirable. However, this all depends on goodwill, rationality and common sense… and all parties must practice it. 

 Sinan Baykent

Political Scientist. Former Political Advisor and Speechwriter. Commentator. Works on European nationalism, Türkiye and the Middle East.  

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April 2024