The South Ossetian Crisis and Turkey


October, 2008

Turkey’s reaction towards the Georgian aggression against South Ossetia came as a surprise to many European politicians. It was not only the timing of the visit to Moscow of Turkish president Abdulla Gyul and premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan that took place immediately after the beginning of hostilities in South Ossetia, but also because the visit looked like Ankara’s show of support of Russia as an ally.

A number of experts presume that:

a) as the war in South Ossetia grew out of the US attempts to draw Russia into this local conflict, growing into a regional one and

b) a certain chill began to be felt in the relations between Ankara and Washington following that; thus signs of outlines of a potential “condominium” of Russia and Turkey over the Greater Black Sea region taking shape, and given their intention to build up a system of regional security from the Balkans to Caspian Sea on their own, without assistance from non-resident countries in this region, is not out of the question.

Many in the West grew indignant over these developments as they had long been accustomed to regard Turkey as a satellite of the leading nations of the North Atlantic alliance. However, times are changing, and many in the present-day Turkey stopped viewing the West as their friend. The reasons are many… They include US policies in Iraq, especially with reference to the Kurdish problem; and the situation of Turkmen, Turkish kith and kin, the area of whose residence is almost identical with the territory of the so-called “Free Kurdistan” (a quasi-state of Kurds created “under the US security umbrella”), but with Turkmen living suffering from a genocide on the hands of military Kurdish formations, and Washington trying to close its eyes on this. To add up to this is the US intention to implement its project of “Greater Middle East” with plans to have – among other things – bringing together the Iraqi, Turkish, Syrian and Iranian Kurds with the corresponding re-mapping of national borders in the Middle East. (It must be noted that despite the evident threat to Turkey’s sovereignty, these plans were supported by “Party of Justice and Development”, the ruling party led by R.T.Erdogan). Ankara cannot be unconcerned over issues like the absence of a solution of key issues relating to the Kurds issue, willing to ensure its energy security, its EU entry, the refusal of the rest of the world to recognise the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus and the actual failure to create a Turk-Islamic union, and other issues,

The political crisis in Turkey caused by the standoff of the ruling Islamic party and nationalist forces represented by the People’s Republican Party (Deniz Baikal) that is supported by the pro-US Turkish top military leaders along with US attempts to weaken Ankara’s positions in the Black Sea (frontier) states, in the South Caucasus as well as the Northern Iraq make Turkey face a serious geopolitical choice. The option will determine both the implementation of Turkish ruling elites desire to make their country a leading nation in the Near East and the Greater Black Sea region, as well as the future of Turkey’s statehood. What has made the Turkish political leadership respond to the developments in South Ossetia in a specific way that at first puzzled the West so? Washington and Brussels have come to realize that to expect Turkey act in the Greater Black Sea region as “their own”, a 100% (“North Atlantic”) state is now highly unlikely. The US attempts to secure a foothold in the Trans-Caucasus by way of drawing Georgia into the NATO orbit at any cost cannot leave Ankara unconcerned given its claims to create a “strategic corridor” in-between Black and Caspian seas. For that matter, in turn, the United States keeps a close watch of the movements of Azerbaijan, Turkey’s principal strategic partner in the Caucasus.

Matthew Braiza’s recent statements shed enough light on the US stance on the issue. Stressing that until recently “Georgia acted as a regional hub setting the political rhythm and dictating political fashion to other countries”, Braiza underlined that as “the Georgian knot has been severed, the dialogue between Turkey and Russia over Armenia has become inevitable.” Given that Georgia’s former status of a safe transit state ensuring transport of oil from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, has been dramatically shaken Turkey and Azerbaijan will need to mend their relations with Armenia, which they now regard as an “extra route for the transport of Caspian hydrocarbons, which can play this role only in the conditions of warming of interstate relations in the “Ankara-Yerevan-Baku” triangle. This can account for both the Turkish activities regarding Armenia in August and September that came as a surprise to many, and Turkish intention to broker the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Given certain frictions with Washington, the latter is the factor coercing the Turkish leaders to begin dialogue with Moscow. It can be recollected that in the early 1990s when preferential routes of the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeihan oil pipeline were discussed, the Turkish side proposed the so-called “two-pronged formula” of a territorial exchange for Azerbaijan and Armenia (this “smart” scheme was suggested to Turks by US intelligence agent Paul Gobble). In line with the formula, Azerbaijan was to depart from the mountainous parts of Nagorno Karabakh with its predominantly Armenian population, which was to become a part of Armenia. In exchange Yerevan was to give away to Baku the strategically important Zangezur corridor.

As for Moscow, it appears it is interested in bringing its view of the situation in Nagorno Karabakh closer to that of Ankara – at least with an eye to prevent further growth of violence in this sub-region. The chances are that Moscow would soon boost activities in consolidating its relations along the axis “Yerevan - Ankara.” Russia is capable of achieving this, given its own and Armenia’s membership in the OTCS and the pending Armenian presidency in this organisation in 2009 as well as taking into account the roles played in Armenian economy by Russian companies Gazprom, Rosatom and Inter RAO UPS, the ongoing restoration by the Russia’s “Rossiyskiye Zhelezniye Dorogi.” of the Armenia-Turkey railroad, and the Russian military base in Gyumri. The current developments have become one of the factors that motivated Ankara to propose dialogue with Moscow on the initiative named “The Platform of Stability in the Caucasus”, which many in Ankara view as a new “venue” for discussion of problems of regional security. The initiative was discussed during the blitz visit to Moscow of R.T.Erdogan and Abdulla Gyul. The discussion continued during Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to Istanbul September 2, 2008.

Source: http://en.fondsk.ru/article.php?id=1684

In other news:

Oops! McCain Asks Russia's U.N. Envoy For Money


John McCain's U.S. presidential election campaign has solicited a financial contribution from an unlikely source -- Russia's U.N. envoy -- but a McCain spokesman said on Monday it was a mistake. In the letter, McCain urged Russia's U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, to contribute anywhere from $35 to $5,000 to help ensure McCain's victory over Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama, currently ahead in voter preference polls. "If I have the honor of continuing to serve you, I make you this promise: We will always put America -- her strength, her ideals, her future -- before every other consideration," McCain assured Churkin. Moscow's mission to the United Nations issued a terse statement on the Republican presidential candidate's letter, saying that the Russian government and its officials "do not finance political activity in foreign countries." A spokesman for McCain, a long-time critic of Russia, had a simple explanation for the fundraising letter's arrival at the Russian mission in New York: "It was an error in the mailing list." The letter was addressed to Churkin and sported a McCain signature near the bottom. Earlier this month, both McCain and Obama harshly criticized Russia for invading Georgia two months ago, but neither was willing to say yes when asked if Russia under Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was the "evil empire". It is illegal for U.S. presidential candidates to accept funds from foreign sources. The McCain campaign accused Obama earlier this month of not doing enough to screen for illegal contributors and asked U.S. election officials to investigate. McCain has agreed to public financing for his campaign and therefore cannot accept funds from private donors.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/articlePrint?...49K69V20081021

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