Türkiye’s growing geopolitical significance beyond geography
Merely skimming over the world news, one quickly notices Türkiye’s growing geopolitical significance. Let me elaborate by highlighting four issues, excluding countless others – including migration, armed drones, the Altay tank and Türkiye’s rapprochement with Egypt. Türkiye will host the third international meeting toward the Ukraine peace summit. Ankara pledged to target all PKK terror groups and its Syrian presence YPG assets in Iraq and Syria. Azerbaijan refused to participate in EU-brokered talks with Armenia in Spain, citing Türkiye’s exclusion. Last but not least, the Abu Dhabi-based investment company ADQ is in talks with Türkiye regarding constructing a railroad over the Bosphorus as part of a trade corridor linking Europe with the Middle East and Asia. Obviously, Türkiye’s direct involvement in peace diplomacy, counterterrorism, the South Caucasus region’s stability and energy/logistics corridors does not just relate to its geographical location.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has pursued policies to strengthen Türkiye’s strategic autonomy and improve its international standing over the last two decades. That is why the country finds itself in the middle of all those developments. The Turkish leader aims to make decisions in light of global and regional shifts and to influence those changes as needed. Manifesting itself in the form of tensions, normalization, new collaborations, seeking balance in Türkiye’s relations with the great and regional powers and the transformation of existing alliances, that approach unmistakably frustrates the West on occasion. Yet the main problem is rooted in the refusal of some countries to respect the policy that Ankara adopted in the last decade. Let me clarify that point with reference to three stories.
West’s failure to isolate Russia
Türkiye alone talks about peace in Ukraine, home to the most devastating proxy war and war of attrition in post-Cold War Europe. The West failed to besiege Russia through divestment. Indeed, the Russian economy isn’t performing as poorly as many once expected. Meanwhile, in Washington, more and more stakeholders argue that the $45 billion military aid to Ukraine was more than enough. Since Ankara remains able to cooperate with Moscow and Kyiv alike, in addition to the grain corridor, there is reason to believe that the Turks shall remain under the spotlight when peace talks begin.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s refusal to attend the aforementioned meeting in Spain, citing Türkiye’s absence, was directly linked to Türkiye’s new role. Having stopped the fighting in Libya just three years ago, the country counterbalances Russia in the South Caucasus as well as contributes to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. In this sense, Azerbaijan knows perfectly well that the Karabakh question cannot cease to exist without Turkish support. That France and Germany refuse to accept that fact attests to Europe’s strategic blindness or stubbornness. Either way, those two countries, which failed to integrate Türkiye into Europe, cannot find ways to work with Ankara in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Caucasus, Central Asia, or Africa. Ironically, it remains perfectly possible to promote active cooperation amid competition with the EU platform.
Yet European governments continue to tolerate the PKK terrorist organization, and the United States continues to support the YPG, the PKK’s Syrian component, in the name of fighting Daesh terrorists – which is incompatible with the spirit of alliance and counterterror laws. It goes without saying that the realm of states is the realm of reality as opposed to ideals. It will take time for Türkiye’s Western allies to acknowledge the country’s growing influence over its neighborhood. I still maintain, however, that they will adapt.