IN ADDITION to the coronavirus pandemic, some politicians have been infected today by another pandemic — the ‘NATO’ one.
Having encapsulated a significant number of countries in coalitions created against its opponents, the United States, in the heat of a militant pandemic, tried in recent years to first create the so-called ‘Arabic NATO’, and then even an ‘Asian NATO’, despite the obvious reluctance of more and more countries not only to follow the lead of the ‘decrepit hegemon’, but also to support its ideas for an even greater split of the world into military blocs.
But it is well known that any virus is contagious. And this ‘pandemic’ trend was picked up by the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who embarked on a course towards an intensified collapse of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (which, it should be recalled, in addition to Russia and Armenia, includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) and to build a ‘Turkic NATO’ with a single ‘Army of Turan’ on its ruins. Among the members of such an alliance he sees Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, unrecognised by the world community, all of them under the direct military-political leadership of Turkey.
Such thoughts began to be especially actively promoted by Erdogan against the background of the military escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, during which Ankara provides unequivocal support to Baku. Turkey is trying to demonstrate to Russia’s allies that Armenia is retreating before the union of Azerbaijan and Turkey, while Ankara ‘does not surrender its allies and is leading them to victory.’
The reason for Erdogan’s use of precisely ‘military patterns’ in his frank neo-Ottoman aspirations is understandable, since the military has always had a dominant position in Turkish society and in the implementation of Ottoman ideas. However, if over the past hundred years the Turkish officer corps was oriented towards the West and was subordinate to the political leadership, then in recent years Erdogan, with numerous repressions and arrests, knocked out the former top military elite of the country, imprisoned many generals, admirals and senior officers, discredited them in front of Turkey’s society and began to personally control the military.
In order to practically implement the plans to create a ‘Turkic NATO’ and ‘The Turan Army’, and also to strengthen and expand military cooperation in the region under the auspices of Ankara, Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar visited a number of Central Asian countries at the end of October. As the head of the Turkish military department said following his visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, ‘the parties agreed to further expand military and military-technical cooperation.’ At the same time, the Turkish media emphasise that the work carried out by Ankara to develop military cooperation with the Central Asian states is an important stage on the path to creating a unified army of the Turkic peoples, a proposed military alliance led by Ankara, which will set the tone in all regional and global conflicts. ‘We have made serious progress,’ Hulusi Akar is cited saying.
However, it should be noted that the revitalisation of Turkish policy in Central Asia is not something new. Attempts to create military and military-technical cooperation with the countries of this region were made by Ankara immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, perceiving the resulting vacuum as a kind of historical chance to recreate the Great Turan. The very idea was largely based on the geographical representation in Turkey’s view of Turan as a global supranational entity, uniting both Turkic and other peoples of Central Asia and Siberia. For these purposes, Ankara applied considerable forces and means to try and drag the new sovereign countries of the region under the auspices of Turkey, summits of the Turkish states have been held and are still being held, where among other things the idea of military unity is exploited.
Ankara even used ‘supreme spiritual powers’ for this purpose. In particular, in the early 1990s, at one of these summits a ‘sacred ritual’ rooted back in one of the Turkic legends was demonstratively arranged, when the leaders of the new sovereign states inflicted symbolic blows on the anvil, thus imitating the action of forging of ‘the weapon of unity of the Turkic countries.’
To recreate the Great Turan, to strengthen the lost Ottoman influence in the region, 11 years ago in Nakhichevan (Azerbaijan), a large international platform of the Turkic Council (Council for Cooperation of Turkic-speaking States) was created. Today it includes Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. With its official creation Ankara began to actively develop ties with the region, calling it its ancestral home and considering the Central Asian countries as the historical homeland of the Turkic peoples, embodying neo-Ottoman ambitions through it. Turkey uses culture and religion as one of the channels of its influence. As an example, there are ten Turkish schools for one Russian school in Kyrgyzstan. There the Pan-Turkic ideology is widely promoted. In addition, back in the 1990s, Ankara proposed to create a unified Turkic alphabet, and, although then these plans did not succeed, it became an active generator of the transition of the former post-Soviet states of Central Asia from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin alphabet with a very understandable goal of separating the region from Russia and strengthening Turkish influence.
It is quite understandable that so far all these efforts of Ankara, as well as the desire to create a ‘Turkic NATO’ and ‘Army of Turan’ under its auspices, are mostly taking place in the area of the rhetoric of the Turkish leader and members of his government. And there are a number of reasons for this, the main of which is that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is still afraid to test Russia for its strength, because he understands how the conflict with Putin could turn out for him. The historical memory of the Turks reminds Erdogan that it was the Russians who repeatedly won on their own territory, as a result of which Turkey lost most of its ‘Ottoman territory’.
The political leadership of the Central Asian states also understands the danger of linking their further fate only with Turkey, remembering perfectly well the situation when in the 1990s Ankara welcomed Uzbek oppositionists who developed terrorist acts carried out in some cities of Uzbekistan.
There is also no ‘unified support’ for candidates proposed by Ankara to participate in the ‘Turkic NATO’ or in the ‘Army of Turan’. In particular, Tajikistan is one of such candidates, inhabited mainly by a non-Turkic ethnic group, although an Uzbek minority is present there. But one must not forget that the Tajiks are a completely different ethnos, Iranian-speaking, and the reasoning about the ‘Turkic world’ touches them to a lesser extent.
Speaking about the modern policy of Turkey, today the terms ‘neo-Ottomanism’ and ‘Pan-Turkism’ are increasingly used. These are the cornerstones of the foundation of the foreign policy course taken by the leader of the Turkish state, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
However, the irony of modern neo-Ottomanism lies in the fact that the very idea of consolidating the peoples of the Turkic world, which primarily opposes Iran, under the slogan of the Great Turan, is an integral part of the ideology of the ‘Young Turks’ who had already led the Ottoman empire to its fall.
New Eastern Outlook, November 6. Vladimir Odintsov is a political observer.
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