Archives for posts with tag: Erdogan

Free Press & Erdogan?

UN experts seriously concerned at Turkey’s crackdown on YouTube & Twitter before polls. Right to freedom of opinion/expression is central to modern democratic societies. Also violates recent temporary court injunction against blocking of Twitter. (See NY Times article on tomorrow’s elections.)

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“Inclusive” or “Democratic” Egypt?

The UN stands out as perhaps catalytic institution to help address & resolve Egypt’s deepening crisis on levels of democratic-human rights as well as Egypt’s pivotal position.

 

putinOptics of Putin visit with Erdogan provides one picture but history paints a different perspective. From trade and tourism to energy and investment, the Russia-Turkey relationship would appear to be blossoming. The visit of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to Turkey is also timed to accentuate the positive being part of a Russia-Turkey Cooperative Council gathering and signing of several key agreements that intend to further the already $35 billion of annual trade, enhance cross-border investments and develop Turkey’s first nuclear power generation with Russian technology, financing and operation.

Empires Competing Over Same Territory & Zones of Influence
The ambitions of both the Russian and Turkish leaders are to reassert their historical influence, from the Balkans to the Middle East and beyond. Turkey is already projected as new model for success of “Islamic-democracy.” Economically, Turkey has gone from basket case to economic bread-basket, from hyper-inflation to impressive growth. Russia is riding the wave of a commodities boom, but still faces many challenges in redefining its economy and political methodology. As Russia, Turkey sees itself beyond the borders of the European Union infrastructure, more by religious/cultural bias of many of Europe’s leaders. Both Moscow and Ankara are now looking beyond recent divide that pitted each on opposite sides of the Euro-Atlantic family, with Turkey as pivotal NATO partner directed toward containing Soviet expansionism.

Washington “Pivot” Establishing Even Greater Vacuum?
With Washington presumably “pivoting” toward the Far East and the rise of China, there is an ever greater vacuum in the near Euro-Asia as countries in the region face internal challenges to governance while preparing to reap substantial benefits from only recently tapped natural resources. Turkey and Russia are players in almost all of these transformations: see Syria but also Iraq, Iran, Caucuses, Central Asia, former Yugoslavia Republics, the Black Sea states; and the list continues.

Historically, Russian imperial expansionism was most frequently at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. It was the Ottomans who were perceived in the West as well as in Istanbul as the girdle around Russia’s appetite. On the other hand, Turkish cultural influence is frequently the only rival to that of more recent links via the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. Without Turkey forming the solid NATO border on the south of Europe, Soviet ambitions may have fared very differently than the defeat in Afghanistan and dissolution particularly in Central Asia and the Caucuses. As Putin returns to the project of reasserting old Soviet and Russian Imperial ambitions, Turkey is more counter to such. The current Syria crisis and deployment of NATO Patriot missile shield along the border indicates that the next-door conflict has only brought Turkey closer to the alliance.

Rivalry Does Not Have to Translate to Animosity:
Both Putin and Erdogan have evidenced smiles, hearty handshakes and almost a dozen new signed cooperation agreements during this visit to Istanbul. However, the differences are also ever more evident and extend beyond Syria – see Balkans and Caucuses. The perceived racist driven abandonment of Turkey as potential EU family member and Ankara’s lack of confidence in Washington’s leadership on the Middle East conflict (Palestine/Israel) more broadly are encouraging a dalliance. However, long-standing geopolitical ambitions would appear to be more in contradiction rather than complementary especially when viewed within the context of the two alpha-leaders modeled by historical perspectives and efforts to reassert the role of their respective states. Turkey is not likely anytime to abandon NATO and certainly not vice-versa. Turkey belongs by economic impact to the definition of a BRICS state, (perhaps reaching top 10 or so largest GDP standard). However, Ankara has also continued to side/support the western democracies in most United Nations votes, unlike the BRICS which frequently appear to be motivated by agenda to counter Washington diplomatically. Thus, the meeting of President Putin and PM Erdogan can deliver mutually beneficial options but the strategic perspective is more likely to be defined by geopolitical and historical designs. Even as today’s Russia and Turkey will continue to extend a historic rivalry it is noteworthy such does not translate necessarily into conflict or animosity. Both countries can benefit from the cooperation apparently on the menu. History also teaches that rivals may frequently as well share in trade and other forms of mutually beneficial exchanges – conflict is perhaps intense, costly and noted by history but impact of cooperation is a more subtle and lasting influence.

By Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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PHOTO: Courtesy of todayszaman.com