Has Turkey really gone east?


Baku- Tbilisi -Ceyhan pipeline, still from The Black Sea Files, Ursula Biemann, 2007 

From Le Monde Diplomatique:

Nihat Erim, a former Turkish prime minister (1971-72), once said facetiously that Turkey couldn’t ever be run without the backing of the United States or Russia. At the height of the cold war, no prizes for guessing which superpower the famously conservative Erim favoured as ally. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP government has not deviated from that path, or not by much.

Following his first election victory in 2002, Turkey’s energy policy formally aimed to reduce dependence on “Russian” gas to 30% of imports. The motivation was political, heeding Washington warnings against becoming too dependent on Russia. There was much talk, now forgotten, of transiting natural gas from Russia and fresh water from Turkish rivers to Israel, through pipelines laid outside the Syrian exclusive economic zone.

The scope of Turkish external relations today compared with that of only six or seven years ago is nothing short of breathtaking. Contractors have been removing minefields on Turkey’s long frontier with Syria; visa-free travel is now the norm; predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq has become an important trading partner, as has Iran. To the east, linked by crude oil and natural gas pipelines, Azerbaijan and Georgia have been enlisted as strategic partners. There have been moves to befriend Armenia (although nothing, it seems, will be achieved before implicit claims to a Greater Armenia can be laid to one side).

“Is Turkey overplaying its hand?”, Rafael Kandiyoti, Le Monde Diplomatique