On Turkey’s challenge to Russia’s “Caucasian triumph”
The following article is reprinted with permission from NEWS.am, Yerevan, Armenia.
On Turkey’s challenge to Russia’s “Caucasian triumph”
August 25, 2010
RF President Dmitry Medvedev’s state visit to Armenia overshadowed the earlier begum Turkish-Azerbaijani meetings. On August 16-17, Turkish President Abdullah Gul was on an official visit to Baku. A Turkish-Azerbaijani agreement on strategic partnership and mutual assistance was signed during the visit. The document provides for the deployment of Turkish military units in Azerbaijan or, in other words, the creation of military bases of Turkey, a NATO member, in the country.
Following the Russian leaders’ visit, Russian and Armenian experts, speaking of a new level of bilateral relations, addressed the possible enhancement of Turkey’s role in the region in the context of the latest Azerbaijani-Turkish agreements. Talking to NEWS.am, Head of the Russian Center of Military Forecasts Anatoly Tsyganok voiced the opinion that a Turkish military base might be deployed in Nakhichevan as well. “It can be supposed due to Gul’s gentle hints in Azerbaijan,” he said. Many other Russian experts, addressing the recent developments in Armenian-Russian relations, have spoken of Armenia’s increasing role in the region, Russia’s greater strategic role, pointing out closer Turkish-Azerbaijani military ties.
“Turkey’s latest actions, as well as possible deployment of a military base in Azerbaijan, are nothing but a challenge sent to Russia. It is surprising Russian experts are not frank about it,” the military expert Artsrun Hovhannisyan told NEWS.am.
President Gul’s visit to Azerbaijan on August 15-17 was not mere coincidence. It was planned in advance, as Turks knew Armenia and Russian were going to sign a document on military base #102. “Gul’s visit was ‘a counterblow’ to Medvedev’s Caucasian triumph, which made it clear Turkey laid as serious claims to the South Caucasus as Russia did,” the expert said. He stressed that the current Turkish administration is the author and bearer of Neo-Ottomanism.
Hovhannisyan believes Neo-Ottomanism is a political ideology aimed at extending Turkey’s influence over the borders of the former Ottoman Empire. This ideology also supports Pan-Turkism and lays claims to leadership in the entire Islamic and Turkic world. “Gul, Erdogan and Davutoglu told the whole world their foreign policy was aimed at restoring the once great influence of the Ottoman Empire. However, Russia is the first world power preventing this ideology from becoming reality. So it is really surprising that Russian experts hardly address the topic,” Hovhannisyan said. Delegating greater powers to the Russian military base or the Turkish-Azerbaijani agreement on strategic partnership can by no means be considered local factors. Turkey is making obvious moves to bring the South Caucasus from under Russia’s control. In response, Russia should make a bolder step, the expert said.
“Rumors about possible reopening of a Turkish military base in Nakhichevan are circulating at various levels. I think it is absurd, and Russia should properly respond at a state level. Under a Moscow Treaty of 1921, Russia and Turkey pledged to deal with any issue related to military presence in Nakhichevan. Even a soldier’s presence – to say nothing of a military base – is a matter of bilateral intergovernmental discussions,” the expert said. Abrogating or even revising the treaty poses a great risk to the region. “An explosive situation may develop, with potential hostilities of a much larger scale than the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – Nakhichevan’s geographical location is of strategic importance for Pan-Turkism programs,” Hovhannisyan said.
The Armenian expert also commented on his Russian counterparts’ opinion that in making moves toward Nakhichevan Turkey would not damage its relations with Russia – Ankara and Moscow signed agreements on large-scale investment programs. “The needle for injecting Turkey is presently in Russia’s hands. It should be remembered, however, that Turkey has changed several doctors over the past several hundred years – France, Great Britain, Germany and the United States – and, after being strengthened, aimed its power at Russia,” Hovhannisyan said. Taking advantage of the fact of its getting out of the U.S. control, Turkey is strengthening its ties with Russia. On a large scale, it is one more step to get a new donor for economic development.
Turkey will remain Russia’s traditional rival, as it seeks to extend its influence over entire Central Asia, as far as Siberia, the entire Caucasus, as far as the Volga River and Tatarstan, as well as the Crimea and Ukraine. “As to the Russian needle, Turkey may replace it with a Chinese or Indian one tomorrow. Or it will continue on the Russian needle, ‘doing its business’,” Hovhannisyan said.
NEWS.am reminds readers that during the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh the press circulated rumors about Turkish companies in Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan, which pledged to defend Nakhichevan. Indeed, Russians repeatedly faced big and little problems after ignoring or underestimating the Turkish factor. For example, the Turkish army has for a long time been implementing a re-equipment program worth hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars. Besides numerous types of modern weapons, it plans to purchase 100 U.S. fighters of the 5th generation, whereas Russia only recently started the relevant development work.