The shadow of Russian-Turkish Strategic Partnership Lies on South Caucasus

By Rasim Musabekov

The first accomplished official visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Turkey draw attention first of all due to the demonstration to all the world of growing scales of economic cooperation and deepening political dialogue, allowing to talk about strategic character of relations between these states.

Exactly this fact can qualitatively change all the regional geopolitics which has developed grounding on traditional Russia-Turkish antagonism for centuries.

Omitting a short period, when Turkey was headed by Atatürk, the relations between the both states were characterized by fierce competition and deep mutual distrust. Soviet dictator Stalin, getting back to the traditions of rampant expansion of Russian Empire, didn’t hide his intention to “deal” with Turkey after the end of the Second World War. Drawn territorial claims of the Soviet Union on behalf of Armenia and Georgia only intensified the joining of Turkey to NATO, thus, for long decades these states have appeared to be on different sides of the line, separating the world in confronting camps.

> Turkey Map
The collapse of the USSR and potential return of a new Russia into the world civilization reduced the acuteness of almost a century of confrontation significantly.

And Turkey itself for several last years has sufficiently adapted to western liberal-democratic values. Today Moscow as well as Ankara strives to use the given historic opportunities to re-format Russian-Turkish relations on the ground of good neighborhood and partnership. It doesn’t exclude competition and non-concurrence of interests, but it alleviates existing contradictions by growing interdependence and mutual benefit from the maintenance and development of relation in economic as well as in political spheres.

Having appeared to some extent on the periphery of post-industrial development the both states equally experience the selfishness of a self-assured west. They have similar problems, relating to slower modernization and economic development. Russia and Turkey equally face the difficulties of being half European and half Asian, dealing with promotion of democratic institutions and neutralization of ethnic separatism.

Russia as well as Turkey is very unpleased that the USA and leading western states observe them as an instrument of its global policy and are not prone to consider the national interests and intentions of these states. The rehabilitation of Russia’s and Turkey’s bygone role as great states and accomplishing independent policy are not included into the plans of liberal West.

In comparison with past, when demographic tension in Russia and Turkey pushed these states on the way of expansion, today the situation there has changed. In Turkey one can observe the reduction of population growth, and in Russia in general during two decades a total population reduction has been observed. By this the Russian Federation is a multifunctional country. Except for dominating Russian ethnos, the second big ethnic community comprises Turkic peoples: the Tatars, Bashkir, Chuvash, Balkars, Karachay, Kumyks, Nogai, Yakuts. Together with many hundred thousands Azerbaijani, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz their total population covers up to 12-15 millions people or about 10% of total Russian Federation population and they can fulfill the role of a human bridge between the both states.

Promotion of Russian-Turkish strategic partnership was perceived by Tbilisi without great enthusiasm and with evident anxiety, even disaffection by Yerevan. Total foreign and partially economic policy of these states is grounded on the use of contradictions and competition of West and Russia, Turkey and Russia. They managed to get dividends skillfully. If the contradictions weaken, then the meaning of all the “outposts” and “lights of democracy” vanishes respectively.

> Caucasus Map
Armenian politicians, analysts, reporters  apprehensively draw parallels of the current rapprochement of Moscow and Ankara with the situation of the beginning of the 20th century, when treaties concluded between Kemal Turkey and Bolshevik Russia dispelled all territorial ambitious of Armenians. Yerevan with anxiety observes how Turkey behind its back joined the process of Karabakh regulation and leads a definite dialogue on this issue with Moscow, Paris and Washington.

Another thing is the attitude towards deepening Turkish-Russia cooperation in Baku. In comparison with its neighbors on South Caucasus, Azerbaijan won nothing within the competition in the region, and oppositely, lost. Being a natural ally of Turkey, due to ethnic, historic, cultural and religious factors, Azerbaijan in this respect faced suspicious, repressive attitude from Moscow. The improvement of Russian-Turkish relations releases Baku from a difficult choice between Ankara and Moscow, can create favorable conditions for promotion of the regulation of outdated conflicts and first of all of a Karabakh one.

Azerbaijan as a country possessing significant natural and financial resources and having beneficial geographic location has something to propose Turkey as well as Russia. To accomplish its own great projects, Baku needs peace, cooperation and normal competition, grounded on diversification, economic attractiveness and efficiency.

> Nagorno-Karabakh Map

The projects, that are supposed to be fulfilled by Turkey and Russia, are planned for many decades and suppose many billions dollars of investments. Obviously, they should be secured from risks, which are hidden within non-regulation of Karabakh conflict. Also it’s important to guarantee direct communications between Russia and Turkey, which are today blocked due to the shut down of Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Azerbaijani boarders. That is why we can suggest that in the following weeks they will try to move forward with the suspended negotiating process on Nagorny Karabakh conflict regulation.

It’s expectable not only because of the comments during the visit, but also due to future visits of Turkish and Russian leaders to Baku and Yerevan correspondently.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI  from 1news.az