12/12/2023, 09.24
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Turkey in the great game of Central Asia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Russians are used to considering the countries of the 'Asian backyard' as a natural part of their sphere of influence, and Moscow can hardly rejoice at the Turks' activism in the region. But Putin today is nevertheless forced to maintain good relations with Erdogan.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Turkey is attempting to expand its economic and diplomatic influence in Central Asia, seen as a crucial crossroads for many geopolitical interests, and is playing a very ambiguous game in relations with Russia.

As many commentators note, this could also lead to several tensions with the United States, with China watching the situation in the background. Since the meeting last November in Astana, Kazakhstan, Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan has been trying to exploit all opportunities to revive the neo-Ottoman dream of the "Turanic Union".

Erdogan hopes to strengthen Turkey's ethnic ties with a region rich in energy resources, to enhance its role in a part of the world hitherto dominated by Russia and China. In an interview with Voice of America journalists, Istanbul University political science professor Chagdash Ungor noted that “one of the most significant advantages Turkey enjoys compared to the Russians and Chinese is its soft power.

In fact, if Moscow prevails in matters of security and the direct exercise of force, while Beijing is a very important protagonist in the economic sphere, neither can boast the importance of Ankara's cultural and linguistic relations with the peoples of Central Asia".

The Turkish president's activism in the Central Asian region also appears to be an effort to reduce Turkey's dependence on Europe, against the backdrop of existing tensions in relations with the EU.

Tatiana Mitrova, of the Paris School of International Relations, is convinced that "Turkish policies accentuate Russia's unease, which clashes with radical changes in its logistics, given that most routes to the West are now blocked".

The United States, moreover, is also paying a lot of attention to Central Asia, trying to prevent Moscow from finding ways out of its isolation and to hold back the growing influence of China, and this could favor a convergence of interests between Ankara and Washington.

Another expert, the analyst of the London Energy Club Mehmet Ogutču, also recalls that Biden met with the leaders of the Central Asian countries in New York, on the occasion of the UN General Assembly, and it is clear that " Turkey is an important ally for NATO, in comparison with Russia and China".

The Russians are used to considering the countries of the "Asian backyard" as a natural area of their sphere of influence, and Moscow certainly cannot rejoice at the activism of the Turks in the region.

Putin is still forced to maintain good relations with Erdogan, in the general plan to circumvent the sanctions, but according to Mitrova "it may happen that sooner or later Russia intends to reaffirm its primacy, and a phase of aggressive competition with Turkey begins again , as happened in past eras… maybe not in the next two years, but after Russia has adapted to the new economic conditions.”

One way or another, according to experts' predictions, Central Asia could become the new center of the world conflict, and Turkey is preparing to play a decisive role in the game that is opening up in the "middle earth" between Russian-Ukrainian Europe, the Armenian-Azerbaijani Caucasus and the Israeli-Palestinian Middle East, against the backdrop of the superpowers of China and the United States.


Photo: Flickr / Francisco Anzola

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”