See Part I
The talks in Geneva about how to address the crisis in Syria are becoming increasingly unacceptable for Turkey, and Ankara is clearly seeking various pretexts to block them. Previously, as a precondition for agreeing to the negotiation process, Erdoğan had demanded Bashar al-Assad’s speedy resignation, but now that there has been a dramatic change in the military and political landscape in Syria, he is making use of the situation with Kurds.
According to Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Turkey has threatened to derail the peace talks in Geneva between Damascus and the opposition if a delegation of Syrian Kurds takes part. The Russian diplomat claims that when confronted with this ultimatum by the Turks, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura was forced to abandon the idea of Kurdish participation in the negotiations «at this stage». However, it is clear that this concession will not solve the problem, since there can be no solution to the Syrian crisis without the direct involvement of Syrian Kurds.
To put pressure on the European Union, Erdoğan intends to continue to play his «refugee card», using his «special relationship» with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Vice President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen, who midwifed the EU’s biggest expansion in 2004.
Today Verheugen is defending Turkey’s stance before the EU and is standing by Erdoğan, even as the Turkish leader is being accused of violating democratic rights and freedoms. «Formally, the negotiations over Turkey’s membership in the EU are continuing, and those even need to be accelerated as part of the migration ‘deal’… The main requirement is to fulfill the political criteria – which include democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. It is my experience that the necessary democratic transformation can only take place in a candidate country when the European prospects are clear. Only in this way can the EU have real opportunities to impact the domestic political situation. But the EU has de facto abandoned these opportunities because it is no longer unequivocally pursuing the goal of EU accession for Turkey. I believe that the human-rights situation and problems with the development of democracy in Turkey have something to do with the lost prospect of EU membership», claims Verheugen in an interview with Cicero.
The calculations being made by Merkel, Verheugen, and other German politicians are easy to understand: they want to «pay off» Ankara through particular financial and political concessions, while at the same time trying to establish some sort of control over Turkey through new promises and negotiations over acceptance into the European Union. Brussels has had great success using this approach to influence the domestic politics and foreign-policy orientation of Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and to some extent Serbia.
And when it comes to Turkey’s membership application, Brussels is even ready for a confrontation with certain EU member states that are upset over the pro-Turkish policy shift within the European Commission. However, is this tactic of «appeasing» Turkey working? Given that Ankara views EU membership not as a goal, but as a way to strengthen its geopolitical position in Eurasia?
In order to gauge the full magnitude of Ankara’s needs and plans, it is worth mentioning the evolution of the geopolitical worldview of the current Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu. The authors of Davutoğlu’s official biographies gloss over the fact that from 1990 to 1995 the current Turkish prime minister worked at the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur, which was transformed in the 1990s into a global hub that drew students and professors from many Islamic countries. The famous Bosnian Muslim leader, Mustafa Cerić, attended his lectures and seminars at that university. As they say even in Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s time in Malaysia helped him gain entry into the circle of the «Malaysian Brotherhood» (a Malaysian equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood), which was an informal group of Islamist leaders who were counting on the use of propaganda to spread the ideas of political Islam throughout the world via the educational system and other instruments of «soft power». Once Erdoğan took power and began to staff high-level government agencies in Turkey, membership in this group became an essential criterion.
At one time, Ahmet Davutoğlu acknowledged that to a large extent, the meetings he had had while working at the Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur had helped to define both his positions on current international issues as well as the content of the very concept of «strategic depth» that Davutoğlu briefly describes using the formula «Neo-Ottomanism + pan-Turkism + Islam = Great Turkey.» Once this formula has been put into practice, he claims that Turkey should become the «central government» of the new Eurasian order.
One need not bother to ask whether the global objectives of this doctrine of «strategic depth» are compatible with European interests. The neo-Ottomanism in the Turkish government’s ideology and practice has already caused chaos in Syria as well as a massive influx of refugees into the European Union. But this does not seem to be a problem for Euro-Atlantic organizations, and NATO is first and foremost using Turkey’s expansionism for its own ends. In its confrontation with Russia, the West is implementing a plan designed to first of all ensure a controlled partition of Russia and the subversion of its functional role in international politics. The West is trying to accomplish this on not one, but several fronts simultaneously, and from this point of view, the highest priority will be given to the Baltics–Black Sea axis and the Caucasus–Central Asia–Afghanistan axis.
There is obvious symbiosis between the interests of the US, NATO, and Turkey’s great-power policy on the «Grand Chessboard». Europe should anticipate a new stage in its discussions with Ankara, in which Turkey – satisfied with the resolution of the refugee issues, the financial assistance from the EU, and the abolition of visas – will demand recognition for its key role in resolving problems such as Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Iraq, Cyprus, and the Kurdish national movement.