EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN DISPUTE AND ITS REFLECTIONS IN WEST

Western states, principally the Unites States and the EU, are concerned about the escalation
of dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean.The persistent and uncompromising attitude of Turkey has been challenging Greece and the EU in political terms.In 2020, Eastern Mediterranean is like a bomb ready to explode due to the competition of possession of the offshore energy resources and transportation routes.The European Union has been seeking diplomatic solutions to resolve the maritime jurisdiction dispute in order to alleviate the tension by the arbitration of Germany and Josep Borrell the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.NATO, on the other hand, has been following the process passively.Uncompromising actions of Turkey and Greece complicate the prevention of a possible future conflict and the resolution of the issues through dialogue and negotiations.
In the recent years, domestic and cross-border operations carried out against PKK terrorist organization, military achievements in Syria and Libya have increased the self-confidence of Turkey.In the context of the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey conducts its foreign policy with ”Mavi Vatan” doctrine (the doctrine specifies the national borders in the seas and national rights and stakes inside that borders).Self-sufficiency on energy by utilization of the resources in the East Med is one of the major objectives of Turkey.It is a fact that significant percentage of Turkey’s imports is on energy.As Turkey awares of this fact, Ankara states that the government will go to any extreme to take this burden off from the country’s shoulders.In the last five years, Turkey has established close relations with Iran and Russia due to the civil war in Syria and made S-400 deal with Russia.In addition, it used the refugees as a trump card against the European Union.Those actions were not supported neither by NATO nor the EU and have changed the perspective of the Western alliance negatively on Turkey.
Greece, exclusively in the recent years, has been following harmonious politics with the EU and taking more active role in alliances.Besides NATO and the EU, Greece has significantly promoted its relations with the countries in the region such as Egypt, Israel and the UAE.Moreover, Greek army conducted joint military exercises with the USA, the UAE, France and Italy.This rich and enviable support that Greece has on this level since the First World War has strengthened the state’s military and political reputation both in the region and international scene.
Nowadays, instead of peaceful talks, Turkey and Greece increased their military exercises and naval capacities in areas where they have declared as their own Exclusive Economic Zone.The problematical events such as the ongoing seismic explorations of Turkey, the collision of Turkish and Greek vessels and the confrontation of fighter aircrafts have made the solution of the dispute even more difficult.Also the opposition of French and Turkish policies about Libya and East Med and the ascended escalation between Turkey and France in the Mediterranean in June have brought Paris and Athens closer.In the disputed maritime zones, the possession of drilling rights and energy research licence of Total the French energy company has led France to stand against Turkey.
The chancellor Angela Merkel requested the president Erdoğan to temporarily suspension of the military and research activities for the peaceful settlement of the dispute.Ankara, in line with its calls for a fair and amicable resolution, fulfilled this request of Germany and suspended the Navtex declaration in July.While the talks were continuing, Greece signed an EEZ agreement with Egypt and Ankara was perceived this aciton as misuse of good offices.This move of Athens has frustrated the parties on the table.As an interesting fact, the United States dominant power of the last century has not been playing an active role to offer a solution in that issue.Washington has been closely monitoring the process in the region, however, neither the US nor NATO has taken a firm action to reduce the tension between two substantial allies.
To conclude, Germany’s efforts to gather the sides around the table have failed.In a different perspective, both Greek and Turkish policymakers think that stakes compromised may cause negative public reactions in domestic policies.Thus, the possibility of negotiation in near future seems unrealistic.By the end of August, Athens deployed troops to the Megisti Island approximately two kilometers away from Turkish mainland.Ankara, on the other hand, has decreased the level of engagement down to the warship captains in the East Mediterranean.Mutual provocations and assertive statements of both sides give the impression that a war risk is possible.A war which may break out between the parties can cause deterioration of relations and cooperation in NATO and between Turkey and Greece and the EU.The pandemic will worsen Greek and Turkish economies already in bad shape.Also, a possible war can cause deeper wounds in both economies and economical development may take more time.Therefore, NATO and the EU should find efficient and peaceful formulas to key this problem immediately and an amicable atmosphere should be created in the Eastern Mediterranean through diplomacy.

This article is written by Eren Çetin

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Turkey’s gradual estrangement from the West and the allure of the East

BY TARIK OĞUZLU

Analyzing the causes of Turkey’s gradual estrangement from the West in recent years would be incomplete if one didn’t discuss the reasons why Turkish decision-makers feel quite comfortable in their interactions with their Chinese, Russian and Iranian counterparts. In addition to emerging ruptures in Turkey’s strategic cooperation with the United States during the Barack Obama and Donald Trump presidencies, as well as the declining appeal of European Union membership in Turkish eyes over the last decade, the allure of the East should be factored into the analysis of Turkey’s recent strategic orientation.

When the decreasing western imprint on Turkey’s strategic posturing is combined with the growing attractiveness of the Eastern option, one can better understand why Turkey has of late found itself in opposition to western powers in the wider Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean regions. Despite the lack of a uniform western position on Turkey’s strategic preferences in such regions, it would not be an overestimation to argue that the strategic gap between Turkey and key western powers seems to have widened in recent years. The ongoing confrontation between Turkey and Greece over the contours of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the Eastern Mediterranean region; the emergence of an anti-Turkey block comprising Greece, the Greek Cypriot administration, Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE); and the French and American support for this block from the outside all attest to the fact that Turkey’s strategic priorities do not find receptive ears in many western countries and the traditional western allies in the wider Middle East.

While Turkey’s relations with Western countries have worsened in the past decade, its relations with rising Eurasian powers, notably China, Russia and Iran, in political, economic and strategic realms have dramatically improved simultaneously. Despite historical roots of animosity and structural and ideological causes of rivalry between Turkey and these three countries, Turkish leaders have succeeded in compartmentalizing their relations with them. Worth underlining here is that while the latest national security and national defense strategies of Trump’s America characterized these three countries as major challengers and rivals of the U.S., Turkey’s cooperation with them over the last three years has further deepened.

Similar to these three countries, Turkey also comes from an imperial legacy and an imperial geopolitical vision has occupied Turkey’s political agenda from time to time. Turkish ruling elites have increasingly redefined their country in an imperial fashion in that Turkey deserves to have influence in the post-Ottoman geographies. The primacy of state elites in defining national preferences, security interests and the strategies to be adopted to deal with them in a top-down fashion is common to all of them. The state is deemed sacred and omnipotent in all of these societies. Defining national interests and security policies from the perspective of the state is a practice shared by them all.

These societies are also conservative, seeking to preserve traditional societal, political and cultural values against liberal, postmodern and hedonistic Western values. State and society are defined as constitutive of each other. If policies being adopted in the name of strengthening liberal democratic transformation were to imperil the cohesive and harmonious nature of the society, then such policies should be abandoned immediately. It is no wonder that in all these countries, a mixture of ethnic nationalism and religious conservatism has increasingly shaped national identities in recent years.

Ruling elites in these countries tend to interpret strong Western support for further liberalization and democratization in their neighborhood as part of larger geopolitical designs concocted in Western capitals to contain their growing geopolitical influence. Just as Russia has been extremely against the so-called color revolutions in the post-Soviet space, Chinese leaders interpret the Western calls for improvement of human rights in Tibet and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as an intervention in China’s internal affairs. While the regime in Tehran thinks that Western nations never miss any opportunity to stir chaos in the country, Turkey has adopted a skeptical attitude toward Western attempts at regime change whenever it felt this would damage its own territorial integrity. It can be argued that Turkey’s ruling elites interpreted the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 as a Western ploy against the ruling government and therefore adopted sharp measures to suppress them. Their common perception of exclusion from the West seems also to have brought Turkey and these countries much closer to each other in recent times

Societies in these countries seem to provide fertile ground for strong and charismatic leaders to flourish. Holding strong executive powers in their hands, mobilizing their societies behind national grandeur, defining their nations as living organisms that need wealth, power and space to exist and survive, claiming to represent the national will against the corrupt elites detached from the society, and offering simple and mostly emotional solutions to the complex and multifaceted problems of their societies in a globalizing and shrinking world are common leadership traits of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and China’s Xi Jinping. Strong personal chemistry also exists among these leaders, and they have met each other numerous times in the recent past.

All these countries also believe that the U.S.-led liberal international order has long been in terminal decline and that the emerging international order should be defined in a multipolar fashion whereby non-Western powers are in a much better position to determine the constitutive rules and norms. Claims to cosmopolitan morality and universal human rights face strong criticism in these countries.

This article is taken from Daily Sabah

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Russia cannot afford another 15 years at war with the west

Vladimir Putin should brush off the cold war cobwebs in pursuit of a hard-headed look at national interests

By PHILIP STEPHENS.

Vladimir Putin is proposing to give himself the option of another 15 years in office. He could spend this time continuing to shake his fist at the west. Alternatively, he could brush away the cobwebs of the cold war and begin to recognise the challenge to Russian power from its friend and ally China.

So far Mr Putin’s foreign policy has been tactical rather than strategic. Its goal has been to keep up appearances. Russia’s president heads a nation in decline, but one unwilling to cede its place at the top table of global affairs. There is nothing unusual about this. British prime ministers clung on to the idea they were one of the “Big Three” even as the empire dissolved around them. At some point, though, the pretence becomes unsustainable.

Mr Putin has built his standing at home on the promise of restoring Russian prestige abroad. Above all, he has craved recognition for Russia as a match for the US. Nothing wounded him so much as former US president Barack Obama’s throwaway jibe that Russia had fallen to the role of a “regional power”. The Kremlin’s answer has been to sacrifice strategic interests to appearances. The unspoken price has been the acceptance of the role of junior partner in Beijing.

The Kremlin this week defied the Covid-19 pandemic to hold its delayed 75th anniversary commemoration of the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazis in 1945. The parade of the nation’s military might through the streets of Moscow is being followed by a vote over several days on constitutional changes that would allow Mr Putin to remain in the Kremlin until 2036. The referendum outcome, as with all Russian polls, is a foregone conclusion.

Mr Putin’s promised victory, however, will say nothing about the nation’s future trajectory. The Russian leader has spent his first two decades in a noisy struggle against the west. His worldview was shaped by the cold war and the Soviet Union’s supposed humiliation by the west. In this mindset, the US-led Nato alliance remains the enemy, and the Kremlin’s goal is to secure the respect in Washington it commanded before the fall of the Berlin Wall. All the while, the economic and strategic realities have been travelling in the opposite direction.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit Russia hard. So has the global economic downturn. The fall in the oil price has robbed the regime of economic flexibility and of funds to finance its foreign adventurism. Mr Putin’s revanchism in Ukraine and his opportunistic interventions in Syria and Libya have begun to look unaffordable.

Measured in terms of nominal national income, the World Bank ranks Russia 11th in the world — behind such nations as Italy, Canada and Brazil. Russia’s power now resides largely in its nuclear arsenal and in Mr Putin’s willingness to use its technological capabilities and military forces to disrupt and destabilise perceived rivals.

The Russian president, of course, may be banking on a victory for Donald Trump in this year’s US presidential election. Among the many alarming insights in former national security adviser John Bolton’s account of life in the White House is the president’s deep contempt for European allies. One more heave, Mr Putin may be thinking, and Mr Trump will destroy Nato from within.

Although a second term for Mr Trump would be severely disruptive of the alliance, Mr Putin would be chasing dreams. Whether he enjoys defeat or victory in November, Nato will outlast this president. The question a strategically-minded leader in Moscow should be asking is why Russia continues to view the alliance as such a threat. Mr Putin would do better to look eastward to the ever more assertive foreign policy of Chinese president Xi Jinping

On one level, the present Sino-Russian axis makes perfect sense. Both nations reject the American-designed postwar global order and repudiate the notion of a rules-based system rooted in western values. Both favour a Westphalian order in which the strong carve out spheres of influence.

For Mr Xi the gains speak for themselves. Moscow offers secure supplies of oil and gas to sustain the growth of the Chinese economy. The relationship provides strategic reassurance as Beijing confronts the US in pursuit of maritime hegemony in the western Pacific. Looking ahead, depopulated swaths of Russian Siberia offer an opportunity for economic expansion. Mr Putin’s forays in Ukraine and the Middle East are a bonus, distracting US attention from Chinese expansionism in east Asia.

The advantages for Russia of such an unequal partnership are not so obvious. Yes, Mr Putin gets a comrade-in-arms for his denunciations of western liberalism but at the expense of watching Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative undercutting Russian power in central Asia. Mr Xi’s plan to open the Northern Sea route to Europe threatens to undercut Russian interests in the Arctic. An expansive view of China’s influence-building in eastern and central Europe would raise fears of strategic encirclement.

Mr Putin is a creature of the Soviet KGB. It may well be that it is too late for him to escape his own nostalgia. But a leader planning to hold on to power for another 15 years might take the time for a strategic stock-take. The challenges and risks lie to Russia’s east.

 

Source: www.ft.com

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