Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Politics and Geopolitics / The future of Russia and the world: estimates and projections / Analytics
"Turkey in the restructuring of Eurasia" - a new report from the CSIS
Material posted: Publication date: 15-05-2016
Over the past 25 years Turkish foreign policy has undergone several significant transformations. The first can be linked, mainly, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, while the roots of which grow with the rise of the Party of justice and development party (AKP) in Turkey since 2002.

The point of view of Ankara

The cumulative result was to increase the attention to the smaller States of Eurasia. Ankara is mainly focused on the strengthening of economic and commercial benefits, including the promotion of new transit infrastructure in Turkey from East to West. Despite the heritage of many Turkic Central Asian Nations, Ankara together with PSR with ex was a greater emphasis on economic and energy interests than on ethnic solidarity, which led to focusing mainly on the South Caucasus and Caspian regions to the detriment of more remote and less resource-rich Central Asia.

In the years immediately after the collapse of the USSR Turkey was welcomed by language and cultural ties with the newly formed countries of Eurasia. Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan joined the "Turkic world" through the Caucasus and Central Asia. And though for Turks it was a great joy to re-connect with their "brothers" in the new environment, the end of the Cold war with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact have also reduced the value of the strategic position of Turkey in the eyes of NATO towards their partners. This shift in perception has led to a General reorientation of Turkey's foreign policy to the East.

The objective of Ankara was the desire to become the main coordinator of integration in economic and political processes in the now independent Turkic States. Turkey is a concentration of effort on preparing these countries for membership in the UN, OSCE and on strengthening their partnership with NATO through North Atlantic cooperation Council (NACC). This enterprise was not easy for Turkey due to the limited economic and financial resources. Nevertheless, despite the limitations, this period was characterized by some important initiatives, including the establishment of the black sea economic cooperation (BSEC BSEC), a Turkish international Agency for cooperation and development (TIKA) for development projects in the countries of the former Soviet Union, the launch of the summits of heads of Turkic States, namely, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

The second revision of the Turkish approach to Eurasia was formed in response to lift forces of the AKP after the party's victory in parliamentary elections in November 2002. The emergence of the AKP occurred almost immediately after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States and the subsequent US intervention in Afghanistan - events which together accelerated the development of a new approach in Ankara's foreign policy. Sensing changes in the international environment as the sources of both risks and opportunities, Turkey under the auspices of the AKP has reached a new foreign policy course, the inspiration for which was given at that time, theoretical studies of Professor Ahmet Davutoglu, in his book "Strategic depth". Davutoglu believed that the end of the Cold war provided Turkey with a historic opportunity to ensure that she was able to become a global force, such, whose expansionist foreign policy based on Islamist ideology. According to Davutoglu, such an expansionist foreign policy would help Turkey to become a dominant force in their "rears" in the middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus, as well as create new spheres of influence. Vision Davutoglu was supported by more power, and not ethics, and he often referred to the concept, long used by the West and called Lebensraum, living space. As an Advisor to the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a, Davutoglu could not implement his ideas of pan-Islamism, as Abdullah gül, former Minister of foreign Affairs, pursued Pro-Western and more realistic approach to politics. Later, the role of Davutoglu as foreign Minister (2009-2014) and then – Prime Minister (2014-present) allowed to realize these ideas in practice in successive governments under the auspices of the AKP.

Davutoglu sees the continuity between the Caucasus and the Eastern part of the Caspian sea, which together constitute the output – gate to Asia. Davutoglu sees these areas, together with their closest neighbors (Russia, Turkey and Iran) as a unified region extending from the region of the Caspian basin to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The political elite of Turkey and foreign high political figures, however, more internalizable critical differences between the Caucasus, on the one hand, and Central Asia, on the other, and thus began to develop more non-standard policy, where the principle of bilateral relations were more balanced than the regionalist approach. At the same time the main priority in international politics, the AKP has become the middle East.

In the early 1990s, the government of Turgut Ozal tried to reach out to Eurasia, without affecting the fundamental principles of the Turkish Alliance with the West, trying to work together with the United States during and after the War in the Persian Gulf. However, the AKP government preferred to develop a broader point of view anti-status quo and to distance themselves from US policy, especially – but not only – in the middle East. This was evident in the vote of the Turkish Parliament on 1 March 2003 against the sunset of U.S. troops in Iraq through Turkey. This vision, aimed against the "first" world and Ozal, became the axis for modern Turkey's foreign policy.

Both of these adjustments are reflected in foreign policy of Turkey in Eurasia. The involvement of Turkey in the Affairs of Eurasia can be divided into three phases, starting in 1989 and 1995. From 1989 to 1991, Turkey had avoided open support for the nascent nationalist movements of the Turkic peoples in the USSR, keeping the connection with the Caucasus and Central Asia mostly via Moscow. Between 1991 and 1993 Turkey has tried to benefit from the emergence of a possible Turkish "rear", more distant regions with which it could easily establish relations due to linguistic and cultural kinship. Ankara also believed that the newly formed state inspired by the example of Turkey as a democratic and secular state with a Pro-Western government than from Iran and Russia. Many argue that Turkey's approach to Central Asia at that time already acquired a pan-Turkic, pan-Islamic and Turanian traits, and Turkey embarked on the path of creating a new sphere of influence, although without detailed planning or programs.

In the third phase, between 1993 and 1995, in Russia all the better was obtained to fill a gap formed in the post-Soviet space after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since 1995, Turkey has accepted this reality in Central Asia and began to pursue a more balanced policy in the region with the intent to avoid the possibility of confrontation with Russia. The behavior of Turkey in Eurasia under predvoditelstvom the AKP was motivated for the most part a disappointment, which the country met in Central Asia in the nineties. Along with the AKP, Turkey has begun to focus more on energy issues and, thus, began to put more emphasis on the Caucasus and the Caspian region than in Central Asia as such.

In the South Caucasus Turkey intensively developed relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia. Azerbaijan is one of the major energy suppliers of Turkey in the framework of the BTC pipeline (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) and gas pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum. These two pipelines together with the Railway project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars brought together by three countries and connect their energy, communication and transport hubs. Nevertheless, Turkey's policy in the Caucasus lacks integrity and comprehensiveness in the absence of diplomatic relations with Armenia.

The Turkish-Armenian border has remained closed since April 3, 1993 in response to Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijani territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The uneven, discriminatory policy weakens the Turkey and allows it to assume the role of honest broker in the South Caucasus. In Central Asia before the Turkey appears smoother environment. Five countries in the region the regimes of various degrees of authoritarianism (with the possible exception of Kyrgyzstan). And their secular traditions do not allow to widely flourish of radical Islamist sentiment. Turkey, quite clearly pursuing questions in the field of energy, was able to develop a more intimate relationship with hydrocarbon rich Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Relations with Uzbekistan represent the weak link for Turkey in Central Asia. However, over time business and civic organizations, together with family ties have allowed us to develop a deeper social interdependence between all countries in the region with Turkey. Turkey aims to establish a Commonwealth of Turkic-speaking States together with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan-is a time-consuming process. The summit of heads of state and government of these countries has evolved over time into a ritual only four countries, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan fell out of this process. Turkmenistan, though, and participated in these events out of politeness, justified its low-key approach policy of "active neutrality". Uzbekistan, on the other hand, distanced himself at an early stage because of concerns about their own sovereignty and distrust of Turkey. As a result, the cooperation Council of Turkic speaking States, formally established in Nakhichevan October 3, 2009, is comprised solely of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

It's been 25 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union; and whether Turkey is an influential regional actor in the Caucasus greatly depends on the future of relations between Turkey and Armenia. Central Asia's relations with Uzbekistan remain key to the success of regional integration processes. In General, the policy of Turkey in Eurasia, thus, continued to be based on the development of bilateral relations with key partners in these two geographical planes, and careful coordination of political relations with other players on this field of action. Political moves of Russia, and also Iran, China, India, Pakistan, EU and USA will be important variables shaping Turkey's foreign policy in Eurasia.

Foreign trade activities of Turkey and the security policies in Eurasia

The geostrategic position of Turkey at the crossroads of Europe and Eurasia allows it to play a unique role in the region. On the one hand, Turkey is an integral part of Europe. Turkey's membership in European and Euro-Atlantic institutions firmly connects it with the West. Already member of NATO, Council of Europe, OSCE and OECD, Turkey is seeking membership of the European Union. EU membership remains a strategic goal of Turkey's foreign policy, despite the repeated deferment of a decision on this issue. On the other hand, Turkey also plays an important role in Eurasia, thanks to its position concerning the Balkans, the Black sea, the Caucasus and Central Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. Thus, Turkey's foreign policy and the politics of security attaches particular importance to the quest for unity, synergy between the West and immediate neighbours. This geographic location contributes to the constant study of the opportunities for improvement and diversification of foreign economic relations of Turkey.

In order to promote friendly relations and economic cooperation with all countries within the specified parameters, Turkey has to give paramount importance to the relations with Europe in General. No matter how expanded economic and trade relations of Turkey over the last decade, the EU remains its main economic and trading partner. Moreover, all the technology and know-how needed to sustain the economic development of Turkey, are still mainly from Europe. Turkey is a young, dynamically growing economy, offering vast opportunities for foreign investment, as well as a large market for high-end European consumer goods.

At the same time deteriorating economic and security problems in the immediate environment of Turkey. In the foreseeable future is the root of the main threats to Turkey's security will continue to be current problems in the middle East, mainly the war in Syria and mass Exodus of refugees resulting from it as a result. In the coming years, Turkey will feel increasingly vulnerable in their border areas and is likely to be more focused on solving problems related to the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, leaving her less resources to run an expansionary policy in Eurasia. At the same time, Russia will retain its status as one of the key actors in Central Asia and the middle East, while the agreement of Iran with the five permanent members of the UN security Council plus Germany (Group 5+1) over Iran's nuclear program also will open new horizons for Tehran. Thus, attempts to open new spheres of influence in Eurasia will face significant competition.

Interaction at the regional level

With the collapse of the USSR, Turkey began to take active steps to expand opportunities for their companies in Eurasia. She launched the initiative on creation of the organization of BSEC (black sea economic cooperation Organization in 1992 in order to transform the existing bilateral ties among the black sea coastal States in the scheme of multilateral cooperation. Although the BSEC provides for mechanisms to resolve political problems and focuses on cooperation in the field of business and Economics, the very fact that Azerbaijan and Armenia, Russia and Georgia, as well as Russia and Ukraine sat together at one table for a common purpose, should be treated as a constructive measure, which serves to enhance confidence. The BSEC not only contributes to good neighborly relations among States in the region, but also benefits from the interaction (synergies) that are created together with the EU, as the BSEC members such as Bulgaria, Greece and Romania are also members of the European Union.

Turkey is also a member of ECO (economic cooperation Organization). The project, launched in 1985, still during the Cold war between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, ECO is active again in recent years in connection with the invitation by Turkey to the Central Asian republics, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, in the process of expanding the organization to 300 million people and stimulating economic, technical and cultural cooperation between the two countries. The organization has embarked on several projects in priority sectors, including energy, trade, agriculture and drug control.


Russian-Turkish relations in the post-Cold war development has been stable despite differences in opinions and approaches in respect of some important international and regional issues. Turkey and Russia began to develop bilateral relations through economic cooperation in the 90-ies, creating a powerful platform for further progress in the political arena in the 2000s. the Creation of the Agreement on strategic cooperation of high level in 2010 and the mutual liberalization of the visa regime became the cause of the rapid development of personal contacts; about 4.5 million Russians visited Turkey in 2014. This interaction was recently questioned in connection with the attack on the Russian su-24 bombers that crossed the Turkish border 24, 2015 - an event that has spawned the biggest crisis in Turkish-Russian relations since the Cold war.

"Joint plan for cooperation in Eurasia" signed by Turkey and Russia in 2001, is the most important document aimed to improve coordination and cooperation in the region. This document has allowed both countries to bring relations, political discussion, and experience in economic cooperation in the Eurasian space. They believed that strengthening dialogue and cooperation in Eurasia will positively contribute to a peaceful, just and lasting solution of several problems of the region and will allow to develop bilateral and multilateral economic relations between Ankara and Moscow. Russia is the second largest partner of Turkey in business after Germany, while Turkey is in sixth place among Russia's foreign trading partners. In 2014 the trade turnover between the countries reached 31.2 billion dollars. Turkey exports food products, textiles and chemical products in Russia by importing from Russia mainly oil, natural gas, petrochemical products, steel and iron. Russia has invested about $ 10 billion in the Turkish market; Turkey's investments in the Russian economy equal roughly the same number. Turkish professionals working under contract in Russia, performed approximately 1576 projects in Russia for a total amount of 56.4 billion.

The main area of interaction between the two countries is the energy sector. About 65% of Turkish imports are Russian oil and gas. Russia also began construction of the first NPP in Turkey in Akkuyu. After was shot down by a Russian su-24 in November 2015, the project status is unclear. Russia said that construction was suspended, they did not accept the Turkish side. Intensified relations between Russia and Turkey after 2015, put into question the further integration of Turkey in projects led by Russia in the region. To strengthen their place and role in Eurasia, Turkey has always positively reviewed Eurasian initiatives such as the EAEC, with the prospect of having to amend the Eastern vision in its Western vector. Turkey has applied for membership in the SCO, however, there to become a dialogue partner, although her interests in the EEU has not diminished. And the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev talked about the fact that they wish to see how Turkey will develop its relations with this organization. However, Ankara is careful: some officials said that Turkey's membership in NATO as well as the desire to become a member of the EU hinders the convergence with other countries in the Eurasian format. Moreover, Ankara has not made any official statements about the EAEC. Some Turkish scholars also show concern about the fact that the EEU serves as a prototype for the restoration of Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union.

Low prices for oil and gas, as well as international sanctions imposed in connection with the intervention (intervention) in the Affairs of Ukraine had a negative impact on the Russian economy and, in this regard, on the Russian-Turkish economic relations. While purchasing power in Russia began to decline, exports from Turkey to Russia decreased by 15% in 2014; overall, the decline was 34.6 per cent by June 2015. Although Turkey and Russia has developed regular political talks on subjects affecting their common Eurasian space, in them there are many differences, starting with the issues in Ukraine and ending with Syria. As for Syria, Turkey sees the Assad regime Basara as a main source of instability in the country and hinders its inclusion in the political process in any capacity. Russia, on the other hand, made it clear that the Assad regime is legitimate, and that he was elected by the Syrian people for legitimate reasons and that the Syrian army is an effective protection against the spread of ISIS. In his interview to TV channel al-Jazeera Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned the validity of Russia's presence in Syria.

Turkey's position also does not coincide with the position of Russia on the Ukrainian question, although Ankara has attempted to limit the undesirable consequences of these differences of opinion. Turkey does not recognize the annexation of the Rat first and foremost concerned about the future of the ethnic Turkic Crimean Tatars. During his visit to Kiev in March 2015 the President Erdogan stated about the view of Turkey in the Crimean issue: "We Express our support for the territorial integrity, political Union and sovereignty of Ukraine on different platforms. We also want Ukraine to continue the line to protect the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities, especially the Crimean Tatars, who proved their loyalty to the country during the crisis". Turkey has offered Ukraine a loan in the amount of $ 50 million in humanitarian assistance.

Relations in the field of energy were also tainted by the political crisis around Syria and Ukraine, which resulted in the slowing of the project "Turkish stream." Concern about the General tone of Russian-Turkish relations have intensified since Russian aircraft had violated Turkish air space at the beginning of October 2015 during his campaign in Syria, culminating in the incident with the Russian su-24 of 24 November of the same year.

This incident has become a major event, which have caused a deterioration in Russian-Turkish relations and will have implications not only in the context of bilateral relations, but also may affect the competition between Turkey and Russia in Eurasia in General.

At the level of bilateral negotiations, Moscow has made clear that he expects a formal apology, punishment and compensation for damages, while Putin signed a decree on the introduction of a number of sanctions on Turkish products and Turkish organizations against. Moscow also suspended negotiations with Turkey on the abolition of the visa regime in connection with the incident and has canceled a planned meeting of Putin and Erdogan in December 2015.

Russia has always been the main competitor of Turkey in the Eurasian space. Recent deterioration of Russian-Turkish bilateral relations will be reflected also in the post-Soviet space.

The relations of the States of the Caucasus and Central Asia with Turkey has always depended on the General state of Affairs between Turkey and Russia. As some of these States – namely, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia – are members of the EEU, Moscow sanctions against Turkey might indirectly affect the bilateral relations of these countries with Turkey in particular, thus reducing Turkey's influence in the Eurasian space.


With the end of the Cold war, Turkey became one of the main contenders to take the place of the influential countries in Eurasia. Despite limited resources, Turkey has been able to overtake the former Soviet bloc countries in economic development and integration processes. Policy of Turkey has undergone a series of UPS and downs over the past 25 years, but Ankara is not giving up. In its initial phase, Turkey was delighted with the acquisition of his new "heart" with their own historical, cultural and linguistic community. Over time, however, the emergence of Islamist trends in domestic policy of Turkey under the AKP (party of justice and development) began to contradict the post-Soviet countries with their secular political traditions. Russia has also reverted to a more confident policy in the region, leaving Turkey and other regional powers less opportunity.

Turkey first began implementation of the multilateral initiatives that have helped Eurasian States to develop cooperative patterns of interaction, based on regional and subregional mechanisms. The black sea economic cooperation organization and the Turkic Council are examples of such initiatives. Over time, the experience of the Eurasian States to work together under the leadership of these multilateral institutions has helped to inspire them to seek further opportunities for integration, opening the way for the development of many new infrastructure projects. Turkey, because of its geographical position at the crossroads of East and West, will inevitably become the epicenter of many such projects in the areas of transport, communications and energy.

Today the Eurasian region continues to be important on the agenda of Turkish politicians. However, before the Eurasian glance, Turkey appears to be two difficult tasks. On the one hand, Russia, China and, to a lesser extent, Iran will continue to be significant actors in the region. Other global actors such as the US and the EU also will not remain indifferent to Eurasian politics. Thus, Turkey's success will depend in part on its ability to harmonize relations with actors in the region. Turkey will also have prudent to develop political relations with Eurasia in parallel with its main strategic initiative, namely, with the aim of becoming an EU member. Turkey and the EU, combined together reach decisions on Eurasia, will be more successful.

In addition, events in the middle East have created more acute problems for the international community in General and for Turkey in particular. Revolution in the Arab world could not develop into democratic rule, on the contrary, gave rise to extremism, conflict and the flow of millions of refugees from this region, particularly in Turkey. Five years ago in the Arab middle East has been a lot of authoritarian regimes. Today there are many failed States. Syria and Iraq, faced with the growing threat of ISIS, a common border with Turkey to the South, from them fled more than two million refugees across the border with Turkey. Shocks in this region are also fuelling the conflict between Ankara and the Kurds. Thus, in the short and medium term, the crisis in the middle East will continue to be the center of the agenda of Turkish foreign policy. This may affect the distribution of financial and human resources in the region. Over time, this redistribution may affect the decline of Turkish influence in Eurasia. In order to strengthen its future role as a reliable partner for the East and West, Turkey may be content with focusing on the development of infrastructure projects related to energy and transport, with the nearest neighbors.

Translation prepared by Tatyana Ivanova

RELATED MATERIALS: Politics and Geopolitics
Возрастное ограничение