Turkey is “definitely” ahead of its time in flexibly adapting to 21st-century trends but it can’t be overemphasized how careful the country must be about avoiding overreach, said an American analyst.
In a freewheeling discussion with Ibn Sina of Straturka.com, Moscow-based American geo-political analyst Andrew Korybko says Turkey must hold its ground and leverage its growing influence across Afro-Eurasia to incentivize its many partners to support it in international fora on these issues.
“This will truly be a test of Turkey’s regional leadership,” he told Straturka.com in an exclusive interview.
Korybko specializes in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s Belt and Road Initiative and hybrid warfare.
The interview has been condensed for clarity. Here are the excerpts:
Turkey embodies principles of multipolarity
Turkey is definitely a rising power and one to be taken very seriously across this century. It has proven itself capable of exerting game-changing transcontinental influence through its military intervention in Libya, and it also wields considerable influence closer to its neighborhood as well.
On top of that, the country is also generally stable in the political and economic sense (except of course for its financial crisis in recent years though that’s thus far been manageable). Turkey also sits astride transcontinental trade routes between East and South Asia on one hand and Europe on the other. I’m very optimistic about Turkey, but it must be careful not to overreach in the coming years.
Turkey truly embodies the principles of multipolarity and is practicing a very careful “balancing” act between some of the world’s main players.
Much credit goes to its leadership, strategists, and diplomats for executing such a complicated series of policies. It’ll be difficult to maintain indefinitely, but Turkey is nevertheless setting an example for other countries to follow.
It’s definitely ahead of its time in flexibly adapting to 21st-century trends, but once again, it can’t be overemphasized how careful the country must be about avoiding overreach.
Turkey must not surrender its core interests
Turkey must hold its ground and leverage its growing influence across Afro-Eurasia to incentivize its many partners to support it in international fora on these issues. This will truly be a test of Turkey’s regional leadership.
It might have to enact certain “compromises” for pragmatism’s sake, but it mustn’t surrender its core interests. These fault lines will continue to influence Turkish geostrategy, but they aren’t insurmountable.
To the contrary, they can even be creatively exploited as diplomatic opportunities if Ankara realizes how best to take advantage of them in this way.
Azerbaijan’s glorious victory in its Patriotic War was a game-changing development in Eurasian geopolitics. It unlocks the South Caucasus’ full connectivity potential in the 21st-century’s emerging multipolar World Order.
It’ll be exciting to see the country benefit from sitting astride multi-directional connectivity crossroads between North-South and East-West.
Turkey can now become a more influential factor in Central Asia, which is the “Eurasian Heartland”, as well as strengthen its economic ties with Pakistan and China too.
Russia powerless to stand in the way of natural social trend of pan-Turkism
Russia is always sensitive about any non-regional power expanding its influence in what Moscow historically regard as its “sphere of influence” – Central Asia — but Russia is largely powerless to stand in the way of the natural social trend of pan-Turkism.
Moscow doesn’t want it to take a provocative military dimension in any way that could potentially risk threatening its internal interests, but such a scenario is unlikely since none of the involved parties have that intention.
Rather, the Turkic Council and the social trend of pan-Turkism that it represents are cultural and economic, not military.
Russia will have to adapt to this changing reality and find a way to align its long-term interests with it.
One such proposal is joint Russian-Turkish coordination in Central Asia building off of the emerging Russian-Turkish Strategic Partnership in West Asia that’s taken shape in recent years, but it’ll require political will on Moscow’s part to succeed, which isn’t yet evident in this respect.
Turkey should not choose sides
Turkey should instead focus on maintaining its “balancing” act and not setting itself against anyone, whether it’s the US on one side or Russia and China on the other, in Central Asia.
It can engage in “friendly competition” with all stakeholders through “economic diplomacy”, which would ultimately benefit the Central Asian population by giving them better deals and future opportunities.
That’s actually what Turkey seems intent to do through its “Central Corridor” across the South Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Central Asia en route China.
Under no circumstances should Ankara take anyone’s side since doing so would limit its “balancing” opportunities. It should instead seek to present itself as a catalyst for convergence between all stakeholders due to its close cultural connections with the region.
‘Eurasia’ and Belt and Road Initiative
Eurasia is super-continental in the sense that it doesn’t exclude any party on the landmass or its nearby islands like the British, Indonesian, and Japanese ones.
Some observers have used the term Eurasia interchangeably with the former Soviet space, but I believe that this unnecessarily limits the concept’s full potential, hence why I’m not in support of that definition.
My vision is simple: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is creating new axes of influence across the supercontinent for the purpose of more closely tying all stakeholders together so as to avoid conflicts between them, while Russia’s “balancing” act between Eurasia’s various Great Powers aims to prevent any single party (in particular China, the EU, and the US via its divide-and-rule machinations) from becoming predominant.
Thus far, this vision is proceeding along a positive trajectory.
BRI is connecting the landmass in parallel with Russia’s “balancing” act keeping all players in check to the best of its ability, however imperfect.
Specifically, Russian-Indian relations act as a counter-balance to China, while Russian-Pakistani relations balance out Indian-US ones.
In West Asia, Russia is multi-managing its relationships with the GCC, Iran, “Israel”, and Turkey, especially in Syria and the South Caucasus.
Moscow is also promoting peace in Afghanistan, which it hopes will enable it to pioneer a Central Asia-South Asia corridor (“Central Economic Corridor”, CEC) after the war finally ends. As for Western Eurasia (EU), Russia’s gains are much more limited due to the EU following the US’ sanctions policy, yet Russia still retains some influence with Germany, Hungary, Italy, Serbia, and a few others.
If a question is asked whether Eurasia will change because of China and its BRI, then yes, absolutely, but that change isn’t a negative one.
The only friction that’s developing because of it is due to US allies like India forcefully pushing back against BRI projects such as the initiative’s flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
That conflict potential, however, is limited due to the nuclear factor between China and Pakistan on one hand and India on the other. Because of that, India has resorted to employing asymmetrical kinetic measures against CPEC.
Like I’ve been explaining in my past two answers, China is one of the world’s largest economies and arguably the economic driving force in Eurasia, if not the entire Eastern hemisphere and soon perhaps even the whole world.
The BRI is its means of expanding influence through the establishment of new trade corridors which will tie all stakeholders more closely together in parallel with ideally accelerating development within and between them.
China, BRI, and Eurasia are therefore all complementary concepts which fully conform with the top trend of 21st-century geostrategy, connectivity.
‘Catalyzing Central Asia’s collapse through Hybrid Warfare’
Central Asia in theory could become both a zone of heated competition between Great Powers but also a point of convergence between them.
The only realistic conflict scenarios are Hybrid War ones of Color Revolutions and/or Unconventional Wars (e.g. terrorism, separatism, etc.), but even that seems to be largely manageable nowadays due to the region’s generally strong governments (Kyrgyzstan is the only exception in this case) and security relationships (Kyrgyzstan’s membership in Russia’s CSTO mutual defense pact).
Rising powers such as India, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey are making inroads in this region, as is the US through its plans to practice so-called “economic diplomacy” there following the end of the Afghan War by relying on north-south connectivity corridors through Pakistan (N-CPEC+) and direct investments in the Central Asian Republics.
Even so, none of them with the possible exception of the US has an interest in catalyzing Central Asia’s collapse through Hybrid Warfare.
The US doesn’t seem all that interested in this scenario nowadays either like it arguably might have been in the past since its levers of influence for provoking and subsequently managing such a campaign have decreased in recent years due to the growing convergence of interests between most of the rising powers that are entering the region.
India is the only one that might support any US-driven destabilization there, but it also has very limited means to do so and doesn’t seem to have any such intention anyhow. Rather, it hopes that its rising economic influence there might serve to counterbalance Chinese, Pakistani, and Turkish influence, but through “friendly” economic competition.
‘Pakistan a global pivot state’
If we accept that China and the US are in the midst of a New Cold War with one another aimed at shaping the “emerging world order”, and that the BRI is the means through which Beijing plans to accomplish this, then it naturally follows that BRI’s flagship project of the CPEC which is one of the most important projects in the world.
From there, it can be seen that the CPEC has the potential to expand along the northern, western, and southern vectors to Central Asia, West Asia, and Africa through N-CPEC+, W-CPEC+, and S-CPEC+ respectively, thereby creating a new network of influence across the Eastern Hemisphere centered on Pakistan.
As such, I describe Pakistan as the global pivot state because its position and potential are truly the most pivotal on the planet in terms of contemporary geostrategy for deciding the contours of the 21st-century’s emerging world order.
India is for all intents and purposes an American ally right now which aims to contain China in mainland Eurasia, primarily along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between them but also further afield in Central and Southeast Asia through “economic diplomacy”, to say nothing of Africa as well in the long term.
Nevertheless, the Biden Administration’s willingness to change the nature of the US’ strategic competition with China by focusing more on the political domain than the military one (at least as it seems for the time being while it’s comprehensively reviewing the China strategy that it inherited) could make India comparatively less important in the military respect than before.
The Biden Administration also repeated the Trump Administration’s threats to sanction India if it goes through with purchasing Russia’s S-400s, which New Delhi intends to do anyhow.
Fearing that it might be forced to react to any incipient US-Chinese “detente” (however imperfect and potentially short-lived such an arrangement might be), India sought to take the initiative in defense of its interests by patching up its problems with China through last month’s synchronized disengagement along the LAC.
It’s also reaching out more confidently to Russia in the hopes of recalibrating its “balancing” act.
The end goal is to adjust to the post-Trump geostrategic reality in Eurasia, albeit against its will, aiming to buy time until a more aggressive administration returns to power to embolden India’s regional expansionist plans.
Until then, India might prospectively behave more responsibly in the comparative sense than before, which could go a long way towards restoring some semblance of stability to South Asia.
‘Kashmir will remain unresolved for indefinite future irrespective of China’s support to Pakistan’
China diplomatically supports Pakistan on Kashmir in line with United Nations Security Council resolutions on the matter, but that forum is unlikely to lead to any breakthroughs because Russia will always support India there.
Kashmir will therefore probably remain unresolved for the indefinite future irrespective of China’s political support for Pakistan. It’s also unlikely that a hot war will break out between China and/or Pakistan against India too due to the nuclear factor between them, though of course a war by miscalculation is always on everyone’s mind.
In Afghanistan, Pakistan should do whatever it can to support peace and regional stability considering the fact that the conflict spilled over into its own borders and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of its own citizens since the war started.
What exactly could Pakistan realistically do to oppose the US’ war effort while America was bloodthirsty for revenge after 9/11? Wouldn’t it have then been accused of being indirectly complicit in the attacks by its failure to support America’s, thus potentially leading to much more disastrous consequences?
Pakistan isn’t fighting a proxy war with the US in Afghanistan like it did against the USSR there several decades ago.
Islamabad’s only interest is stabilizing its neighbor so that cross-border terrorism can end and new economic corridors such as N-CPEC+ can emerge in the region.
By responsibly playing its part in pursuit of these peaceful ends, Pakistan is not only advancing its own interests, but those of every stakeholder to the conflict as well, thus proving how regionally indispensable it is.
This isn’t just for prestige’s sake either since the country will directly benefit from the cross-continental CPEC+ trade network that it sits in the center of.