17 november president Erdogan met with the leader of Turkish nationalists, who presented him with a gift – a map of the “Turkish world”. Judging by the map, it includes not only the territory of Turkey, but also the whole of Central Asia, as well as Russian Siberia.
Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, part of Iran are marked in red on the map. Some Balkan countries, the southern regions of the Russian Federation, as well as most of Siberia and the western part of Mongolia – in orange, Altai, Yakutia and the Xinjiang Uygur region of China – in yellow. Ankara did not give any explanations what these colors mean.
One can imagine what kind of hubbub would rise in the world if one of the Russian nationalists presented President Putin with a map of the “Russian world”, where, in addition to Russia, all the countries of the former USSR, Eastern Europe, part of China, Mongolia, etc. would be painted over. And then – silence.
The Turkish president first voiced his territorial appetites back in 2016. “Our interests include Iraq, Syria, Libya, Crimea, Karabakh, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and other fraternal regions,” he said. “Many historians believe that the borders of Turkey should include Cyprus, Aleppo, Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Batumi, Thessaloniki, Varna, Western Thrace and the Aegean islands.”
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Turks of all countries, unite!
On November 12, Turkey hosted the 8th summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking states – the Turkic Council. In addition to Erdogan, the presidents of Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan took part in it. The latter two are allies of Russia in the CSTO, and Moscow also has very close relations with the rest.
Until recently, Erdogan was not particularly interested in the issue of Turkic unity. He was more interested in the topic of solidarity with the Islamic world, where he saw Turkey as the leader and protector of Muslim countries. However, along this path, Ankara found many competitors, primarily among the rich monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula. The struggle for leadership in the Turkic world turned out to be much easier.
In 2019, Erdogan voiced the slogan “Six countries – one nation” for the first time. “We are all a very large family of 300 million people who speak the same language, profess the same religion, have the same history, culture,” he said then, explaining that unity means the development of economic, trade and cultural relations. But is it just them? The Turkish media are writing more and more about the prospects of creating a “pan-Turkist army”. The military ties between Ankara and Baku have not been a secret for a long time. Military-technical cooperation with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is being discussed. Not so long ago, Kyrgyzstan signed a contract with Turkey for the supply of Bayraktar drones. It is worth recalling here that in 2019 alone, the volume of remittances from the Russian Federation to Kyrgyzstan amounted to $ 2.36 billion (98% of all foreign transfers), a third of the Kyrgyz GDP is formed at the expense of Russian money. However, while Moscow is struggling to negotiate the opening of several Russian-language schools there, Turkey has no problem promoting its educational projects. In October, Kazakhstan signed a contract for the supply of Turkish Anka-S drones, where Turkey will also train officers.
Turkish soft power
The International Turkic Academy in the encyclopedic description of Yakutia called this region of the Russian Federation one of the “state formations not recognized by the world community.” The card presented to Erdogan transparently hints that in addition to the Central Asian countries, Ankara considers not only Crimea and Yakutia, but also Tatarstan, Bashkiria and other territories of Russia as their sphere of interests.
The head of Tatarstan regularly flies to Turkey R. Minnikhanov. Another meeting with Erdogan was in June this year in Ankara. The region’s interest is clear: Turkish investments in the Tatarstan economy have reached $ 2 billion. Russia makes comparable infusions, for example, in Belarus. “I speak Tatar, he speaks Turkish, and we understand each other perfectly,” Minnikhanov said in 2017. By the way, in 2001, Tatarstan was going to switch from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin alphabet of the Turkish type. But the State Duma and the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation forbade this.
Expanding its influence, Ankara rely not only on military cooperation. Education plays an important role in Turkish soft power. Recently, the Turkish Foreign Ministry reported that the country has a network of 400 schools, a university and 14 training centers in 47 countries, including in the Russian Federation and Belarus. (This is despite the fact that in Turkey itself, only 12% of residents have higher education, and students on average read less than 3 books a year.)
Another important part of soft power is cinema. Turkey now ranks second in the world after the United States in selling TV series. In 2018 alone, it earned $ 500 million on this. By 2023, it is planned to bring this figure to one billion. The series are shown in Russia, Central Asia, the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. Even in faraway South America, they own a third of the TV series market. In total, they are watched by 700 million people from 146 countries.
It is easy to guess that in them Turkey usually appears as a great and just power, whose peoples live in peace and prosperity. The series is also shown on Russian TV. Historical pictures are also shot in cooperation with other countries. For example, recently on Ukrainian TV they showed the film “Fortress Khadzhibey”, in which the Cossacks, together with the Turks, are fighting against the “Russian invaders.”
Friend or foe?
According to the Istanbul-based Yeni Şafak newspaper, the Turks built the first 13 (out of 35) optoelectronic towers to control part of the Marmara and Aegean Seas. When all of them come into operation, this will allow Ankara to keep the entire sea border under surveillance – 8484 km. As part of the Blue Motherland doctrine, Turkey plans to take control of 462 thousand square meters. km of the sea surface. When our neighbors install their optoelectronic towers to control the Black Sea, they will be able to observe not only the facilities of the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, but even the Bocharov Ruchei residences. Taking into account the fact that they plan to build up to 14 submarines, and their surface fleet cannot be called weak even today, all this could become a serious application for revising the entire balance of the naval forces.
“Erdogan is interested in expanding his zone of influence,” said in an interview with AiF Turkish political scientist Kerim Has… – In Central Asia, it is easier to do this, plus it gives additional levers of pressure on Moscow. By increasing its presence in the countries bordering the Russian Federation, Turkey is strengthening its position in negotiations with the Kremlin on all issues of bilateral relations. These are Syria, Libya, the South Caucasus, and economic projects. “
Turkey has never been a close friend of Russia, which was confirmed by the 2015 incident, when the Turks shot down our Su-24 in the skies over Syria. The Kremlin responded by imposing sanctions against Ankara. But less than a year later, they were withdrawn after another thaw in relations, when Putin was one of the first to support Erdogan after the Turkish military tried to overthrow him.
“Russia is interested in partnership with Turkey,” says “AiF” Art. Boris Dolgov, Research Fellow, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences… – We have joint infrastructure projects, it is also difficult to achieve stabilization in Syria without Turkey. Erdogan was not afraid to buy S-400 complexes from us in spite of shouts from the United States. But the disagreements are growing. In Syria, the Turks are patronizing Islamist militants who do not want peace with the Assad government. The war in Karabakh began thanks to the Turkish support of Azerbaijan. Finally, Erdogan has repeatedly stressed that he will never recognize Crimea as Russian. Contradictions are growing, and it seems it is only a matter of time before the situation explodes. “