Turkey: Taking Stock of Ankara's Engagement with Central Asia
The fall of the Soviet Union presented what should have been a golden opportunity for Turkey to develop a sphere of influence in the Turkic republics of Central Asia. For various reasons, though, things didn't quite work out that way. In many ways, Ankara now finds itself having better relations and more influence in the Middle East -- a region whose countries it traditionally kept at an arm's length -- than in Central Asia.
What went wrong? Nadir Devlet, a professor in the International Relations department of Istanbul Commerce University, tries to answer that question in a new paper for the German Marshall Fund that takes a look at the last 20 years of Turkey-Central Asia relations and that suggests that a new outreach effort from Ankara may be on the horizon. From his paper:
Turkey’s efforts to penetrate the Turkic regions of the former Soviet Union with its own influence have had a number of successes and failures. President Gül has been a particular advocate for a more assertive Turkish approach in this regard. Yet to date, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turk- menistan are not important business partners for Turkey, despite their geographic proximity, energy riches, and other resources. Turkey’s relations with Turkmenistan are in fact deteriorating, and its relations with Uzbekistan — which with a population of nearly 30 million is Central Asia’s most important actor — are at their lowest level in many years. Turkish-Turkic integration clearly has a long way to go. Yet we should not be surprised to see Ankara assigning height- ened importance to the larger Turkic world in its emerging foreign policy as Turkey gives up its former commitment to the status quo for a more visible strategic activism.
The full paper can be found here.