CENTRAL EURASIA THROUGH THE PRISM OF TURKEYS SECURITY INTERESTS

Jannatkhan EYVAZOV


Jannatkhan Eyvazov, Ph.D. (Political Science), Deputy Director, Institute of Strategic Studies of the Caucasus, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Central Asia and the Caucasus (Baku, Azerbaijan)


Introduction

After the Cold War, with the Soviet Union out of the way, Turkey found itself in a new security context. The U.S.S.R. as the main source of threat to Turkey vanished. But political processes in the post-Soviet spacearmed conflicts, attempts of the former metropolitan state to keep the region in its orbit, and of the other actors to fill the resultant vacuum of power created a fairly unstable geopolitical situation around Turkey. Moreover, in the absence of the Soviet threat, the West became noticeably less concerned with Turkeys security. In this situation, Ankara had to rethink the importance of the post-Soviet space for its national security.

This article is an attempt to clarify the nature of Turkeys security interests and the way they are related to Central Eurasia, Turkeys key security interests in the region, and the specifics of its security policy.

Geographical Links and Their Specifics

Turkeys immediate land contacts with Central Eurasia are limited to the Central Caucasus: it borders on the three Central Caucasian states. Its land border in the region is about 535 km long, 20 percent of the total length of its land borders. The Black Sea separates Turkey from Central Europe.

The very different nature of Turkeys borders with the Central Caucasus and Central Europe makes it hard to identify their comparative importance for Ankaras security interests. Geography points to the former as a more important neighbor: first, land borders promote ethnic and confessional interaction between those living on both sides of the border and the adjacent areas, which makes security a common cause. Second, Turkey borders on the three Central Caucasian states, while its nearest Central European neighbor (Ukraine) is found across the sea. This means that the social components of the shared security interests play an important role in Turkeys relations with the Central Caucasian states and are absent in its relations with Central Europe.

On the other hand, in the Black Sea Turkey comes into a direct contact with Russias Navy (the main base of which is found in Ukrainian territory), a military mechanism powerful enough to threaten Turkeys Black Sea coast.

The Black Sea Space

The Black Sea can be described as the main space which not merely offers geographic contacts, but also connects Turkish and Central European security interests. The Turkish Black Sea coast (which goes along the northern part of the country and stretches about 1,600 km) is obviously longer than Turkeys land border with the three Central Caucasian states, Iran, Greece, and Bulgaria. The seas relatively small area (about 580 km at the widest spot) makes the threat of aggression rather high. Therefore, Turkey has to keep considerable naval forces in the Black Sea.

With the Soviet Union out of the game, Turkey found itself in a more favorable situation from the military point of


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