Staunton, January 10 – In the wake of the second Qarabagh war, Russian commentators have argued that Ankara is now seeking to create a union of Turkic countries under its aegis. But in fact, Dmitry Rodionov says, Turkey has a move radical goal – the establishment of a union of Turkic nations, including those now within other states like the Russian Federation.
What Turkey is doing, the Moscow commentator says, both undermines Russia by reducing its influence in the five Turkic countries of the post-Soviet space (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and threatens Moscow’s control of Turkic areas within the current borders of the Russian Federation (ritmeurasia.org/news--2021-01-11--velikij-turan-uzhe-u-granic-rossii-ili-dazhe-blizhe-52712).
“It is understandable that no one will say this aloud,” Rodionov continues; but Turkish President Redcep Erdogan signaled that this is his goal when he said in Baku that the Azerbaijanis in Iran are a matter of Ankara’s concern, going further in that regard than even Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
Erdogan “has never publicly and directly declared that Iran must give up Southern Azerbaijan” just as he has never made demands that China “’free’ Eastern Turkestan.” But his interest in Turkic people that do not now have their own statehood suggests he is thinking in this way and thus about the Turkic peoples within Russia as well.
Moscow has focused on Turkey’s efforts to expand relations with Turkic countries including those where Russia is still the most important outside player, and the Russian authorities have comforted themselves with the fact that Ankara has not achieved all of its goals in either Azerbaijan or Crimea.
The Turkish authorities want to have airbases in the former but Baku has rejected that idea, and they have wanted to build up their influence among the Crimean Tatars but both the Russian presence and Ukrainian concerns have limited that possibility (avia.pro/news/turciya-sozdaet-aviabazy-v-3-gorodah-azerbaydzhana-gyandzhe-lyankyarane-i-gabale).
Moscow has spoken out against these Turkish efforts, Rodionov says; but up to now, it has remained largely silent about Ankara’s plans to expand its relation sin the North Caucasus and the Middle Volga. The Russian authorities must make it clear that fishing in those waters is not something it will tolerate.
That is especially the case, Rodinov continues, because among Turkic peoples within the Russian Federation, Ankara is making use not only of shared Turkic identities among the Kumyks, Karachays and Balkars but also their common Islamic identities, displaying another foreign influence, the Arabs, but not lessening the potential for danger.
The idea of “’a Greater Turan,’” as this Turkish notion is known, the Moscow commentator says, is perhaps not an immediate one. It wouldn’t be one at all “if it weren’t for the disintegration of the USSR and the weakening of Russia.” But if it appears something “utopian” now, “tomorrow the situation may change.”
Moscow must take steps to defend its position and ensure that Ankara knows there are red lines it will not be allowed to cross.