OP / ED: Turkey’s role in the region, the US, and what we need to do

OP / ED: Turkey’s role in the region, the US, and what we need to do

By Nikos Kotzias *

Anyone who thinks that Turkey has lost the game in its relations with the US and the EU because of the known tensions is wrong. Turkey has the potential to take advantage of and offer some special geopolitical “qualifications”:

First, Turkey is largely controls the security issues and the war in Libya. If Turkey in a package agreement returns to the West, then to the great satisfaction of the strong EU and US Libya will cease to be for them “a foreign country”. That is why, last year, it was a grave mistake last year to subdue the country’s policy in Libya to the immediate needs of specific interests. Something that should not be repeated.

Secondly, Turkey is the only power that “belongs to the West” (NATO), which “treads” inside Syria and is certainly closer to the strong EU-US than Russia and Iran. With the tension that exists in the region is very likely the known circles in the West to believe that the usefulness of Turkey is increasing and that new compromises will have to be with Turkey. It is known to whom the payment of the bill will be directed if the Greek foreign policy does not become more active. Here it seems how trivially it was to abandon a series of major initiatives (2015-8) of Greece, such as, for example, our country’s initiative for the protection of cultural and religious communities in the Middle East, which was attended by more than 400 ministers, religious leaders, heads of scientific institutions and cultural movements from the region. An initiative that needs to be revived.

Third, for the United States, the main enemy in the region is Iran. Turkey is the only country in the region with competitive size and several advantages over Iran. Every turn of its stance towards Tehran, as part of a package agreement with the US / EU, will open many paths for Turkey, and through Syria, to arrive welcome in Washington. In this case, the bill, apart from Cyprus and Greece, will probably be paid by the Kurds. That is why Greece must be mobilized immediately and planned in the region as a mediation, arbitration and negotiation force. For 4 years (2015-8, but also in the nineties) we mediated in the region without many “noises” and that’s why all sides trusted us, which met and negotiated in our “spaces”. Thanks to this role, it was easier for us to repel the Turkish aggression than today.

Fourth, the main opponent of the EU-US cluster on the European continent is Russia. The only country that has direct access to the supply of Ukrainian defense and from where it receives the necessary engines for its drones and tanks is Turkey. Also, Turkey is the only country that has access, through the Tatars and organizes anti-Russian forces inside the Crimea. Of particular interest is the fact that the Russians are seeking to downplay their rivalry with Turkey. Greek foreign policy must make smart use of the Russian-Turkish antagonisms in this region. To systematically defend our 160,000 expatriates in the area of Mariupol, as we did in 2015-8 (we even built a medical center in the middle of the war). It must also raise in Brussels the issue of supplying the Turkish offensive industry from Ukraine, whose economy is supported by the EU, and therefore by us.

Fifth, the West’s main rival, according to the new US leadership, is China. Turkey has special access to the Muslim population of western China, mainly the Uighurs. In the past, Erdogan campaigned “against their genocide,” as he called the policies of the Chinese state. His poor financial situation and, to some extent, his alienation from the West led him to soften his tone. Our country had and still has a special historical relationship with China. Together we set up the “Forum of Ancient Civilizations”, the only world organization in which Greece participates and has a decisive say. Unfortunately, this international organization was also abandoned by Greek foreign policy, in order to adapt to the demands of the hawks in the West. But Greece will be much more useful in the international system and in itself, if it maintains its special relations with China constituting as a country of the West, the bridge to it. If it contributes to the mutual understanding of the parties and not to the tension. While if he gets under the skirt of the powerful of the West, he will only succeed in being another follower of their policy. They are pressuring us to give up the special role we had acquired and to put ourselves “in the pile”. But then we will lose another advantage in the international system.

Greece, on the other hand, as an EU member state, must strengthen its positions within the EU, maintain its good relations with the USA, the superpower of the 21st century, but also with the rising power, China. To contribute to the understanding of the parties. In other words, an active foreign policy does not mean the dissolution of hard-earned international institutions, nor resignation from the special role we have acquired, especially useful in times of need for everyone, but it means the promotion of our positions, our specialization, our active operation. Of course it is a great satisfaction for me, whereas 25 years after I presented the proposal for an active foreign policy against the policy of inaction, most have now adopted its need. Only that everything shows that they “understood” it frivolous and superficial. That the main thing is not “walks around the world”, but the timely formulation of plans, alternatives, alliances, popularization of our policy in the public opinion of third countries, planned contacts with parties, personalities, journalists of these states, influencing all those who are fundamental to our interests and the recognition of our rights./ibna

* Nikos Kotzias is an Emeritus Professor of International Relations-Foreign Policy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Member of the PRATTO Movement and author.