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mercredi, 19 mars 2014

Turkey and Crimea


Turkey and Crimea

Nikolai BOBKIN

Ex: http://www.strategic-culture.org

On 16 March, the people of Crimea will independently determine their own future. Opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of Crimeans (75-80 percent) have already decided in favour of becoming part of the Russian Federation. Crimea is being given a unique opportunity to reunite with its historic homeland. Several days ago, Barak Obama called the overthrow of the legitimate authorities in Kiev a triumph of democracy. Now Crimea will give President Obama a lesson in democracy... 

By supporting the coup, the US has laid the foundations for a broad restructuring process of the Ukrainian state into a looser confederation of regions. The principle of self-determination, to which the people of Crimea are adhering, is enshrined in international law, while non-recognition of the results of the people’s will would be the latest evidence of the American establishment’s commitment to the project of creating a ‘Ukrainian Reich’ within former Ukraine. The Western media are lying when they talk about the so-called full solidarity of all NATO countries with the American position. In truth, Washington’s position is not supported by many of those with a special interest in Crimea and these include Turkey, since Crimea is home to Crimean Tatars, who are ethnically close to Turks.

Ankara is worried about the risk of deepening the political crisis in Ukraine. While offering to accept the preservation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity as a basis for resolving the conflict, the Turkish Foreign Ministry is nevertheless warning Kiev against creating military tension in Crimea, where «our kinsmen – the Crimean Tatars» live. In the past, Ankara has done much for Crimea to become the Tatars’ homeland again. Kiev, however, has never given the development of Crimea much attention, removing up to 80 percent of the autonomous republic’s revenue and giving nothing back in return. For Turkey, with its highly-developed tourism industry, the deplorable state of tourism in Crimea, as well as the peninsula’s infrastructure, which has fallen into complete disrepair and has not been modernised since Soviet times, are compelling evidence of Kiev’s disdain for the fate of the Crimean people. Many in Turkey well understand why Crimea becoming part of Russia is the natural desire of the overwhelming majority of those living on the peninsula. Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, believes that «Crimea should not be an area of military tension; it should be a centre of prosperity, tourism, and intercultural relations».

At the same time, the Turkish government is being forced to consider its own position with regard to Crimea, and the internal forces that adhere to the opposite point of view. In some parts of the country, the compatriots of Crimean Tatars are organising demonstrations against Crimea becoming part of Russia. Zafer Karatay, a Tatar member of the Turkish Assembly, is calling for Ankara to intervene in Crimea and a confrontation with Russia. His opponents respond: «What business do we have in Crimea? Why is Crimea so important?» Well, the Kiev scenario of the illegal overthrow of President Yanukovych may well be used by the Americans to change the leadership in Turkey. In this regard, Prime Minister Erdoğan has clearly stated that it is not a case of Turkey choosing between Moscow and Washington or Ukraine and Russia, it is a case of choosing between a tool of destabilisation like the pro-American Maidan protests and adhering to the fundamental principles of international law. 

Many Turkish politicians disliked Davutoğlu’s hasty trip to Kiev immediately following the coup. Given that Ankara does not have an answer to the question «What should Turkey do now?», such a visit is definitely cause for bewilderment. Davutoğlu’s statement, meanwhile, «that Crimean Tatars are currently the main apologists for Ukraine’s territorial integrity» shocked many observers. They reminded the minister of the number of Turkish compatriots in the 46-million strong Ukraine, as well as the fact that Turkey had a strategic partnership with the previous legitimate authorities in Kiev to which neither Turchynov nor Yatsenyuk are able to add anything except a hatred of Russia. Davutoğlu’s assurances regarding the fact that the new regime in Kiev «will take all necessary measures to protect the rights of Turks living in Crimea» has also given rise to scepticism. It is unlikely that the fascist authorities in Kiev currently threatening Ukraine’s multimillion Russian population are going to concern themselves with the fate of the relatively small Crimean Tatar community. Pragmatists in the Turkish government have warned the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, who has promised Kiev «political, international and economic support to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity», against any hasty actions and even statements towards Moscow. 

Commenting on events in Kiev, the Turkish Minister for EU affairs, Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, referred to the European’s approach towards Ukraine as completely wrong, and that asking Ukrainians to choose between Europe and Russia was a grave political mistake. «Russia»,Çavuşoğlu pointed out, «is part of the European continent.» Turkey still does not understand why Brussels, which thinks that Turkey does not meet its high democratic standards and for many years has refused Turkey’s accession to the EU, has decided that the new Ukraine is more democratic than Turkey – and that is even after the bloody coup carried out by Western stooges. There is the feeling that supporting the new regime in Kiev could cost Erdogan’s government dearly.

Should Turkey join sanctions against Moscow, the country’s economists are predicting the collapse of the national economy, which is closely tied to Russian hydrocarbon supplies. They consider energy exports from Russia to be «a national security issue» and are warning that even Europe, which is also dependent on Russian gas, has not allowed itself to cross the line of open hostility to Moscow, despite unprecedented pressure from Washington. Turkey is still a growing market for Russia, and its gas supplies to the country increase by 4-5 percent annually and exceed 30 billion cubic metres. There is a desire to diversify Ankara’s sources, but there is no real alternative to Russian blue-sky fuel. America’s promises to replace Russian gas with its own shale surrogate in connection with calls to support anti-Russian sanctions are eliciting a smile from Turkish experts. The infrastructure needed for the supply of liquefied fuel would be more expensive than the cost of Russian supplies for the next 5-7 years. And it is not just Turkey’s energy economy that will lose out. Trade between Russia and Turkey exceeds 33 billion dollars, and nearly four million Russians visit Turkey every year, leaving behind at least USD 4 billion. 

The Turkish media has also made explicit references to the fact that the significance of Ukraine and Russia for Turkey’s foreign policy is incomparable. Turkish political observer Fuat Kozluklu, meanwhile, writes that Russia’s decision to use force if necessary to protect Ukraine’s Russian and Russian-speaking population was a good deterrent to the Ukrainian radicals and the Western politicians watching over them. Putin’s determination to stand up for the interests of Russians in his neighbouring country has revealed Russia’s real strength, while Moscow’s actions have the sole intention of preventing the further escalation of tensions in Ukraine. It is also from this point of view that many Turkish analysts are regarding the forthcoming referendum in Crimea.


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