Important regional developments: change of the game

Left to right: Alexander Fomin (Deputy Minister of Defence, Russian Federation) with Alexander Grushko (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO-Russia meeting on Jan. 12 (Photo NATO)

As if a change of government with free elections was possible in Kazakhstan, all regional leaders started to give statements like “coup was repelled” one after another. However, it does not seem plausible to regard the events that began in Kazakhstan on January 2 and peaked on January 5-6, even as a planned uprising. There was an outburst of anger in which there is no clear leadership, where the last straw came with the hike in gas prices. The main reason for the outrage was that the people could not get a share of the country’s rich resources; all the wealth went to the ruling oligarchy. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the elder brother of the Turkish world, who supposedly withdrew and left the presidency to Kasım Cömert Tokayev in 2019, returned to the stage as the head of the National Security Committee this time. The same game is changing.

Moreover, this game change was with the call of the Kazakhstan government for Russian troops with the symbolic support of other Collective Security Treaty Organization countries.

In the video conference on January 7, NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that they could not reach out to the Kazakhstan issue by mainly focusing on Ukraine.

From the Black Sea to the Mediterranean again: the USA-Russia

When the Organization of Turkic States held a video meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers on January 11, the situation began to calm down in Kazakhstan, one of the critical countries of Eurasia, a giant of energy, agriculture and industry. And Vladimir Putin had already won.

At the NATO-Russia meeting held on January 12, Russia threw her weight on the table. Moscow sent the ultimatum not to accept Ukraine as a member of NATO. Although Russia never concealed his overt support for the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, the implication was clear that the issue may end up like annexing territory like Crimea. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg began to talk about the danger of war in Eastern Europe. But it seemed that the President of the USA, Joe Bide, was not in the mood to fight Russia for Ukraine either.

The USA is trying to restrain Russia about Ukraine with its NATO presence in the Black Sea. Turkey’s support is vital in this regard. Turkey’s support for its Black Sea neighbour Ukraine annoys Russia. Another issue that bothers Russia is the NATO exercise that Greece started on its territory against the Russian presence in the Balkans.

At that moment, the US withdrew its support for the natural gas projects in the Eastern Mediterranean on which the Greek and Greek Cypriot governments relied.

The Black Sea-Mediterranean balance was being re-established.

The change of the game

Greece was very upset by this. Kriyakos Mitsotakis had recently offered to give the US new military bases but received a response that it would be enough to strengthen the existing ones. Athens could not understand that the USA’s main concern was not Turkey, but to stop Russia’s strengthening in the Mediterranean, even more than Cold War era because of Syria while preparing for the real struggle with China. The Black Sea-Mediterranean balance was necessary both for that reason and for Israel’s security. Encouraging Turkey to soften with Egypt, Israel, and other actors in the Middle East would have been a much more reasonable and inexpensive method. For example, acting together in Libya was a good example of encouragement.

The liberation of Azerbaijan’s lands under Armenian occupation was also a development that changed the game in the region. Turkey became the biggest supporter of Azerbaijan in this move. Other supporters were Israel and Pakistan. When Azerbaijan started the operation, it was important that Russia did not support Armenia, and encouraged Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to engage in direct talks with Turkey. The first of these talks will be held today, on January 14, in Moscow.

From the Caucasus to Central Asia

While the balances were re-established in the Caucasus, the withdrawal of the USA from Afghanistan was the first link in the chain of change in Central Asia.

The concern was the eruption of already fragile Kyrgyzstan, and even though it seemed the strongest, it exploded.

China is observing what is happening in Central Asia, its backyard. It should be considered a right step for Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to go to Beijing and meet with Wang Yi during this process. But China is also preparing for its real struggle with the USA in the Pacific, a battle that hasn’t started yet. China is acting with Russia in this part of the world, and Russia is acting with China in the Pacific.

However, despite the NATO alliance, the USA cannot find the support it expects from the EU against Russia. European countries are frankly afraid of Russia, not only in terms of the military but also in natural gas dependence on energy. It is now clear that the 19th-century specific sanction policy of the US and EU administrations resorted to appearing to be doing something to the public in domestic politics, do not work.

Turkey’s importance for the USA increases again due to its geographical location. Turkey’s losses can be turned into gains if Turkey can change its “retail foreign policy, as Prof. Dr Ilter Turan used in a recent webinar, with a holistic view. It will also benefit the economy.

Otherwise, we continue to brag about our “precious solitude”.

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