In Turkey’s one of the hardest times, the transformation of the Central Asia and Caucasus appeared on the international arena and in a way presented an important way out for Turkey. Thinking there was no more importance of Turkey due to the end of the Cold War, the Western European countries and even the US in some degree explicitly externalized Turkey at the beginning of the 1990s. Turkey also had the similar hesitations and began to think that it could not dwell in the Western World after the threat of communism disappeared. This was one of the reasons that Turgut Ozal tried to establish close relations with the U.S. during the Gulf War; to find another “possible entrance”. Thus, the emergence of the Turkish World (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan) after the collapse of the Soviet Union saved Turkey from loneliness and lack of objectiveness. Ideological contribution of the newly emerged Turkish republics of the Central Asia and Caucasus on Turkey is much more than that of Turkey on them.
On the highest levels it is said to Turkey by the Western states that “You are not belong to this (Western) civilization” or “The European Union is a project of civilization, and Turks are not part of it.” The Wars of Bosnia, Macedonia, Karabakh, Kosovo and 9/11 Attacks step by step shifted the negative biases about Turkey in the West and the Western world rediscovered the importance of Turkey. It is nice to see that the discriminative mistakes against Turkey have been compensated in the end of 1990s in an important scale and the negotiations with the EU have begun after a little delay.
Turgut Ozal, former Turkish Prime Minister and President, was so enthusiastic about the relations with the Turkic Republics though he was pro-Western at the same time; accordingly, he allocated credits, promoted schools and set objectives for the ‘outside’ Turks. Lots of Turkish businessmen even tradesmen went to the Central Asia during the Ozal period. Many students from these countries have begun to take education in Turkish universities. Establishing the TIKA (Turkish Co-operation and Development Agency), allocating credits in Turkish Eximbank, opening TRT Turk and TRT Eurasia (Turkish Radio and Television) to international arena especially to Eurasia were all Ozal’s visions.
What did Turkey do further parallel to this vision?
What did Turkey succeed in the past 10 years?
Now, it is time for reckoning and thinking about all these things.
Unfortunately, most of the success that is gained in the name of Turks in these regions is gained in spite of the existence of the Turkish State. The State has done very little after Ozal and mostly the Turkish people made great contribution to Turkey-Turkish World relations. Turkish businessmen and entrepreneurs in these regions are aware of the absence of the support of the Turkish State behind them. However, without any support or any model they are moving along. Of course they make mistakes or even work inefficiently but they are still successful. This is because Turkish businessmen and Turkish NGOs know that they do not have the support of their country like an Englishman or a Frenchman and use their lives as a capital. Moreover, failing is not an option in the long term for whom put forward their lives as a capital. Unfortunately, Turkish State is still not aware of the importance of this and roughly waste this asset.
The mistakes that Turkey made will be the subject of the next article. Now, I want to discuss another possible threat; ‘the Arabization of the Turkic Republics’. The most important factor of this is discovered rich oil and gas resources.
As a well known fact, the Caspian Basin is one of the most important petroleum and natural gas areas in the world. Step by step these resources began to reach international markets and the integration of the region with the world energy markets positively affects the development of the Turkish world. For instance prosperity that arises from petroleum can be witnessed even in the streets of Azerbaijan. In an increasing trend Azerbaijanis getting richer and richer. It is not hard to say that this trend will be more obvious with the full functioning of the BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline) in a few months. In a short while, it will be also possible to see the similar changes in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. In addition to the agreements with Russia and Western companies, Kazakhstan has made important agreements with China. Even it completed a part of the pipeline construction for China route. The journey of Kazakh oil to China begins step by step. While Turkey imagining to connect Kazakh oil to BTC, the plans of China (even of India) advance in a manner that they would not let Turkey’s dreams to come true.
Also, a similar situation exists in Turkmenistan. India wants to transport Turkmen oil through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. There are many supporters of this project, since they hope that at least the pipeline that would reach to Pakistan could bring stability to Afghanistan. Turkmenistan also seeks to transport its gas to Turkey and beyond. Azerbaijani natural gas pipeline is also on the way through Georgia. The line will follow the oil pipeline.
To sum up, the Turkic Republics in the Caspian Basin is about to see a flow of money that they are not used to. This can be perceived as good news by many people. However, plenty of money means problems as much as absence of money does. Many of the problems that can be observed in the Arab World are due to abundance of ready cash. 85-90 % of GDP in these economies comes from oil and natural gas and the rest of it arises from derivatives of these and collected taxes. The economy is formed of a few products and as a result democratization and brand differentiation become impossible in these countries. Moreover income and power are concentrated in a narrow clique. After a while the system takes shape and becomes closed to all developments.
Being dependent to a single product in the Arab World has an important role as an obstacle that prevents democratization and having a strong economy. This grounds the problem of future of the regime inside of the country whereas it causes humiliations and failings in the international arena. This is the crucial threat that Turkic Republics may confront. If necessary precautions are not taken, Kazakh, Turkmen, Azeri and even Uzbek economies will transform into oil and gas economies and new Kuwaits and Saudi Arabias would emerge.
How this process can be averted?
First of all the money that will come from oil and natural gas should be transferred to brand differentiation and education. In addition to this, taxation should continue as if these incomes do not exist. Taxes should be in a level that makes people realize the feelings like responsibility and loyalty in the citizen-state relations. For instance; Norway is one of the biggest oil exporters of the world and also taxation rates are among the highest in the world. On the other hand it takes the first place in terms of social rights. It has created a balance between them and averted this balance economy to become dependent to oil and gas. Moreover, parallel to this the state and citizen relations are carried on well in the framework of bilateral responsibilities.
The Turkish Republics should invest into new areas and attribute much more importance to education as the oil income increases and the country that can make the required warnings in this regard is Turkey.
Turkey has no significant gas or oil reserves, however it is the biggest Muslim economy in the world. Therefore, the rest of the Turkish Republics should follow Turkey, not the Arab world. What they need is not oil or gas money, but educated population and a manageable democracy.
Translated by Hasan Selim OZERTEM (USAK)