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Partner Dependence: Turkmenistan Should Defend Its Interests In Relations With Turkey

Sunday, July 17, 2016 - 18:38

In the middle of 2015, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Ashgabat on a two-day visit. The voyage was scheduled for mid-October, but it was postponed due to the terrorist attacks in Ankara. Much changed during those two months. There were held parliamentary elections in Ankara, where Erdogan's party won a landslide victory; after the incident with the downed aircraft, the relations between Turkey and Russia were severely strained. Turkey started to look for new gas suppliers.


Expectations of the Turkish leader are understandable. Ankara has suffered considerable moral and economic losses, and it is necessary to correct the situation. Ankara is looking for someone who could help. But does Turkmenistan really need such an alliance? The triangle “Ashgabat – Ankara – Moscow” is not simple. Chasing money, Turkmenistan could complicate the relations with its long-time reliable partner – Russia.


For the Turkish President, the meeting was very timely. Turkey needs Turkmen gas. In return, it promises to help in many areas. And here, it is necessary to know the background of the relationship between the two Turkic countries, and to understand how an even closer relationship may be beneficial, and how it may be dangerous.


Having recently lost a few sales markets, Turkmenistan sees it a priority to find new buyers of gas at a higher price. In this regard, Turkey is a buyer that fits like no other. Turkey is even willing to help with solving the issue of gas transit. This question is not the easiest.


It is possible to talk about the supply of Turkmen gas to Turkey purely theoretically. The bulk of Turkmen gas is intended for the Trans-Afghan gas pipeline; it's delivered to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. In addition, Turkmenistan plans to increase gas supplies to China. Will there remain enough gas to satisfy Turkey's demand? This is not an idle question.


They can certainly take up development of new deposits. But in recent years, their coffers have been unable to boast an abundance of resources. In addition, it is difficult to deliver gas to Turkey technically. There are two ways: the first is through the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan, the second is through Iran. The Iranian project can be immediately considered utopian. It is unlikely that Tehran, having its own gas, will let a rival's pipeline through the country. The problem of the Caspian Sea is also known, and it is unlikely to be resolved in the near future. In short, in the near future, the Turks will unfortunately be unable to replace Russian gas with Turkmenistan's.


So much for the gas. But there are also other economic interests in our relationship with Turkey. Let us not forget that Turkish contractors are working in Turkmenistan and taking part in large-scale projects. According to estimates of the Turkish economists, over the past 20 years, the total number of projects involving Turkish companies have exceeded 600, and their total value has reached $21 billion. Projects in Turkmenistan amounted to 12 percent of total foreign activities of Turkish contractors. The total volume of Turkish investments amounted to $1.3 billion. In the next ten years, plans are afoot to bring the volume of Turkish investment in Turkmenistan's tourist, industrial and residential buildings, business centers, power plants and transmission lines, pipelines, roads and railways to the level of over $30 billion. Is it good or bad? There seems to be nothing wrong with the economic co-operation. But we should not forget that the active introduction of Turkish business in the economy entails a kind of “enslavement.” that is, a dependence on the monopoly impact of Turkey, its intervention in virtually all sovereign Turkmenistan affairs, which has gone above and beyond to achieve economic prosperity. Turkey has made great efforts in order to bring a solid economic foundation under the cultural and historical motifs. And if we draw an analogy between Russia and Turkmenistan by putting them in a similar situation of a possible aggravation of relations with Turkey, the monopoly Turkish influence on the country's economy becomes apparent, and the vulnerability of Ashgabat becomes understandable, as well as its almost complete dependence on Ankara. Will respected Gurbanguly Burdymuhamedov find the replacement of Ankara just as easily as Vladimir Putin?


There are other alarming signs. Today, Turkmenistan is under pressure from Islamist militants in the border provinces of Afghanistan. Turkmenistan alone can not cope with them. Seeking allies is necessary. Which is the better option to place a bet on: Moscow or Ankara? And as if Turkey is ready to provide a strong political arm.


Turkey has a relatively developed military-industrial complex. It exports a variety of weapons, and the Turkmen army in dire need of rearmament. Therefore, our government is worried about the state of its armed forces, and Turkey can help improve their defense capabilities. In addition, the Turks can help with the training of officers.


However, it seems that Berdymukhamedov is aware that an exclusive alliance with Turkey could result in an increasing Islamic influence, both from the outside and inside the country. And it's not just empty words. Turkey's virtually uncontrolled influence in Turkmenistan has increased the radicalization of Islam in the country. Turkmen special services have repeatedly found a Turkish trace in the matters of dissemination of extremist ideas, including the Pan-Turkism. It is known that the Turkish religious and political organizations “Nurdzhular” and “Bozkurt” recruit young people to participate in the fighting in Syria. For this reason, Turkmenistan has closed the Turkish educational institutions and is hastily withdrawing students who study in universities in Turkey and Pakistan. But today there is still no guarantee that in the event of a terrorist attack on Turkmenistan, the terrorists will not be joined by the domestically nurtured bandits.


In addition, it is necessary to understand that Erdogan has ambitious plans: to make Turkey a dominant state in the Turkic world. This postulate has become the cornerstone of his neo-osmanism concept that ensured his victory in the presidential election. Erdogan's task is to turn Turkey into a superpower, and he is consistently moving towards achieving this objective. In this game, Turkmenistan looks like a partner so far, but given the great economic and more recent political influence of Ankara on Ashgabat, there are reasons to be cautious about such a friendship. The history of the last few months shows that Erdogan is bringing his country to a standstill.


It is already no secret that the war of the Islamic State against Syria is actively supported by the Turkish side, which seeks to profit from the suffering of the Syrian people. The militants of the Islamic State supply oil in Turkey at bargain prices. In exchange, they receive military aid and the opportunity to rest between battles, and also to replenish their arsenals.


As a NATO partner, Turkey begins to annoy its colleagues in the North Atlantic alliance because of its inconsiderate position and bizarre speculation on the fate of Syrian refugees. British newspaper “The Times” has published another article with the shocking facts about how Turkish border guards solve the migration issue with the help of savage methods. “Eight Syrians, mostly women and children, who were leaving their war-torn homeland, were killed by Turkish border guards. The group tried to cross the border into Turkey using the smugglers's mountain road on the western section of the border. The Turkish troops gave them a decisive rebuff, producing shots with live ammunition,” the newspaper informs.


And “The Times” recalls that this case is not the first one, and not a random one. According to the data available to journalists, over the past four months, 16 people became victims of the Turkish border services, including three children.


The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is another episode where Turkey begins to play a role far from positive. Here, Erdogan linked the solution of the conflict with the solution of the Kurdish problem in Turkey, and Ankara's tough stance towards the Kurds frankly smacks of genocide.


Michael Rubin, Pentagon's expert on the Middle East and Turkey, was forced to admit that “terrorism in the Middle East can not be defeated as long as Turkish president Erdogan is in power;” “he has turned the country into a Mediterranean Pakistan.”


And this is just a brief excursion into the situation. Turkey is becoming an increasingly belligerent state that does not take into account the norms of international law. There is no guarantee that after receiving help from a partner, our country will not lose its independence and international neutrality, being involved in military cooperation. Economically, Turkey is snatching control of Turkmenistan. It is till not too late to find an import substitution for Ankara, as they say in Moscow. In the post-Soviet and European spaces, there is a lot of good countries with good intentions and the reputation of reliable partners. Any of them could help the republic that is not yet prosperous to avoid losing its former capacity and to maintain its economic and political independence. Recently, Turkey has been more and more similar to an octopus, which will put Turkmenistan in economic dependence in the best case. In the worst case, Turkmenistan will be made to quarrel with its traditional good partners and become isolated from the civilized community.


As long as there is an opportunity, it is necessary to keep Turkey at a safe distance, to neutralize its impact on the economy and the country's internal affairs.

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