Erdogan's new grand strategy for Turkey?

The Turkish prime minister Erdogan seems to work towards a Turkish-Arab union.

The Arab governments are apparently less inclined to such proposals than the Arab populations.

R.T. Erdogan, credit:Agência Brasil/Wilson Dias
Turkey's attempt to join the European Union for the economic advantage seems to be on hold because - let's be honest - the plan is unrealistic. The EU required Turkey to meet many democratization and modernisation demands. Turkey met most of those, and the democratization eroded the secular Turkish state's safeties against Islamist government take-overs. The (somewhat mildly) Islamist Erdogan government has been in power for a while and most likely long since understood that the EU membership project is delusional since Cyprus joined the EU. Cyprus can veto against Turkey's membership which it will certainly do as long as Turkish-protected North Cyprus remains a pressing issue. The Greeks are as far as I know not exactly pleased by the idea of Turkey in the EU as well.
Turkey has thus pretty much lost prospects for a further integration with the West.

Its standing in the Arab world and in Iran is on the other hand quite good, especially in regard to popular support instead of governmental support. The relationships are friendly (the relationship with Israel is cooling down in exchange) and Turkey seems to have compensated for its Ottoman Empire history of oppressing Arabs. Turkey also stands out as an example because of its economic boom during almost the whole period of Erdogan's government . The economic prosperity also seems to produce an improved assertiveness.

The good neighbour relations may turn into an actual alliance or union in the long term, especially if the Arab populations succeed to change their governments.

This is very relevant even for Germany for several reasons:

* Turkey is one of the most interesting countries in geostrategy because of its history, location and relations. 

* Turkey is (still) a NATO ally.

* Turkey is in political conflict with Germany's allies Greece and Cyprus.

* A Turkish-Arab alliance could not make do without a (new) nuclear power in its ranks if it is meant to provide defence against more than just Iran.

* A Turkey that drifts away from the West would be relevant in NATO planning for both Southern and Eastern frontier security.

* The significant Turkish-German minority in Germany. Turkish policies can influence Germany through this minority. Luckily, Erdogan has made a flip-flop a while ago and now seems to support the integration of this minority into German society instead of emphasizing its Turkish character.

Such a Turkish-Arab alliance/union could happen in a few years or in a few decades - or never. It really depends on what happens to the Arab governments. The political dissatisfaction in Syria and Egypt could bring the end to the current authoritarian governments in the Arab world, similar to what happened to the Warsaw Pact in 1980-1992.

No matter partial Islamophobia or not - we should most certainly be friendly to the project of a Turkish/Arab union once it develops. To oppose it and then see it happen nevertheless would be a really bad start and could lead to a simultaneous East-South challenge to European security.



  1. "we should most certainly be friendly to the project of a Turkish/Arab union once it develops."

    absolutely, but i fully support the british position of admitting turkey into the EU.

    that cypress could veto such an action is a failure of the EU rather than turkey.

  2. europe lost turkey and its a pity. sarkozy and merkel are to blame betting on anti-islamic sentiment (europe is christian) in their election campaigns.

    this a pitty and bad news and to be read with the wikileaks documents on erdogans 'neo-ottoman' ideas.

  3. I don't recall that Merkel promoted any anti-Islamic sentiment ever.

  4. sven

    you are right: merkel never openly aired any anti-Islamic sentiment.

    however the cdu promoted the 'europe is christian' and whole debate about 'leitkultur', jewish-christian roots and so forth alongside the open and outspoken opposition to turkey joining the union was ripe with an implicit anti-islamic message that was well understood both by muslim migrants and right-wing germans. still both demographics voted for her.

    besides that: my point being that sarkozy and merkel traded in turkey becoming part of europe for elective gains.

    historically this might well been a turning point towards a weakened euorpe and strengthened islamic middle-east.

    and religion as a source of legitimacy is nothing good in my book.

  5. Far earlier than anything Merkal said in her last campaign.

    The EU has simply been stalling for time to avoid saying no.
    The Secular Turks lost a great deal of support meeting EUropes demands, reasoning that gaining EU membership would cement their power forever.
    Since we had no intention of ever giving them membership regardless of the hoops they jumped through, Erdogan took power against his weakened opponants.

  6. There s also a cable on this in the wikileaks portfolio. Interestin in that it makes some assumptions how the shift in policy affects the EU: