2019-02-01

Strategic importance of the Caucasus for Turkey

By Mithat Işık

The Caucasus is surrounded in the east by the Caspian Sea, in the west by the Azov and Black Seas, in the north by the Kuban and Kuma rivers, in the south by Turkey and Iran. Looking at the map, in front of us there is an isthmus in the direction of north - south between the Black and Caspian seas, surrounding it from two sides. This isthmus occupies a key location between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. The most noticeable feature of the region is its mountainousness. The Greater Caucasus divides it into two parts in the east-west direction. This formidable geographical obstacle divides the region into the North Caucasus and the South Caucasus (Transcaucasia).

In the North Caucasus there are republics that are part of the Russian Federation. These are Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Chechnya, North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Dagestan. Russia actively fights against separatist movements in the North Caucasus. This seemingly calm region can at any moment suddenly become a zone of conflict. Here a non-traditional war can unfold, in which tactics and techniques of guerrilla war will be applied to a greater degree.

The South Caucasus includes such independent states as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia. Geographically, the North Caucasus belongs to the European continent, the South Caucasus - to the Asian, and politically the entire Caucasus is considered part of the European continent.

The Caucasus region, due to its geographical position, is a natural mountain line separating Asia and Europe, the South and the North, Turkic and Slavic, Muslim and Christianity from each other.

Due to this, throughout the history, important trade routes and migration routes have passed here. For this reason, the Caucasus was in the zone of interests of the major powers and became a region for which there was a long struggle. The interest of global forces and states wishing to be such has always attracted the fact that the region was a door leading to Asia, provided an opportunity to enter the Black Sea, and also indirectly gave a chance to include in its zone of influence on the Persian Gulf.

The theory of dominance on land Mackinder and the theory of Speakerman belts will help to understand the significance of the Caucasus region. The one who rules this region rules Asia, and the one who rules Asia rules the whole world. The Caucasus as an important political, commercial and cultural transit point serves as a buffer region between three significant empires (the Ottoman Empire, Tsarist Russia, Iran). The position of the region as a cultural transit point most of all concerns the Turkic world. If we imagine the Turkic world in the form of a human body, then the Transcaucasus is a throat, without which it is impossible to speak about the Turkic world as a whole. The Transcaucasian region seduces global forces with its underground wealth. Rich oil and natural gas fields forced such energy-deficient countries like the USA, China and the EU,

Since the migration routes of many nations passed through the Caucasus, peoples of different cultural and ethnic origins settled in the region. Mountainousness of the region contributed to the isolation of different peoples from each other, while preserving their own culture, primarily for natural and then for political reasons. But the region was open to outside intervention, and problems were not resolved within the Caucasus. Transcaucasia has become home to different ethnic and religious groups within each state.

The Caucasus is important primarily for three reasons. First, in the geostrategic sense, this is the door to Central Asia. From the point of view of Central Asia, this is the way to the western markets. And if we consider the Caucasus together with Central Asia, then there is a macro-region with significant reserves of oil and natural gas.

The seeds of today's problems in the Caucasus were sown by Stalin in 1936. With the help of certain measures, he wanted to bring to the fore the Russians in the demographic structure of the region. To achieve this goal, a number of autonomous republics were created, which will further prepare the ground for very complex ethnic problems. For the North Caucasus, the most urgent problem today is Chechnya. But the polyethnicity of the region also has potential for problems in the neighboring republics.

Turkey is located at the intersection of three major crisis regions of the world, such as the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Balkans. Especially the Caucasus and the Middle East due to the reserves of energy resources are included in the zone of interests of world powers and become the arena of their competition.

The Caucasus, due to its geographical position, is considered a continuation of one region with Turkey. Thus, an indicator of this is the use of the names “Anterior Asia”, “Asia Minor” in relation to Anatolia and the Caucasus. Each event in the Caucasus, both positive and negative, can significantly affect Turkey.

Turkey should show a diverse interest in the Caucasus for the following reasons. The region provides security for Eastern Anatolia. It provides communication with Turkic and Muslim countries and communities in Central Asia and the Volga-Ural region, strengthens relations with them. It provides suitable raw materials and market opportunities due to strategic underground wealth and oil fields. It also prevents Russia from going south to warm seas and contributes to the absence of this threat to Turkey. The Caucasus is an important region from a geopolitical and geostrategic point of view, which affects the national interests and national security of Turkey. 60% of the peoples living in the region are Turks. The Caucasus serves as a bridge between Turkey and the Turkic-speaking republics of Central Asia. The absence of this bridge will break the link of Turkey with the Turkic world.

The exit of the region’s rich underground resources to world markets through Turkey enhances Turkey’s strategic importance. Region also creates a positive environment for maintaining the independence and independence of the Turkic presence in the region. It makes it possible to take advantage of the economic potential of the region while maintaining relations that take into account mutual interests in order to strengthen the Turkish economy.

The concept of "security" has ceased to be exclusively military in nature. It also acquired economic, political, social, cultural, scientific, technological meanings. For the sake of its own national security, Turkey should ensure security and stability around itself. And for this, it is important that the countries around Turkey maintain economic well-being and political stability.

From the same point of view, Turkey should consider and evaluate its relations with the South Caucasus. With this thought, Turkey should closely monitor geopolitical changes and be able to influence them. For sustainable peace and stability in the South Caucasus, Turkey needs to continue to defend a peaceful settlement of existing problems in the region, such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, within the framework of protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

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