Turkish Foreign Policy Encircled by Quadruple Conflict Zones: Risks and Opportunities

Turkish Foreign Policy Encircled by Quadruple Conflict Zones: Risks and Opportunities
The role of non-state actors, informal groups, and individuals with certain belief systems will further affect the course of regional conflicts henceforth.
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“Fervent” conflict zones (1. The Caucasus and Central Asia; 2. Central and Eastern Europe; 3. The Balkans; 4. The Middle East) that are geographically encircled Türkiye definitely will bring opportunities withal risks for Turkish foreign policy. Highly qualified Turkish diplomatic mediation efforts will be in high demand in parallel with its targeted military task forces in the region. As a result, Türkiye's diplomatic and military "footprint" will stretch out in the broader Eurasian region. However, in addition to the global threats such as nuclearization, climate change-related challenges, and migration flows, Turkish foreign policy should be tuned to very complex regional conflicts in the cause of control over logistical hubs, interconnectivity lines, transport corridors, fossil fuels/mineral resources, and energy chokepoints ("connectivity wars"). There is a high probability that new chaotic processes and multiple-actor conflicts will emerge in the specific countries of the above-mentioned regions that intersect or host strategic "corridor routes". From an energy perspective, critical changes in the exploitation structure of natural gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean region such as mergers and acquisitions (for example, the BP-ADNOC partnership's acquisition of NewMed Energy company of Israel) are sensitive issues with direct concern on Türkiye's interests in the conflict zones that should be closely monitored.

Source: IRAM’s staff.

Future regional conflicts can be partly predicted through “early warning” systems based on the identification, detection, and interpretation of “weak signals”, a method proposed by applied mathematician Igor Ansoff. The method requires a systemic approach to the regional and global structures combining economic, ideational, cultural, technological, demographic, ecological, political, military, and security dimensions. The application of a crisis forecasting system as a part of foreign policy-making is a crucial hedging mechanism to refrain from “strategic surprises” that evidently display “strategic discontinuity” from past events and expectations on the pattern of great powers’ behaviors.

Systemic competition between “great powers” and their alliance-formation attitudes with “medium powers” owing to the balance of power will aggravate severe regional confrontations and hazardous uncertainties with robust nuclear dimensions. China-Russia-Iran nascent “alliance” (“modified Primakov doctrine”) and these states' bilateral/trilateral tracks of complex interactions should be closely monitored by Turkish foreign policy-makers to unlock its political, economic, and military repercussions for the Caucasus and Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Türkiye can be partly accommodated by some regional initiatives of “triple alliance”. Also, Türkiye’s regional initiatives (e.g., the “3+3” initiative underpinned together with Azerbaijan) could accommodate the regional interests of the “alliance”. The point here is to consider the global “nuclearization” trends triggered by the revisionist powers of the “alliance” in response to the behavior of Western actors.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) underlines that "the huge risk with the nuclear deterrence strategy is that it often assumes that a country must have the ability to retaliate with a nuclear strike". The placement of a nuclear arsenal by one country on the territory of another only increases the risk of the use of nuclear weapons in military incidents based on miscalculations. Because the control of weapons of mass destruction lies in the hands of individuals who are subject to emotional stress and misinformation. The U.S. fulfilled testing of new chemicals and radioisotopes in the nuclear test site in Nevada in October 2023 as a response to the Russian Duma's decision to cancel the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. These dangerous moves by nuclear powers raise the likelihood of the use of tactical or non-strategic nuclear weapons in certain geographies of wider Eurasia.

In the long term, the geography of indirect and direct conflicts between the China-Russia-North Korea-Iran bloc and Atlantic Alliance may shift further north (Baltic Sea and Arctics), further east (Far East and South China Sea), and further south (Gulf and Africa) even becoming geographically further away from Türkiye's borders. But this will not scale down the burden, responsibility, and engagement of Turkish foreign policy in the wider Eurasian region that is expectant of new helical of social, political, and economic crises. Social inequality, squeezing the middle class, raising food and energy prices, election interventions, and outbursts of anger in youth against injustice at all levels will lead to a new wave of social cataclysms in the Middle East and other critical regions. A renewed cycle of socioeconomic and political instabilities in the region will demand new approaches from Turkish foreign policy to concentrate on the domestic dynamics in the key countries through systemic analysis of trends based on verifiable primary/secondary data and shreds of evidence. Turkish foreign policy can apply a multi-dimensional approach toward regional conflicts and conflicting parties in this decade that embodies the internal, external, and “energy and transportation” dynamics through actors and mechanisms.

Ideational and civilizational dimensions of the regional conflicts and the role of religious and sectarian factors in regional affairs will be emboldened as a triumph of individual and group identities based on overt and covert networking endeavors. For example, the Vatican's (as an owner of the great “moral authority”) crisis resolution attempts and proposals toward the Russian-Ukrainian war and the series of conflicts in the Middle East could be viewed through the lens of the web of arduous affairs. The role of non-state actors, informal groups, and individuals with certain belief systems will further affect the course of regional conflicts henceforth.

In the new geopolitical, geo-cultural, and geoeconomic reality, Georgia, Moldova, Albania, Jordan, and Mongolia could be momentous destinations of the diplomatic, cultural, economic, political, and military reinforcement efforts of the Turkish state with new and more effective country-specific strategic plans incorporated into the integrated vision towards an emerging regional order in the Eurasian region. These countries are either “backup countries” close to the recent conflict zones or part of strategic energy and transportation corridors with some domestic and external vulnerabilities that relevant solutions could be supported by Türkiye with a long-term strategic approach.

Integrated strategic vision should certainly adjoin political, economic, diplomatic, security, intelligence, military, ecological, demographic, cultural, and technological ingredients under the strategic framework. In the new period, Turkish foreign policy must be prepared for new challenges with traditional strategic partners in the 4 strategic priority regions (Caucasus and Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Balkans, and Middle East). In this respect, strategic alliances with conventional partner states should be further reinforced by public diplomacy, versatile integrational measures, and well-designed (rule-based) institutional frameworks.