Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Saturday 21st of November 2020, Alec Bertina
On the bridge between Europe and Asia, Russia has emerged as a significant geopolitical power in recent years, expanding its power and reaching into foreign nations.
Turkish ascension to becoming a major geopolitical player has been evident. Ankara’s ability to achieve its interests on the international stage has been so strong that it has even undermined the interest of powerful states, such as Russia and France. Turkey’s impairment of Greek and Israeli foreign policy goals has also made it clear that its foreign policy is that of expanding its power by looking far beyond its borders.
Nothing has been more indicative of Turkey’s presence in the geopolitical stage than its influence in the conflict between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA). While nations such as Russia, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have aided the Tobruk Government-backed and Haftar led LNA, Turkey has backed the GNA’s resistance to his attempt at establishing power in Libya.
The LNA originally gained ground in two-thirds of Libya during 2019. This was achieved with the aid of Russian mercenaries, Emirati and Saudi funding as well as Sudanese and Chadian mercenaries. This was ended by the Turkish support of the GNA, coupled with a miscalculated attempt offensive into Tripoli by General Haftar.
Turkish expressed its support by sending military advisors from Ankara, funds, arms, Syrian mercenaries and military drones to the GNA. This made Haftar’s offensive into Tripoli a costly failure. As a result, the LNA’s military depletion allowed for the GNA to engage in a sustained counter offensive. This forced the LNA to retreat and establish a defensive position in Sirte.
Turkish foreign policy support of the GNA has established its ascension as a key geopolitical player. If a ceasefire is mediated that entrenches the GNA’s stability and sovereignty, Turkey will establish a route into North Africa to establish oil, energy and mineral companies access to operate in Libya. Turkey’s position shows that it cannot only match Russian, French and Gulf interests, but willingly undermine them.
Ankara’s comfort in impeding Russian geopolitical interests have widened in backing the Azerbaijani government against Armenia in its war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey’s support of the Azeri army in the conflict has come through the form of supplying Turkish Bayraktar drones, providing Syrian mercenaries and putting its diplomatic weight through pushing for the peace deal signed by Armenia with Azerbaijan.
The signing of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal has been valuable to Turkish foreign policy interests. Primarily, the peace deal has led to Azerbaijan gaining new territories, meaning that Turkey has a more powerful ally near its doorstep, as well as one that would allow it to establish Turkish military bases in these new territories. Turkey would undermine Russia’s geopolitical standing by adding to its challenge in combating NATO enlargement on its borders.
Perhaps the boldest display of Turkey’s ability to act as a geopolitical influencer, would be its maritime activities in the Mediterranean Sea. Through its ownership of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turkey has justified its maritime objective of controlling the Mediterranean Sea. The goal of these maritime activities involves ensuring its businesses have control of natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean Sea, and establishing a stronger naval presence against its Greek rival.
In engaging in this naval expansionism, Turkey is signifying an increasingly powerful presence in the world. It shows an ability to use both soft power and hard power approaches to control the natural gas market, while undermining its fellow NATO members, Israel and Russia in the process. This will strengthen its economic position long term.
In these instances of Turkish foreign policy successes, it’s indisputable that it is becoming one of the most influential nations in the current geopolitical landscape. Ankara shows not just the potential to defy France, Russia, Greece and NATO partners, but an increased confidence to do so brazenly.
Russia – a prominent but increasingly declining power – has been unable to contest Turkey’s push to control mineral, gas and oil reserves. Turkey also abetted the GNA’s slaughter of Russian Wagner Group mercenaries and of its proxy, the Haftar led LNA. Turkey has even put an end to Soviet inherited legacy of Russia being the sole external State that has influence over the affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
France and other NATO ally’s inability to retain control of Turkey’s ambitions also cement the idea that Turkey is now a rising power in the world. European nations may hurl condemnation, but are reminded by Ankara that it is at their behest that more refugees are not entering Europe, a threat that carries more weight in the midst of a pandemic.
It seems that there is no political European ability to challenge Turkish hawkish behaviour. This would explain why there has been little pushback against its maritime operations in the Mediterranean Sea, or its ambiguous relationship with international law through the involvement it has had in helping the GNA or Azerbaijan.
A politically capped Europe, a Russian rival that cannot keep up and a bold initiative from Ankara has shown that Turkey is now a decisive actor in the world. Through supporting proxies, using its diplomatic weight and hard power approaches to control the oil, mineral and gas market, it has shown that it is an ascending power in the world.
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