The Global Blueprint For Neo-Ottomanism: Energy And Military: Part II
Turkey, especially under Erdogan, is striving to achieve maximum flexibility in its foreign policy dealings, but this is impossible to do unless it can attain reliable and secure access to energy. Truth be told, Turkey already has this with Russia so it doesn’t need to look any further to attain this, but what the Neo-Ottomans want is to one day diversify their supplies from Russia to the point where Moscow’s energy connection with Ankara is completely depoliticized and absolutely incapable of influencing the de-facto Caliph. This push for full strategic sovereignty is very much like what China is currently doing through its management of multiple energy suppliers all across the world in order to avoid a dependence on any single one. For example, the People’s Republic counts its main energy partners as being Russia, Turkmenistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Angola, and there’s nothing stopping Turkey from doing something similar, albeit with some different suppliers.
The Russian Projects:
Turkey is very comfortable with its reliable and secure energy access from Russia, as manifested by the current Blue Stream and future Balkan/Turkish Stream projects, and any diversification away from its present and medium-term dependence on Russian supplies shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a hostile act against Moscow, let alone one which puts either of those two initiatives in jeopardy. Turkey needs the Balkan/Turkish Stream for geostrategic reasons just as much as Russia does, since this creates the structural platform for Moscow and Ankara’s collaboration in solving the three most pressing Balkan problems – Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. Each of these potential (continuation) conflicts are interconnected to a large strategic degree owing to the nature of Balkan geopolitics, the demographics involved, and the influence of traditional Great Powers such as Russia, Turkey, and Germany, to say nothing of the interfering role that the US has recently begun to play in this region since the end of the Old Cold War. The deteriorating relations between Turkey and Germany give Russia an opportunity to replace Berlin as Ankara’s partner in the Balkans and herald in a new era of cooperative relations that would seek to resolve the three previously mentioned trigger points which also endanger the viability of their Balkan/Turkish Stream joint project.
In a nutshell, Balkan/Turkish Stream was agreed to by Turkey not just as a means of securing reliable access to energy, but as a way to deepen its strategic partnership with Russia and hopefully move it in the direction of Balkan cooperation.
This is why the project will remain important to Erdogan and whoever may eventually succeed him because it moves beyond the pragmatic purpose of satisfying Turkey’s energy needs by also giving the country the chance to promote the soft and political power of Neo-Ottomanism, though not necessarily in a manner which obstructs Russia’s regional interests. Therefore, Balkan/Turkish Stream will remain influential even if the Neo-Ottoman state succeeds in diversifying its energy partners away from Russia and lessening the leverage which Moscow is theoretically capable of exerting on Ankara due to its dependence on the former’s resources. However, it should be forewarned that Turkey’s efforts to achieve maximum strategic flexibility through energy diversification could also backfire by emboldening its leadership to possibly take geopolitical positions in the Balkans and Mideast which are contrary to Russia’s out of the knowledge that Moscow would be less effective at possibly wielding the energy card as it could have done before.
The Near Abroad:
Turkey’s “Near Abroad”, or in other words, the countries within close proximity to its borders, provides for Ankara’s ideal solution in lessening its dependence on Russian resources, and it’s already pursing these opportunities to a large extent. The map below outlines the current and forecasted pipelines which involve Turkey to some degree or another, followed by brief explanations of each one and their overall significance:
These projects were already described, and the hashed lines indicate the two paths that Balkan/Turkish Stream could take in supplying the regional and larger European market. These are essentially a revival of the South Stream project through Bulgaria and then on towards Serbia and deeper into Europe, or a circuitous detour through Greece and then the Republic of Macedonia before reaching Serbia.
Red – BTC Pipeline
This existing pipeline connects Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, and is also used to supply “Israel”. It forms the ‘spine’ of most of the planned or forecasted routes which run through Turkey and was proof of the concept that the country could serve as an energy bridge between various players.
Green – TANAP/TAP (in progress)
The Trans-Anatolian Pipeline is currently being built, and it plans to transform into the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline by crossing that sea and eventually connecting Italy with Azerbaijan by means of Georgia, Turkey, Greece, and Albania. This project, and any related non-Russian one in this part of the world, is referred to as being part of the EU’s so-called “Southern Corridor”.
Dark Blue – Kirkuk-Ceyhan Pipeline
This Iraq-Turkey pipeline passes through the Kurdish Regional Government and has the potential for further expansion and use. It doesn’t just have to stop at Ceyhan, and could conceivably be expanded to connect to TANAP and thenceforth directly to the EU market through either Italy or the Nabucco Pipeline.
Grey – Nabucco Pipeline
This long-discussed route would in theory link Turkey with the EU by means of the bloc’s Balkan states of Bulgaria and Romania. It largely fell out of discussion after Russia unveiled South Stream and seamlessly replaced it with Balkan/Turkish Stream, but it still remains a possibility, especially if enough energy from Azerbaijan, Iraq (including the Kurdish Regional Government), Iran, and/or possibly even Turkmenistan and Qatar becomes available.
Brown – Iran-Turkey Pipeline
The changing geopolitical conditions of renewed US-Iranian tensions make this route less likely than it was before, but even so, it deserves to be spoken about at least briefly. Iran could potentially connect its Persian Gulf energy supplies to either TANAP by means of Southeastern Turkey (“Turkish Kurdistan”) or indirectly through Azerbaijan and then Georgia. The first route is much more economically feasible, but runs the high risk of being targeted by the PKK, hence the possible need to detour through Azerbaijan and Georgia, or maybe even Armenia and Georgia in reaching the Black Sea, Romania, and the rest of the EU.
Orange – Turkmenistan Interconnection
The Central Asian Republic has copious amounts of gas, and it’s always been one of the EU’s dreams to find a way to tap into it. Two possibilities exist; an undersea pipeline to Azerbaijan and TANAP, or an overland one through Iran. Both ideas seem unlikely to reach fruition anytime soon owing to the unresolved territorial settlement over the Caspian Sea and increasing US-Iranian tensions, respectively, but regardless, these possibilities shouldn’t be completely forgotten about and opportunities might arise in the future for their fulfillment.
Pink – Qatar-Turkey Pipeline
This route was one of the reasons behind the War on Syria, as President Assad didn’t agree to it and opted instead for the Friendship Pipeline between Iran, Iraq, and Syria. In the event that he’s removed through a phased regime change in accordance with whatever conflict resolution settlement might be agreed to, or if Syria is “federalized” (internally partitioned), then there’s a very real chance that this project could receive a second breath of life and be built through “Sunnistan”. Just like the prospective Iran-Turkey pipeline, the idea is to eventually link it up with TANAP and then Nabucco in order to supply the EU.
Lavender – Arab Gas Pipeline
There’s already a little-known pipeline bringing together Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, and the possibility theoretically exists for it to be expanded to Turkey too, but the War on Syria and Cairo’s post-Muslim Brotherhood problems with Ankara have precluded this from happening for the time being. If President Assad is removed and Egypt and Turkey reconcile, then this project might become viable and contribute additional energy supplies to Turkey, as well as potentially feed into Nabucco.
Black – Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline
The last examined project which Turkey has its sights set on is the large-scale one which has been proposed for linking “Israel’s” Leviathan offshore gas fields with Cyprus’ nearby Aphrodite one via an underwater pipeline that would eventually terminate in Greece, possibly with the chance of joining TAP to supply the southern EU. It also can’t be precluded that this project would connect with the proposed Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline between Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Croatia in sending energy to Central Europe. In order for Turkey to have a stake in this project, it needs to succeed in pressuring Nicosia to agree to the federalization of Cyprus and therefore allowing the northern Turkish-controlled part to indirectly enable Ankara’s involvement.
Light Green – Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline
Referred to above, this prospective pipeline would either serve as a branch of TANAP or the other half of the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline.
Other than the many energy connectivity possibilities which exist in Turkey’s Near Abroad, there are also three other suppliers which have yet to be discussed, and these are Libya, Tanzania, and Mozambique.
The North African state is mired in an intense state of civil war after the pro-Turkish Muslim Brotherhood “rebels” were unsuccessful in cementing their power following the overthrow and murder of former Libyan leader Gaddafi. There doesn’t seem to be much hope that Turkey can restore what it had assumed would have been its premier position in the country after the “Arab Spring” events, even though there have been reports that it’s still trying to do so through low-scale support given to various militias. Even in the case that Ankara can recover some of its strategic losses in the post-Gaddafi country, it wouldn’t be with the intent of building a pipeline of any sorts, but rather through controlling some of Libya’s energy exports to Europe via its companies. However, this is looking increasingly unlikely as Western and Russian companies are racing to fill the void in preparing their business plans for whenever the country eventually stabilizes
Tanzania and Mozambique
These two gas-rich countries have yet to become major global players on the energy marketplace, but their offshore deposits are impressive enough that they’re expected to reach this enviable position sometime in the future. Just like with Libya, Turkey harbors no desire to build a pipeline from either Tanzania or Mozambique to its own shores (nor is such an idea economically feasible), but wants to simply secure reliable access to the energy that’s expected to be exported from here in the next decade. This forward-thinking planning was one of the reasons why Erdogan visited these two countries in January, and it’s expected that the relationship between all three parties is only expected to grow in the future. Keeping in mind that other Great Powers are racing to tap into these resources too, it’s a prudent move for Turkey to try to get in first and possibly play the ‘caliphate card’ in appealing to Tanzania’s majority-Muslim population and minority believers in Mozambique.
Part I mentioned that there’s an almost perfect overlap between Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman soft power, geopolitical, energy, and military interests, so it’s now appropriate to explain the latter element of Erdogan’s global blueprint and prove how it closely corresponds with everything that’s been expostulated upon to this point. The most coherent way to do illustrate the undeniably visible pattern at play is to go through the previous list of energy interests and highlight the influence that Turkey’s military is playing on each of these actual, ongoing, and prospective projects. For comparison’s sake, here’s the map once more, and it will be followed by the exact same descriptive format for outlining each endeavor and then explaining how the relevant involvement of Turkey’s military is conditioned on achieving Erdogan’s grand Neo-Ottoman objectives of positioning his country into a strategic superpower:
Light Blue – Blue Stream (existing) and Balkan/Turkish Stream (in progress):
Turkey didn’t have to use any military means to secure either of these projects, but Russian-Turkish military coordination in Syria and pertinent conflict resolution diplomacy in Astana have strengthened the bilateral relationship and confirmed the broader strategic wisdom behind agreeing to both of them.
Red – BTC Pipeline:
Turkey has fraternal relations with Azerbaijan and has been blockading its rival Armenia – whom Turkey also has issues with concerning the post-World War I genocide – and has been supplying Baku with military hardware and advisors ever since the country’s independence. Ankara is also a strong proponent of Georgia’s NATO membership, not so much as a means of irritating Russia, but as a way to advance Turkey’s influence over the Caucasian country and pair the energy relationship with a military one in recreating a regional sphere of influence in the transcontinental border space.
Green – TANAP/TAP (in progress):
Relations are horrible right now between Turkey and Greece, though they’re very good between Albania and Turkey. Whether or not it’s connected, ties between Tirana and Athens – never close by any means – have gotten slightly worse around the same time as those between Ankara and Athens have, though for different reasons, albeit both related to territorial disputes. Greece, however, isn’t recognized by any serious experts at this time as exhibiting the behavior of a sovereign and independent state, so it’s possible that its EU overseers might force it to remain on good enough terms with both of its Neo-Ottoman neighbors in order to not jeopardize the prospects for the many “Southern Corridor” projects which are anticipated to run through its territory.
Dark Blue – Kirkuk-Ceyhan Pipeline:
Turkey is very close to the Kurdish Regional Government of Masoud Barzani, who despite being a Kurd, bucks the Mainstream Media stereotype by enjoying high-level strategic relations with Erdogan. In fact, relations between both actors are of such an important level that Barzani ‘invited’ Turkish troops into the areas of Northern Iraq that he controls in order to train the Peshmerga and defend against any of Daesh’s possible offensives further north.
This sparked a major diplomatic incident in December 2015, but looking past the problems that it caused for Ankara and Baghdad, it ironically showcased just how close Erbil and Ankara are, contrary to popular thought.
As it pertains to the examined pipeline politics at play for Neo-Ottomanism, this proves that Turkey is willing to dispatch military forces to protect the Kirkuk-Ceyhan route and would also likely be favorable – or at the least, not outright opposed – to “Kurdish independence” in Northern Iraq, so long as Barzani and his Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) remained in charge and the resources kept flowing through Turkey en route to the global marketplace.
Grey – Nabucco Pipeline:
Turkey hasn’t utilized its military to promote this proposed project because it simply sees no need to. That, however, doesn’t mean that Turkish military deployments elsewhere aren’t related to this pipeline, since Ankara’s moves in Northern Iraq and Southeastern Turkey (“Turkish Kurdistan”) are directly connected with potentially securing these routes for future use and thereby enabling their eventual linkage with Nabucco one day.
Brown – Iran-Turkey Pipeline:
As was just mentioned above, Turkey’s military operations in its southeastern corner of the country (“Turkish Kurdistan”) are partially meant to destroy the PKK terrorist insurgency with the intent of facilitating a possible Iran-Turkey pipeline which could eventually feed Europe through Nabucco. It should be noted, however, that amidst the recurrence of traditional Turkish-Iranian suspicions (in spite of the Tripartite between them and Russia over Syria) and rising US-Iranian tensions, this pipeline seems ever less likely to be built anytime in the future, and that Turkey’s military actions in the southeast are mostly for the sake of national unity and to promote a possible forthcoming federal solution which would help propel the administrative-political expansion of Neo-Ottomanism with time.
Orange – Turkmenistan Interconnection:
There is nothing that Turkey can do militarily to improve the chance that this project is ever actualized , but its alliance with Azerbaijan and anti-PKK efforts in the southeast of its own territory help to secure it in the unlikely event that it’s ever constructed.
Pink – Qatar-Turkey Pipeline:
President Assad’s choice to decline participation in this project is perhaps one of the main triggers for the War on Syria, and it’s why Turkey has expended such time, energy, and resources towards trying to topple him. It also explains why Turkey both actively and passively assisted terrorist groups involved in this campaign, whether through arming them directly or turning a blind eye through their transit across its territory.
Operation Euphrates Shield has as one of its unstated objectives the creation of a pro-Turkish sphere of influence in the north which could eventually be expanded to include all of “Syrian Kurdistan” (should a KDP-like pro-Turkish party be successfully installed there) and the southern desert regions of “Sunnistan” (including potentially those in western Iraq as well).
Moreover, Turkey opened up a military base in Qatar last year, which presently serves the function of deepening the Muslim Brotherhood bonds between the two countries and also supervising part of the maritime route through which Qatari resources will travel on the way to Turkey, which will likely see much use in the coming future seeing as how the chances for a Qatar-Turkey pipeline are plummeting unless Syria can be coerced into agreeing to de-facto “federalization” to facilitate it.
Lavender – Arab Gas Pipeline:
The prospects for this pipeline are fully connected with whether or not President Assad is deposed and if Cairo and Ankara enter into a rapprochement. Ties between Egypt and Turkey have been strained ever since President Sisi overthrew pro-Turkish Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi in 2013, and they’ve struggled to return back to their prior level ever since then. Even so, there’s nothing in principle which precludes Egypt and Turkey from cooperating on the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline since they both also ‘recognize’ “Israel”.
Black – Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline:
One of the most ambitious energy projects in the future stands to be the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline, and it’s probably one of the reasons why Turkey decided to publicly reconcile with “Israel” after the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident. Turkey doesn’t directly have any stake in this initiative, but it does have a chance to get involved via its client ‘state’ of Northern Cyprus, specifically if this entity enters into a federal arrangement with the rest of Cyprus which could give it and its decision makers access to the offshore Aphrodite deposit.
This in turn would essentially give Turkey a channel through which it could also profit from this project, but more importantly, become a strategic overseer over a crucial transit section of it (via a federalized settlement to the Cyprus conflict and the North’s corresponding influence on the united entity’s economic policy), thereby propelling Turkish influence to even higher levels than previously thought possible. Ankara would then be able to have yet another form of leverage over Athens which could complement TANAP and possibly lead to Greek concessions in the Aegean Islands dispute sometime in the future.
Turkey lost almost all of the influence that it thought it had gained following the overthrow and killing of Gaddafi after Libya slid into a multisided civil war, and Ankara has yet to claw back even a fraction of it despite its reported assistance to some of the armed groups (Neo-Ottoman proxies) there. Erdogan triumphantly strutted across the three post-“Arab Spring” North African states of Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia at the end of 2011, but in the years since, Turkey’s influence has considerably diminished over each one of them, except perhaps strategically irrelevant (in this specific context) Tunisia.
The US’ hopes for achieving a transregional Muslim Brotherhood series of pro-Turkish satellite states failed miserably after the Syrian people refused to surrender and Libya consequently slid into civil war. The 2013 Egyptian coup spelled the final end of this geopolitical project, at least in its originally intended iteration, though it might receive a late boost of sorts if aging Algerian President Bouteflika passes away and a second Islamist Civil War breaks out in the sprawling North African country.
However, even in such a case, the close proximity to Europe and very high likelihood of uncontrollable immigration flows portends a rapid reaction intervention by the Western Great Powers (led by France) in order to stem the predictable chaos, which would probably work against Turkish Neo-Ottoman strategic interests. Correspondingly, the resolution of the Libyan Civil War probably won’t be to Turkey’s benefit since Western and even Russian companies are poised to gain influence over the country’s energy exports and squeeze out Turkey.
Tanzania and Mozambique:
The North African obstacles interfering with Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman global blueprint aren’t present in Southeast Africa, though, which is why this region of the world is so promising for Ankara when it comes to securing reliable energy access. Erdogan and his team seem to have already realized this, which might be why Turkey is opening up a military base in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. This isn’t just to fight against Al Shabaab like the press releases make it sound, but to also eventually exercise influence along the north-south maritime route which will become ever more important as Turkey seeks to diversify its dependence on Russian resources by becoming a larger purchaser of Tanzania and Mozambique’s.
On a broader level, Sub-Saharan African offers enormous market and agricultural potential for Turkey, and Ankara’s diplomatic offensive of the past years in opening more embassies and consulates all across the continent, as well as Turkey’s improved flight connectivity to dozens of cities, improves the odds that this will reap profitable future dividends. There’s also the fact that nearly a quarter of all the world’s Muslims live in Africa, where they constitute nearly half of the population, which plays into Turkey’s Neo-Ottoman Caliphate narrative by improving the soft power image that it has in eyes of some co-confessionals. Taken even further, it’s possible that Turkey’s military inroads with Somalia and its strategic ones with Tanzania and Mozambique might serve as springboards for further Great Power expansion deeper into the continent.
(Continued in Part III).
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