In Episode 152 of Hidden Forces
, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Soner Çağaptay, the Beyer Family fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute. Soner has written extensively on U.S.-Turkish relations, Turkish domestic politics, and Turkish nationalism and is the author of several books on Turkey including his latest “Erdoğan's Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East.”
Turkey’s neighborhood is arguably ground zero for anyone interested in studying the effects of the breakdown of the American-led international order. America and its Western allies have more or less kept the peace in the greater Middle East and Europe for the better half of the 20th century, but the misadventures in Iraq and Libya, along with the Obama administration’s decision not to intervene in Syria, coupled with Trump’s latest maneuvering of troops out of Rojava have reinforced the view that the United States is no longer committed to providing a security guarantee to the region’s most insecure countries.
And to this point, Turkey has a lot to feel insecure about. To its south, it borders Iraq and Syria, two countries that remain highly politically fractious with large Kurdish populations. To the east, it borders its strategic, regional competitor Iran. To the north, across the black sea sits Turkey’s historical nemesis Russia and to the west lie the Mediterranean and Europe. Turkey is therefore both strategically insecure and simultaneously capable of projecting influence across a wide territory, which is why it has been such an important part of NATO going back to the earliest days of the Cold War.
This makes the latest crisis that has broken out in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and an alliance of regional actors including fellow NATO member states Greece and France very concerning. Not only is there a real risk of military conflict, but the fractures that started in the Middle East with Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Syria are now extending into Europe. This poses huge security challenges for the EU, while simultaneously creating opportunities for Russia and perhaps Turkey, the latter of which stands to benefit from a reconfiguration of its western territories that would allow it to capitalize on untapped natural gas reserves in the Aegean.
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Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas
Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou
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Episode Recorded on 08/19/2020