Turkey, Russia and China in Central Asia

At the following Wikipedia map, from the article “List of Turkic dynasties and countries”, you can see the Turkic countries. The term “Turkic” refers to the countries that are either of Turkic origin or they are Turkic speaking.

Picture 1

Map of Turkic Countries

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Turkic_dynasties_and_countries

The list of Turkic counties includes Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan has ethnic and linguistic ties with Iran and not Turkey, and that’s why Tajikistan does not appear with red on the map. There is even a Turkic Council, which has its base in Constantinople (Istanbul), and its members are Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have decided not to join the council, but they are welcome to join in the future if they decide so.

I have mentioned many times the great importance of the countries of Central Asia i.e. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, since two of them are very rich in oil (Kazakhstan) and gas (Turkmenistan). I have also mentioned many times Turkey’s efforts to send the oil and natural gas of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Europe, in order to keep a part of it, in order to earn huge transit fees, and finally in order to increase her geopolitical significance. But Turkey is not only interested in making some energy deals with the countries of Central Asia. As you can see at the following map, the countries of Central Asia are ex-members of the Soviet Union, and they are weak and unstable countries, encircled by Russia, China, Turkey and Iran. The countries of Central Asia are at the epicenter of the energy policies of these four countries.

Picture 2

Map of Central Asia

Turkey wants to send their natural gas and oil to Europe in order to reduce her dependence on Russia, but also to earn transit fees and increase her geopolitical significance. Turkey’s advantage is that it offers an alternative to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, two countries which are surrounded by two competitors, Iran and Russia, and only one buyer i.e. China. These countries want to reduce their dependence on China, and get rid of Russia’s pressures.

China wants to absorb the oil and gas of the region, in order to avoid the sea lanes, where the American Navy is dominant, but also because the oil and gas of Central Asia is a cheap source of energy for China, due to China’s geographical proximity with  Central Asia.

Russia wants to prevent the oil and gas of Central Asia from reaching the European markets, where Russia is the dominant player. Russia is annoyed by the increased Chinese influence in Central Asia, but Russia puts up with the Chinese influence, because by absorbing the resources of the region, the Chinese make it harder for the oil and gas of the region to reach to Europe. However it must be noted that the increased cooperation between China and Central Asia will at some point bring military cooperation too, and that’s a problem for Russia, because Central Asia is located under West Siberia, and most of the Russian oil (62%) and natural gas (89%) production comes from West Siberia, as you can see at the following Energy Information Administration map. You can see that West Siberia is located above Kazakhstan, and it lies after the Ural Mountains, which are Russia’s natural shield at her eastern flank.

Picture 3

Map of Russian Oil and Gas Fields

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=18051

Therefore in the past Central Asia also worked as a security buffer for Russia, which will not be the case in the future since there will be growing Chinese presence in the area. At some point the growing economic cooperation between China and the countries of Central Asia will also develop to a military cooperation. And maybe Russia and China are currently allies, but nobody knows what will happen in the next decades, or even in the next years. In any case it is a sure thing that Russia is not glad to see China dominating a region that was traditionally influenced by Russia, and which is located under the oil and natural gas fields of West Siberia.

During the 20th century the countries of Central Asia were members of the Soviet Union, and they were under Russian influence. In a sense these countries, together with the countries of Eastern Europe were Russian colonies. These countries were for Russia what the African countries were for the Europeans. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, the other three players i.e. China, Turkey and Iran, increased their influence over Central Asia. Each country has its advantages in this battle for influence.

Russia still has strong political and military ties with the region, and most of the countries are run by communist dictators who are ex members of the Soviet communist party. It is true of course that old friendships can not always prove to be as strong as economic interests. That’s the reason Vladimir Putin said in 2014 that there was never a country called Kazakhstan, and that this region has always been under Russian influence, and that’s how things should stay in the future, as you can read at the following Guardian article, titled “Kazakhstan is latest Russian neighbour to feel Putin’s chilly nationalist rhetoric”, September 2014. Putin wanted to remind to the President of Kazakhstan that he should be very careful with his relations with NATO and the West.

Russia has strong political and military power over Central Asia, but China has the economic power, because China is the largest investor in Central Asia, and it is the country that buys most of the regions oil and gas.

Iran would like to see the oil and gas of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan passing through Iran before reaching Europe and the Indian Ocean. For Iran these countries are natural competitors, but if their oil and gas was to pass through Iran before reaching the West and the South, Iran would obtain leverage over these counties. Moreover Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan would stop pushing for solutions like the Trans-Caspian Pipeline and the TAPI Pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), which would bypass Iran, reducing the Iranian geopolitical and economic influence. See map 4.

Picture 4

Map of TAPI Pipeline

As I said Russia has military and political influence over Central Asia, China has economic influence, but Turkey has cultural influence over the region, and it can also prove to be an alternative for these countries. Religion was almost banned as long as these countries were members of the Soviet Union, but things changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now Turkey can use Islam to increase her influence over Central Asia, and she can also employ Islamist fighters in order to increase her influence.

As you can read at the following Foreign Policy article, titled “IMU Members Pledge Support to ISIS”, March 2015, the Sunni Islamists of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) declared their support for ISIS i.e. the Islamic State, which is influenced by Turkey. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan wants to overthrow the communist dictator Islam Karimov, who is an ex member of the Soviet communist party, and has been Uzbekistan’s president since the country’s independence in 1991.

If you take a look at the map, you will see that it is Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan that have a motive to cooperate with Turkey, in order to avoid their competitors Iran and Russia, and in order to reduce their economic dependence on China. Uzbekistan on the other hand is poor in energy reserves country, and it wants the oil and natural gas of the region to move eastwards, in order to pass through Uzbekistan, generating transit fees and investments for Uzbekistan.

That’s the reason relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan have been problematic as you can read at the following Hurriyet article, titled “Turkish FM in Uzbekistan to reignite relations”, July 2014. On the contrary Turkey’s relations with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have been great, as you can read at the following article of Daily Sabah, titled “Turkey and Kazakhstan: A relationship to cherish”, April 2015, and at Today’s Zaman article titled “Turkey, Turkmenistan seal new energy deals”, March 2015. Daily Sabah and Today’s Zaman are the English editions of the Sabah and the Zaman, two of the largest Turkish newspapers.

Turkey wants to play a dominant role in Central Asia, a region where the Muslim and Turkic element is dominant, and that’s why Turkey and China have problems over the Chinese province of Xinjiang in East China, which borders Kazakhstan. In Xinjiang the Muslim element is dominant, and the Islamist organization “East Turkestan Islamic Movement” is very active. For the conflict between Turkey and China over Xinjiang also see also “Turkey VS China” at the following link.

https://iakal.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/turkey-vs-china/

Picture 5

Map of Xinjiang

I must also say that the United States, together with India, support the TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), because they do not want the countries of Central Asia to be dependent only on China for their exports, and they do not want India to depend on Iran for energy supplies. Moreover if the Turkmen natural gas, and later maybe the Kazakh oil, were to reach the Indian Ocean, they could be an alternative for the oil and natural gas of the Persian Gulf. The TAPI pipeline is not a problem for Russia, but it is a great problem for the Arabs and the Iranians, who count on Asia for their oil and natural gas exports. Therefore the Arabs and the Iranians try to block TAPI in Afghanistan. For more details for the war in Afghanistan see “Pakistan VS Taliban”

https://iakal.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/pakistan-vs-taliban/

For the oil and natural gas fields of the region see the following map from Columbia University.

Picture 6

Map of oil and naturla gas fields in Middle East

http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/images/maps/Oil_and_Oil_Facilities_lg.jpg

Relevant Articles

For the first Wikipedia article see

“List of Turkic dynasties and countries”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Turkic_dynasties_and_countries

For the second Wikipedia article see

“Turkic Council”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkic_Council

For the Guardian article see

“Kazakhstan is latest Russian neighbour to feel Putin’s chilly nationalist rhetoric”, September 2014

6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Paragraphs

But it is in the south, not in the north-west, that the chilly blast of Putin’s rhetoric is being felt, far away from Europe and from Nato.

In little-noticed remarks last week, he called into question the legitimacy of the post-Soviet state of Kazakhstanwhile ordering the Kazakhs to be on their best behaviour when it came to serving Russian interests.

The remarks, to an audience of young people in Russia on Friday, sent shocke waves through the central Asian republic, which also hosts a large ethnic Russian minority centred in the north on the Russian border.

Putin said there had never been a country called Kazakhstan, that the republic was purely the product of the current president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/01/kazakhstan-russian-neighbour-putin-chilly-nationalist-rhetoric

For the Foreign Policy article see

IMU Members Pledge Support to ISIS”, March 2015

http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/31/imu-members-pledge-support-to-isis-pakistani-delegation-heads-to-saudi-arabia-gujarat-passes-contentious-anti-terror-bill/

For the Hurriyet article see

“Turkish FM in Uzbekistan to reignite relations”, July 2014

3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Paragraphs

Turkey was the first country to recognize Uzbekistan’s independence in 1991. But relations with Uzbekistan began to deteriorate when Uzbek troops killed hundreds of demonstrators in the town of Andijan on 13 May, 2005, provoking an international outcry.
Turkey backed a U.N. resolution condemning Uzbekistan over its human rights violations in Andijan, provoking the ire of strongman Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
“We are all upset that relations have not been at the desired level in recent years. We hope the current political environment will pave the way for us to enhance our relationship,” Davutoğlu said.
Prior to his visit, Davutoğlu referred to the halt in Turkish and Uzbek relations since 2006 as a “misunderstanding.”

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-fm-in-uzbekistan-to-reignite-relations.aspx?pageID=238&nID=68947&NewsCatID=510

For the Daily Sabah article see

“Turkey and Kazakhstan: A relationship to cherish”, April 2015

1st and 2nd Paragraph

t year, Kazakhstan will celebrate the 25th year of its independence. With a population of over 17 million and a large landmass, it is one of the pivotal states of Central Asia. It is also strategically situated between two major powers: Russia and China. Kazakhstan has extensive economic and political relations with Europe and the U.S. This makes Kazakhstan a country of ‘balance-politics,’ where the Kazakh leadership seeks a foreign policy based on regional cooperation and global engagement.
President Erdogan visited Kazakhstan on April 16-17 to hold the second meeting of the High Level Strategic Council between the two countries. Turkey was the first country to recognize Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991. Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s President, still recounts with gratitude how Turgut Ozal, President of Turkey at the time, called him only two hours after Kazakhstan declared independence. Since then, the two countries developed close relations at political, economic and cultural levels. Turkish companies have completed projects worth $20 billion. The 2014 trade volume was over $3 billion. The goal is to reach $10 billion over the next five years. 

6th Paragraph

Many elements unite Turkey and Kazakhstan. Economic relations, as mentioned before, are gaining strength, although there is more work to be done to reach the $10 billion trade goal. The two countries see each other as political allies, and they cooperate on numerous regional and global issues from the group of Central Asian Turkish republics to the U.N.

http://www.dailysabah.com/columns/ibrahim-kalin/2015/04/18/turkey-and-kazakhstan-a-relationship-to-cherish

For the Today’s Zaman article see

“Turkey, Turkmenistan seal new energy deals”, του Μαρτίου 2015

1st Paragraph

Following a meeting with Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdimuhamedov in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan will establish a trilateral mechanism on energy issues, with the first leaders’ meeting to take place in Turkmenistan.

6th Paragraph

In November last year, Turkmenistan and Turkey came to a framework agreement according to which Turkmenistan will supply gas for a new pipeline project — called the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) — that could help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian gas imports. When Erdoğan visited Ashgabat in November he underscored that Turkey attaches great importance to the delivery of Turkmenistan’s natural gas to Europe via Turkey. “Europe’s energy security is important for us,” Erdoğan said at the time.

http://www.todayszaman.com/anasayfa_turkey-turkmenistan-seal-new-energy-deals_374197.html

A great article for the antagonism between Turkey, Russia and China in Central Asia is Stratfor’s “Turkey’s Growing Involvement in Central Asia”, April 2012.

https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/turkeys-growing-involvement-central-asia

3 thoughts on “Turkey, Russia and China in Central Asia”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s