Abstract

This article examines Turkish foreign policy towards the Caucasus and argues that Turkey regards the region as a land of opportunity and influence. It first looks into the transformation of Turkish foreign policy in the last decade and its subsequent impact on its policy towards the countries in the Caucasus, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. The article argues that Turkey’s international stance has been repositioned from being the “buffer-zone” of the Cold War, to the “model country” of the post- Soviet era and finally to the “central country” of the new international order, which influenced its policy towards the Caucasus. Finally, the article posits that Turkey is an energy corridor which connects the region to Europe and effective use of energy resources and healthy integration of the region to the world economy would bring peace and stability to the Caucasus.

Key Words

Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Caspian energy, Turkish-Armenian protocols.

Introduction

The end of the Cold War, the new wave of globalization, the events of 9/11, the rise in international terrorism, the increased tension between the East and the West signal a new world order, and the necessity for countries to re-position themselves within this new context. Along with many other countries, Turkey has gone through a process of re-positioning itself in line with the new international setting. Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey is no longer the buffer zone of the West. The European Union’s rejection of Turkey’s entry bid in 1989 added insult to injury and contributed to the emergence of a sense of alienation in Ankara. Turkish policy makers reached a conclusion that Turkey’s former strategic value in the West had substantially decreased. The newly emerging republics in the former Soviet south had created a potential sphere of influence. For these emerging independent nations Turkey is considered a model, with its democratic and secular identity and its free-market economy. This role as a model country was encouraged by Turkey’s Western allies with the expectation that Turkey’s influence would limit the roles of Russia and Iran in this region.1 However, the economic crises in the 1990s and the political unrest in the country prevented Turkey from having an effective role in the region. Consequently, the role of the “model” or “bridge” country that was ascribed to Turkey by the West was inconclusive. The power vacuum in Central Asia and the Caucasus that was anticipated to be filled by Turkey was eventually filled by Russia.