The world is changing and woe to the politician who remains stuck in the rut of yesterday’s geopolitical thinking. At times, almost every decade can bring about a global change. Consider China: this weak colossus, roughly a hundred years ago torn by colonial powers, eventually became the world’s most populated communist country. As such, it naturally aligned itself with its Soviet elder brother, and this ideological alliance transpired as a huge threat to the West. Next, came Nixon’s ingenious political sleight of hand and China was turned into the Soviet Union’s rival, much to Washington’s delight. And then, when the capitalist economy adopted by the Middle Kingdom seemed to be pushing Beijing into the West’s embrace and anchoring it firmly within the global financial system, China has gradually emerged as a superpower on the rise, a challenger, to be reckoned with. At present, swerving more towards Moscow than Washington, Beijing is pursuing an ambitious policy of its own.
Much the same can be said about Turkey. A sick man of Europe at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, on the verge of disintegration in the early twenties of the previous century, it slowly recuperated and rebuilt some of its former greatness. Anchored in the Western military defence system, it was a reliable foothold of the free world in the Middle East and a bridgehead for possible operations against the West’s archenemy: the Soviet Union. This was not to last long, though. With the fall of the “first country of workers and farmers” and the political earthquake that took place in the following decade or so, Turkey seems to be parting ways with its pro-Western and secular policies and reviving among its population the great ambitions of the long defunct Ottoman Empire. Nor is Ankara’s allegiance to NATO a given. With the purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence system done in open defiance of Washington’s wishes, Turkey exercises its sovereignty like barely any other American ally.
Are we facing a realignment of alliances in the making in the Middle and Far East? The February Gefira issue tries to shed some light on it.
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