Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Turkey: an old ally, economic independence, and a "new strategic partnership"

Today, the Council on Foreign Relations released a 90 page report titled "U.S.-Turkey Relations: A New Partnership." Written by a large, blueribbon taskforce headed by Madeline Albright and Stephen Hadley, the report urged that U.S. policy makers "to make every effort to develop U.S.- Turkey ties in order to make a strategic relationship a reality."

This is an interesting statement, as any student of recent history would think that the U.S. and Turkey already had a longstanding "strategic relationship," dating back to President Harry Truman's decision to start the Cold War in 1947 by announcing that he would furnish military aid to Turkey and Greece, both in the underbelly of the USSR.  Within five years, Turkey had joined the newly born North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), despite having a littoral rather far from the North Atlantic.  Within a decade, Turkey had hosted major NATO military drills--Operation "Grand Slam" and "Deep Water," with as many as 2,000 warships and 8,000 marines taking part.  Most consequentially, Turkey agreed in 1962 to host a battery of U.S. ballistic missiles, equipped with nuclear warheads, near the coastal city of Izmir.  Moscow, in a stereotypical turn of Cold War logic, felt that they needed a similar capability, and set up their own nuclear missiles in Fidel Castro's new Communist Cuba, setting off what is known as the "Cuban Missile Crisis."  This, of course, resolved diplomatically, and both the U.S. and USSR removed their bombs from Turkey and Greece, respectively.

At the end of the Cold War, during the Reagan years, the U.S.-Turkey relationship grew stronger still, under the cunning eye of Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hupe, one of DC's original cold warriors. Born to a wealthy Austrian family in 1903, Strausz-Hupe immigrated to America at age twenty, eventually ending up in New York City, where he worked at a Wall Street bank and wrote for Current History magazine.

As it was the 1930s, Strausz-Hupe's eye was focused across the Atlantic to his native Europe, where totalitarian societies were being nurtured in both Hitler's Germany and Stalin’s Russia. This time period influenced Strausz-Hupe greatly, and in his worldview he never abandoned this prism of totalitarianism. After World War II, he was offered a prestigious position at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where he founded the Foreign Policy Research Institute in 1955. This would become his pulpit from which he preached a hard-line, totalizing view of the Cold War as a battle between ideological extremes.
In 1957, in the inaugural issue of the FPRI journal Orbis, Strausz-Hupe penned an essay, "The Balance of Tomorrow," in which he laid out a shocking plan for the new American Century:
Will the coming world order be the American universal empire? It must be that.... The coming world order will mark the last phase in a historical transition and cap the revolutionary epoch of this century. The mission of the American people is to bury the nation states, lead their bereaved peoples into larger unions, and overawe with its might the would-be saboteurs of the new order who have nothing to offer mankind but a putrefying ideology and brute force. It is likely that the accomplishment of this mission will exhaust the energies of America and that, then, the historical center of gravity will shift to another people. But this will matter little, for the opening of new horizons which we now faintly glimpse will usher in a new stage in human history.... For the next 50 years or so the future belongs to America. The American empire and mankind will not be opposites, but merely two names for the universal order under peace and happiness. Novus orbis terrarum
While this type of message may seem blunt today, the FPRI was very popular at the time, assembling among its staff of "associates," as they were called, William Elliot, the Harvard Professor and CIA founder, as well as William Kintner, head of the Army Planning Staff.  Among the younger members were Henry Kissinger and James Schlesinger.  The FPRI hosted fancy dinners under the sarcophagi at Penn's museum of history, and long-winded salons at Washington's elite Cosmos Club, building the ideologies behind the new "American Universal Empire."

Strausz-Hupe's diplomatic career began in 1968, when he was appointed ambassador to Sri Lanka.  Over the next twelve years, he moved around posts in Europe, including as Ambassador to NATO in 1975.  During this time, he lead the negotiations with Britain over the use of a military base at Diego Garcia, which London had just made room for by brutally expelling the Indian Ocean island's population.  When he was appointed Ambassador to Turkey in 1980, Strausz-Hupe chose a young version of himself to serve as his prime assistant, Washington's famous Prince of Darkness, Richard Perle.  Both men were bon vivants and think-tank scholars (Perle at RAND), who shared a hardline view of world affairs.  Strausz-Hupe, as ambassador under the charge of the State Department, even subverted normal government operations to bring on Perle, who was at the time working in the Pentagon and would normally have no connection to diplomatic negotiations. Perle himself told an audience at the Foreign Policy Research Institute of the rarity of an "American ambassador to invite a Defense Department official to take charge of a sensitive negotiation that would normally be handled by the Department of State, yet that is precisely what Ambassador Strausz-Hupe did."

As point-man for negotiating with the new military government in Ankara, Perle ran a scenario straight from the textbook of Empire building.  With simultaneous negotiations taking place over both its massive external debt and its military acquisitions, Turkey was transformed into the prototypical neo-colonial outpost. While Washington based international lenders like the IMF and World Bank imposed strict financial dictates on government spending and export laws and enforced the privatization of state-run industries, the Pentagon and State Department colluded to negotiate US arm sales and basing rights.
At the close of the decade, Perle, who had led the negotiations with Ankara on the basing and defense agreements, then went into private-practice in order to profit off his new closeness with the Turkish security establishment.  He opened a consulting firm, International Advisors Inc, with his associate Douglas Feith.  Their major customer?  The Turkish government.

At the time, with the USSR disintegrating around them, Turkey saw itself as a new regional power, and as such initiated a policy to bring under their influence the newly independent states of the Caucasus and Central Asia.  “Pan-Turkism,” an Ottoman-era ideology that imagined one united people stretching from the Mediterranean into Western China, was reintroduced into official language as the Soviet Union collapsed. As the decade turned, “Turkey’s cultural, linguistic, historical and religious bonds with the newly independent states were frequently mentioned as the basis for Ankara’s influential future role in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia,” and as such, a “Turkish speaking community of states stretching from the Adriatic to the Great Wall of China increasingly became part of official discourse” (Jung & Piccoli, Turkey at the Crossroads, London: Zed Books 2001, pg. 179).  In the fall of 1991, a meting was held in Ankara between Turkish president Turgut Ozal and the presidents of all five republics plus Azerbaijan. Here, Ozal “pledged to support their declaration of sovereignty and emergence of a Pan-Turkic world” (Ibid).

Washington was very supportive of this policy, as a "Pan-Turkic World" also served as a geopolitical wet dream, a march of hard and soft power straight into the heart of Eurasia, and a corridor that bifurcated the energy rich lands of the Caspian Basin and the Persian Gulf.   On February 12th, 1992, President Bush met with the Turkish Prime Minister in Washington.  Afterwards, Bush stated “Turkey is indeed a friend, a partner of the United States, and it’s also a model to others, especially those newly independent republics of Central Asia. In a region of changing tides, it endures as a beacon of stability.”(WP, 2/12/92) 

Meanwhile, James Baker was on a five-day whirlwind tour of the Caucasus and Central Asia, visiting Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.  In an unusually frank assessment back in Washington, one of Baker’s aides stated that the secretary’s conclusion, upon visiting this vast new swath of Eurasia, the political spoils of the Cold War, was that “some of these new countries are going to make it, and others are going to join the swelling ranks of third world basket cases, just limping along. Those that are most likely to make it are those like Turkmenistan that have economies based on agriculture, oil, gas and minerals.”(NYT, 2/15/92)

Throughout the 1990's, Washington D.C. took advantage of the new "Pan-Turkic World" to provide military training to the region.  Through the State Department's International Military Education and Training program (IMET), the U.S. military provided training and support to nearly every government newly independent from Moscow.  From 1989 to 1999, Turkey was the largest recipient in the world of IMET training, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists, adding on to the 23,000 Turkish officers who have been trained by the U.S. since 1950.  Subsequently, these Turkish officers then trained their Central Asian counterparts.  Cevik Bir, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Turkish Army, noted in 1996 that “2,000 army officers from Central Asian nations such as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are studying in Turkish military schools and academies.” (WP, 6/6/96)

NATO, of which Turkey is a member, also took part in the effort, establishing a misnamed "Partnership for Peace,"structure, which served to integrate and control the new militaries of the region.  By 1995, a NATO controlled "Central Asian Battalion" had been established between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and large scale military exercises were being conducted at Fort Polk, Louisiana.  One such exercise, named Cooperative Nugget, was held over 18 days in August 1995, and attended by 970 officers from over 14 states, all "Partnership for Peace" countries.  They received training from American, British, and Canadian soldiers.   In 1997, the Central Asian Battalion held their largest drills yet, which began with 500 paratroopers from the 82nd airborne making the longest flight in human history to Shymkent, Kazakhstan, where they would lead a week of aviation and ground training drills with troops from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Turkey, and Russia.[83] Two months later, when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev visited Washington, the two nations formalized their military ties by signing a Defense Cooperation Agreement that called for, among other things, 40 similar missions to take place in 1998.[84] A training exchange program was also set up between different state National Guards and Central Asia. In what Chalmers Johnson describes as a “military version of the “sister-city” relationship,” Kazakhstan was paired with Arizona, Kyrgyzstan with Montana, and Uzbekistan with Louisiana.[85] In his prescient book Resource Wars, Michael Klare writes of this change:
The extension of American military power into the Caspian Sea regions is, by itself, a momentous geopolitical development. As shown by the CENTRAZBAT exercises, it will require Washington to build and sustain military relationships with the Central Asian republics, as well as to construct a globe-spanning logistical capability. In time, it could also involve the establishment of American military bases in an area that was once part of the Soviet Union.[86]
NATO, the Cold War "defensive" military alliance, was now immediately being turned into a structure to take over the Eurasian continent, a land grabbing machine that aimed to build bases as far as the mountainous hinterlands of Central Asia.  Within a decade, conflicts had led to the construction of new American military bases in the Balkans, Uzbekistan, Kyrghzstan, and Afghanistan, as well as the massive militarization and base construction in the Persian Gulf that followed the 2003 Iraq war.  As it was put by Thomas Donnely, a director of the Project for a New American Century, in an email circulated  among military analysts, the United States "Imperial Perimeter" was expanding into the heart of Eurasia.

Throughout the 1990's, Turkey played a willing role in this imperial expansion, through the above mentioned IMET training, as well as by hosting NATO warplanes taking off on daily patrols, and at times bombing runs, over Iraq, the famous "No Fly Zone" enforced without UN approval by Washington, London, and Paris.  At the same time, brutal sanctions were put on the Iraqi economy, leading to a plague of death from malnutrition and sickness across Iraq.  The Iraqi industrial base, such as electricity and water-treatment plants, were destroyed in the U.S. carpet bombing that took place during the 1991 Gulf War, and then sanctions prevented them from ever being rebuilt.  Hospitals could not get supplies or equipment.  Turkey, as an aspirant to be a regional power, certainly seemed to be following the dictates of the Atlantic capitals when it enabled a genocide against its Southern Arab neighbor.  

In 1996, Turkey also signed an extensive five-year military agreement with Israel, tying its military and foreign policy even closer to the West. The agreement called for “the exchange of military information, experience, and personnel, as well as joint training exercises, the exchange of military observers at each other’s exercises, reciprocal port access, for naval vessels, and for each country’s planes to exercise in the other’s airspace for one week four times a year.” Also strengthened in this agreement were the longstanding intelligence ties between Turkey and Israel, as revealed by Deputy Chief of Staff Bir in his April 1996 address to the Washington Research Institute when he stated “that Israel had requested Turkey’s assistance in collecting intelligence information. Israel’s first priority target was Syria, while Iran was the second.” The third part of the agreement, which was finalized later that September, involved a sharing of military technology between Turkey and Israel. For the Turkish armed forces, the Israeli military made a unique partner, due to its “technology, reliability, and the capacity to cover almost all defense needs,” allowing Turkey to engage in “a plan for rearmament and modernization costing in the order of US $150 billion in twenty-five years.”

The 2003 Iraq war served as a rude interruption to this empire building, as the Turkish public was so opposed to the war that the Parliament was forced to reject the U.S. requests to use the country as a staging ground for the invasion.  Since then, Turkey's relationship with Israel had also cooled, especially as of late.  One loud conflict erupted over the Mahvi Mavara flotilla episode.  The Turkish boat, part of a humanitarian flotilla mission to Gaza which was allowed to depart from Turkey, was attacked by Israeli commandoes, and nine of the activists on board, all Turks, were killed. One of the men, Furkan Duglan, age 19, was also a U.S. citizen, having been born in Troy, N.Y.  Included in the eight other dead men were a dissident journalist and the coach of the Turkish national Taekwondo team.  This incident, coupled with Turkish condemnation of the 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza, has put a serious hamper on Israeli-Turkish relations.  

Journalist Jim Lobe, an astute observer of Washington D.C., recently wrote "much of the news coverage of Turkey here over the past decade has been negative," and that the recent Turkish-Israeli spats, "sparked a wave of anti-Turkish acrimony promoted, in particular, by neo- conservatives, who had long been hostile to the AKP due to its anti-military positions and Islamist roots. The major institutions of the powerful Israel lobby have also since quietly retaliated by supporting the Greek and Armenian lobbies against Turkish interests in Congress."

Even in Syria, the Turkish government has yet to relinquish to hawkish American calls from the likes of John McCain, for a "humanitarian corridor" based in Turkey, would which send western military boots on the ground into Syria.  Despite large refugee camps and the occasional cross border incident, Turkey has not yet called in the Marines.  There is however, much reporting that Turkey has been allowing a covert operation to take place on its soil to arm and shelter the "Free Syrian Army."  Journalists like Pepe Ecobar and Philip Giraldi have written about the secret U.S. and NATO training and supply center for the FSA, located at Incirlik airbase in Southern Turkey.  It seems that Turkey is not afraid of a little simmering conflict on its Syrian border, however is nervous of a full scale Western war under the doctrine of "humanitarian intervention," which appears to be on the planning boards of a number of Western strategists.  

Of course, as Ankara has turned away from its Western partners, the Chinese have moved in to the power vacuum with their brand of economic diplomacy. In April, a larger Turkish delegation led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited China, the highest-level meetings between the two states in 27 years. This visit signified Ankara's growing role in China's Eurasian Land Bridge strategy, aimed at connecting the massive Chinese factory base, the so called "workshop of the world" to the markets of Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe. As the economist F. William Engdahl recently put it in an extensive article on the subject:

The fact that Erdogan was also granted a high-level meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the man slated to be next Chinese President, and was granted an extraordinary visit to China’s oil-rich Xinjiang Province also shows the high priority China is placing on its relations with Turkey.

Source: Bingol Online
While in China, Erdogan solidified plans for the Chinese to finance and build a high-speed rail line running across the Anatoloian plateau, connecting Turkey's easternmost province of Kars with its far west province of Erdine, a $35 billion project first introduced in 2010.  From Erdine, the rail line would link up with existing train lines running West, eventually reaching the Atlantic capitals of London and Madrid.  The Kars-Erdine rail corridor was neatly summed up in a report in the Turkish english language newspaper Today's Zaman:
The line is designed to pass through 29 provinces, connecting the east and west of Turkey and reducing the duration of travel from the current 36 hours to 12. With the completion of the planned Edirne-Kars line, the total length of high-speed rail inside Turkey is expected to reach 10,000 kilometers by 2023. Under an agreement signed between China and Turkey in October 2010, China agreed to extend loans of $30 billion for the planned rail network. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway connecting Azerbaijan's capital city of Baku to Kars, currently under construction, increases the strategic importance of the Edirne-Kars line.
For China, the Erdine-Kars line is the key link in their attempt to build a third Eurasian Land Bridge, connecting the Chinese ports of Gaundong and Shenzhen to the Atlantic port of Rotterdam, and on the way connecting the giant markets of Southern Asia, running through Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Iran.  At this point, the line connects to Erdine-Kars, and then hooks up with the existing lines to Western Europe.  Overall, the third land bridge would touch 20 countries and have a total length of about 15,000 kilometers, a distance 3,000-6,000 km less than the maritime journey through the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Malacca.  This plan was developed in 2009, at China's Pan Pearl River Delta Cooperation and Development Forum.  There is also future hope to build rail lines from Turkey down through Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, connecting China directly to the African Continent.

Source: Yunus Emre Hatunaglo
Besides the Erdine-Kars line, China has made numerous other inroads into Turkish infrastructure development, tying together the world's two fastest growing economies. Chinese firms are bidding to build two nuclear power plants in Turkey, at Akkayu on the Mediteranean Coast and Sinop on the Black Sea, as well as a major bridge over the Bosporus and a proposed third airport in Istanbul. All together, 27 Chinese CEOs attended meetings with Turkish PM Erdogan on his recent visit to China. 
For an example of how the  high speed rail networks effect commerce, one has to only turn back a year, to the launch of China's Second Eurasian Land Bridge Project, rail lines that run through Kazakhstan to Russia, then through Beluras to Western Europe.  May 2011 saw the launch of five-day-a-week direct freight rail service from Antwerp, Europe's second largest port and rail-hub, to Chongquin, the industrial center in southwest China.  It now only takes 20-25 for cargo like automotive and chemical goods to traverse Eurasia, compared to the 36 day maritime journey.  There are, however, plans to quickly cut the duration of the rail journey down to only 15-20 days, at which point the transcontinental journey would be cut in half, and the pace of industry doubled. 

For BMW, this has already become a reality, with the October 2011 launch of daily freight shipments over high-speed rail from their plant in Liepzieg, Germany to Shenyang, in Northeast China, crossing a distance of 7,000 miles in only 23 days. According (to Dr. Karl-Friedrich Rausch, a board member of DB Schencker, the transportation group that operates the German side of the railway, "the direct trains are twice as fast as maritime transport, followed by over-the-road transport to the Chinese hinterland."

Besides its function as an East-West corridor, Turkey also sits right next to the recent energy discovery boom taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  In the past three years, massive new natural gas and oil fields have been discovered underneath the waters of Israel, Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey.  The story begins in Israel, when in 2009 Noble Energy, the Houston based firm that held the Israeli exploration contract, discovered the Tamar gas field 50 miles west of Haifa.  At first estimates, Tamar was thought to contain 8.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the largest gas discovery of the year, and one that increased Israel's gas reserves from 1.5 tcf to 9.8 tcf, a rise of over 900%. 

Prompted by this discovery, the U.S. Geological Survey undertook their first ever comprehensive assessment of the region, officially known as the Levant Basin Province.  Their results, published in April 2010, were stunning, finding that the Basin contained 122 tcf of natural gas, and 1.7 billion barrels of oil.  Brenda Pierce, the program coordinator, called the region "comparable to some of the other large provinces in the world," holding gas resources "bigger than anything we have assessed in the United States."

The possibilities of this new el Dorado were confirmed later that year, when Noble Energy discovered the Leviathan field, 84 miles west of Haifa and 3 miles undersea.  Leviathan is estimated to hold 16 tcf of gas, the worlds largest deepwater gas discovery in a decade.  Israel now found itself with enough energy to supply its electricity needs for 100 years, and soon positioned itself to become an exporter of energy.  

Hoping for their own bonanzas, other countries in the region began to explore for offshore energy deposits, and soon Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, and potentially Syria had all discovered new resources.  In Greece, surveys conducted in 2010 estimated that the Ionian Sea contains 22 billion barrels of oil, while the Aegean Sea contains another 4 billion barrels.  Cyprus soon joined the club as well, with Noble Energy believing it will strike another major find at the Aphrodite field, in Cyprus's offshore Block 12 (located only 34 kilometers from Israel's Leviathan Field.  Estimates for Block 12's energy potential were originally as high as 10 tcf of gas, however in November 2011, Noble Energy Vice President Susan Cunningham revised this down, to 3-9 tcf, and gave only a 60% chance of reaching the deposits.  

These discoveries, or course, has created a whole new set of diplomatic kerfuffles.  Lebanon has claimed that some of the Israeli discoveries lie within Lebanese territorial waters (known as an "Exclusive Economic Zone"), going so far as to submit maps to the United Nations and drawing in the U.S State Department to mediate.  Cyprus, divided between a Greek North (an EU state) and a Turkish South, is partnering with Israel to develop a pipeline to export gas to Western Europe, against the wishes of Ankara.  For Greece, the EU-imposed economic austerity provisions took the sail out of the oil boom, as first on Brussel's chopping block were state-run enterprises like energy and port companies.  And this does not even touch on the "Arab Spring" protests that have shaken the region, the NATO backed regime change in Libya, or the armed insurrection in Syria. 


Source: James Fishelon, Yale SRAS
This type of energy geopolitics is at the heart of the Turkish-Chinese partnership, as Beijing's dream is to break the Seven Sisters (Houston and London "Big Oil") century-old control of world energy resources, and render the USAF and Fifth Fleet impotent in stopping them.  China has begun to achieve this dream, starting with the 2006 completion of an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan's Caspian littoral to China's western province of Xinjiang.  If they could build a similar pipeline from the Caspian to Turkey, they would have a direct connection to the new energy fields in the Mediterranean.  In fact, they would then have duel freight and oil lines crossing Eurasia, putting them in economic control of the worlds largest and richest continent.  As Engdahl puts it, "the aim is to literally create the world’s greatest new economic space and in turn a huge new market for not just China but all Eurasian countries, the Middle East and Western Europe."

China's international body to control this foreign policy is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), formed in 1996 between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgzstan, and Tajikistan.  Uzbekistan soon joined the group as well, and observer status was granted to Iran, India, Pakistan, and Mongolia.  As it is put by the eminent Dilip Hiro in his book "After Empire:"
 The new charter adopted by the SCO in 2003 specified "noninterference and nonalignment" in international affairs while aiming to create "a new international and political order"--implying thereby to end the role of the United States as the sole superpower, an aim first expressed by China and Russia four years earlier.
It seems that Turkey is now the key to this new political order. To put it bluntly, if China can steal Ankara from under NATO's nose, they will have won the Great Game. The "Pan-Turkic world," dreamt up as a NATO sword striking into China will have instead been flipped into a new silk road for the benefit of a Chinese dominated Asia. Highlighted in this process is the implicit failure of of U.S. Post Cold War global strategy, what the Pentagon calls an attempt at "Full Spectrum Dominance." After spending the last two decades pouring money into militarizing Central Asia, the U.S. is now seeing their influence slip away as China rushes in with industrial development.  And now Turkey, a NATO member for 60 years, could go the same way.  The last the 40 years of U.S. Foreign Policy has been devoted to securing the the Middle East and Southwest Asia, what Zbignew Bryzinski identified as an "Arc of Crisis."   This has been an entirely military project, and led to multiple wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a giant boom in military base construction.  But now, within a decade, China has moved in with an economic strategy and trumped the U.S. attempt at hegemony.         

This is the reasoning behind the CFR's thesis that a "new strategic partnership" with Ankara is needed.  They see a Turkey that is attempting to take advantage of its geographic position as an East-West bridge to forge an independent path, using both the American military machine and the Chinese economic model to prosper.    This raises the question of whether the CFR and its associated think-tank warriors will tolerate this independence, or do they want Ankara squarely back into an exclusive Western hegemonic system?  For it is not like Turkey is shying away from its NATO commitments, agreeing in the fall of 2011 to host a radar system for the long-planned European Missile Defense System, as well as being a willing participant in NATO's various "out of area" regional groupings, such as the 2004 "Istanbul Initiative," which brought Persian Gulf and Mediterranean states into NATO's orbit.  However, it seems that this is not enough, and Washington wants a Turkey that will more closely follow its dictates.  This can only be compounded by the newly discovered energy deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean, which Washington certainly does not want to fall into the control of China.  

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