ERGUN BABAHAN

Why is Turkey important for the EU?

The most recent book by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to »»

The most recent book by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter, bears the title “Strategic Vision.” The study, which questions the new role of the US and the West in the new world order, makes specific reference to the critical role that Turkey could play in the emergent new system. Above all, Brzezinski attributes the peculiar conditions of Turkey in the present time to the development model held by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who imitated European countries.

For instance, he describes Chinese pro-independent leaders Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek as the unsuccessful counterparts of Atatürk, Turkey's successful leader. The author stresses the importance of the region that he calls Eurasia in the new world order and also puts a particular emphasis on Turkey and Russia in this region. He views the European Union as a monetary union alone and notes that it will not be able to play a critical role in the formation of the new world order due to a lack of political vision. At a time when Germany has no concern other than expanding its sphere of influence by imposing economic conditions on Europe, France is seeking to prevent Germany from becoming the single power on the continent and Britain does not feel part of the EU, it is not realistic to expect such an assertion of vision and leadership in the EU.

In sum, Brzezinski says the role the EU could play in the new order cannot go beyond service as a backup force to the US, which has been weakened in recent times. To achieve this, he stresses that Turkey and Russia's integration with European culture and institutions should be secured. He further notes that while the Bug River, which separates Poland from Belarus; the Prut River, which separates Romania from Ukraine, or the Narva River, which separates Estonia from Russia, are not viewed by Europe as the natural borders of the continent, viewing the Bosporus as a division line is not meaningful.

Recalling that the notion of the geographical boundary was first coined and used by Swedish geographer Philip Johan van Stahlberg in the early 1700s, the author stresses that the notion of cultural borders used in Europe is even more dangerous. He further argues that the biggest obstacle before the identification of Turkey and Russia with a European identity is the fact that they are the heirs of two empires that defined themselves through struggle against and opposition to Europe.

Noting that Turkey has undergone a huge transformation over the last two decades, Brzezinski underlines that despite some problems in major issues, including press freedom, huge progress has been made in the field of democratization. The author places emphasis on the importance of secularism for Turkey's democratization and also recalls that Turkey's detachment from the EU process may cause Turkey to move to an Islamic or military guardianship system.

He offers three reasons for his argument:

-- Turkey's democratization process shows that democracy and modernization can coexist; so can Islam and modernization.

-- Turkey's “zero problems with neighbors” policy is critically important for Europe, which has crucial interests in the region.

-- As a secular and Muslim country, it may play a role in strengthening stability and weakening fundamentalism in the former Ottoman lands and Central Asian Turkic republics. This may directly serve the interests of Europe.

The author makes similar assessments for Russia as well. He puts forth a strong vision in his 200-page book. Politicians like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy should read it.

2012-03-05

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Columnist:: ERGUN BABAHAN