The end of the Cold War disrupted the international order, eventually resulting in a multipolar international politics. In this fluctuating balance of power, traditional alliances have crumbled and been replaced by novel but ephemeral alliances. While many states temporarily cooperate with others on foreign and security policy, new regional initiatives follow one another.
While the United States focused on the Asia-Pacific region, a political vacuum was created in the Middle East region. Three strong candidates have now emerged who have the will and ability to fill this political vacuum: Russia, Turkey and Iran. However, Iran quickly died out due to its aggressive and expansionist foreign policy. Certainly, the long-standing international embargo on Iran has greatly contributed to this process of exhaustion.
As for Russia and Turkey, the two powers have so far managed to deal with a conflict of interests on a number of issues in their relations, establishing long-lasting cooperation despite their regional competition. Therefore, in addition to Russia’s return to the international arena as a military superpower in the post-Cold War era, Turkey has emerged as a regional power with strong political and economic support.
The Rise of Turkey
A decade earlier, however, only a few countries recognized Turkey’s emergence as a key player in its region of influence. In Syria, Turkey came face to face with the United States, Russia and Iran respectively. Relations between Turkey and the European Union have deteriorated. Eventually, even an international anti-Turkish coalition was founded around Greece in the eastern Mediterranean. Over the past decade, Turkey has proven itself by using its soft and hard power on the international scene. Above all, the country reformed its army, strengthened its naval forces and took revolutionary steps in its defense industry, including but not limited to the construction of unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
After being left alone by its NATO allies in Syria, Turkey adopted an independent foreign policy and became one of the key players in the Syrian crisis by establishing a constructive dialogue with Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, Turkey has completely defeated three major terrorist organizations, namely Daesh, the PKK and the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ), inside and outside its borders. Using its powerful navy and diplomacy, Turkey established a strong treaty with Libya on an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), changing the rules of the game in the eastern Mediterranean. During the Nagorno-Karabakh War, Turkey’s involvement changed the course of the war, ending with Azerbaijan’s recovery of the Karabakh region.
The wave of normalization
As Turkey has proven its strength on the international stage, the Turkish government is now aiming to normalize and improve its relations with neighboring countries through diplomatic channels. Given its long-established economic ties with Europe, it is no surprise that Turkey’s relations with the EU have started to improve.
Besides the rapprochement between Egypt and Turkey in the Middle East, Turkey wishes to establish lasting cooperation with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a vital step towards establishing political and economic stability in the region. Why are Turkey-UAE relations important for the Middle East?
Having immense investments around the world and strong trade with a good number of countries, the UAE has been one of the key players in the Middle East. The UAE has strong political and economic influence in Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon and many African countries. The UAE is not only an oil/natural gas rich country, but also a significant investor and producer in various economic sectors.
As Turkey is also a leading economic power in terms of strong production and construction sectors, the recent rapprochement between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates will certainly boost economic growth in these two countries. This rapprochement will also radically change the political dynamics of the Middle East. Instead of the destructive rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, this new cooperation will have positive repercussions not only in Egypt or Libya, but also in war-torn Syria.
Call of fate, the rapprochement between Turkey and the other Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is both inevitable and desirable for the future of our region.