Professor Hasan Unal, a top political scientist based in Istanbul, explains the geopolitics of his region, the eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea
by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)
When Vladimir Putin visited President Erdogan’s lavish new $500-million presidential palace in Ankara, he had one thing to say: “I’m very impressed.” Professor Hasan Unal, savoring the dry humor, derives as much pleasure in retelling the story as Putin’s remark may have been lost on Erdogan, who is famous for his lack of humor.
Professor Hasan Unal is one of Turkey’s foremost political scientists and international relations experts. I had the pleasure of spending a long afternoon with Unal at Maltepe University in Istanbul, where he now enjoys plenty of time to “just teach” after an extremely busy academic career in Ankara. These are some of the highlights of our conversation:
Tell me your views about the Khashoggi affair?
Unal: “The Turkish government played the first stage very well. When you get to the second stage, what you get is very dangerous articles in Turkish media suggesting that the Turkish government now has a wonderful opportunity to strike at the Saudi Crown Prince [Mohammed Bin Salman]. Once you move to that stage, it’s not in Turkey’s interest. Who’s going to sign on the future of the Crown Prince? Not Turkey. Not Russia. But the United States. They have invested so much in this Crown Prince. Would it be in Turkey’s interest to push the United States into a corner?
What about the explosive new equation in the Eastern Mediterranean?
Unal: “What Turkey should have done is to use this incident in Istanbul to cultivate the [Saudi] King and say, “King Salman, look, your son is implicated.” But if you attack his son, how are you going to cultivate that relationship? Turkey should have said, ‘Let’s improve our relations first’. And also, ‘I need your support over Egypt’. That would be basically a win-win situation. And I would sell it to my gallery as a major victory. We need Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean. What this government has done is a dangerous thing. They have pushed both Israel and Egypt into the hands of the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean. They have basically formed an anti-Turkish alliance. And that is foolish from the part of the Turkish government. But to get to that stage, Ankara should have realized something first: ‘Get your mind out of Idlib [in Syria]’.
This brings us to ideology and foreign policy. What is your take on this?
Unal: “What the Crown Prince represents is a region-wide, anti-Muslim Brotherhood policy. That is like a Russian matryoshka. You never know who’s going to pop up next. Turkish foreign policy should be focused on the national interest. I would say that an ideologically driven foreign policy went off-track in 2011. And events proved it could not produce the desired effect. That policy was reconsidered a few times, but there’s still fall-out – ideological baggage that seems to be poisoning Turkish foreign policy.”
Can we switch now to NATO and the Black Sea from a Turkish standpoint?
Unal: “NATO is forcing itself into the Black Sea through Romania and Bulgaria, not through Turkey. And they are forcing Georgia to act like a NATO country. Georgia in NATO, that would be out of order, it would be like [starting] a Third World War, basically. The Americans want the Montreux agreement, which basically governs the Straits, to be sidelined [under the 1936 agreement Turkey controls the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles and rules on the transit of warships].
“Turkey would never accept that. Over Ukraine, Turkish policy officially is, we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine. You can’t say anything more than that or less than that. What you say in favor of Russia may backfire on you in another dispute. If you recognize Crimea as part of Russia, what you are you gonna say about the Karabagh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan?”
Tell us about Turkey, Russia, Cyprus, and Crimea.
Unal: “In the end, it might actually come to a point where the Russians recognize northern Cyprus and we recognize Crimea as part of Russia. I would basically set up a naval and air base in northern Cyprus jointly used by Russia and Turkey. Don’t forget, the whole geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean has changed since the Syrian conflict. There’s got to be concessions. When states want to do something, they formulate a policy with a little bit of international law, a bit about historical arguments, politics, population, geography, and then you make an argument. And if you don’t want to do anything, again you bring this all together to support the opposite. The other important concession is the Russians should get the Armenians out of Azerbaijan-occupied territories.”
What about a key silent player, Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev?
Unal: “Nazarbayev is a very wise leader. He wields all this influence over Putin and Russia, as much as they wield influence over him. Don’t forget that these guys worked together. Nazarbayev was their superior. Kazakhs, when you talk to them, they say, if the Soviet Union had continued, he was going to be the Soviet leader. When [former Turkish President Suleyman] Demirel visited the Soviet Union, he had heard a lot about imprisoned Turks in the Soviet empire. Then he visited Moscow and saw the Turks running the show – [plus] Uzbeks, Kazakhs …”
How do you see Turkey’s role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
Unal: “The only good thing I’m happy about is that at least we have not made an ideologically-driven policy about the initiative to oppose it. The Uighur problem always pops up when it comes to Turkey-China relations. We don’t know the scale of what’s been happening in there [Xinjiang). A certain section of Turkish public opinion would buy the notion of concentration camps for Uighurs. But for the general public, it’s not something they understand. When I was working in Gazi University in Ankara, a group of scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, experts on Xinjiang, they came, challenged prejudices, they were very confident. There are Turkish-Chinese negotiations about joint production of missiles. Building of roads and high-speed railways is something our present government would love to see happening. Perhaps they think they are already supporting it [BRI] without letting it be known.”
Excellent article/interview, very informative. Thanks to both Pepe Escobar and Professor Hasan Unal.
I have a question:
Refering to the former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel visit to the USSR, Professor Unal said: ‘…Then he visited Moscow and saw the Turks running the show – [plus] Uzbeks, Kazakhs…’
Could somebody explain what he means by ‘Turks running the show’? Thanks.
He means Turkic people as ethnic group (not Turkey itself) had great influence over the late Soviet government. They are the key Eurasian race. Turkics are a ethnic and linguistic group spread over former Soviet/Russian empire lands, which includes Kazakhs, Turkmens, Gaugauz, Tatars, Yakuts, Kipchaks, Uzbeks and many smaller groups. They mostly follow Islam historically. Had Soviet system survived, its leading figures would have been from these groups, because they were rapidly rising through the ranks. Turkic countries today have rejected privatisation and liberalism, becoming nationalist states, gaining wealth from Chinese trade. Instead during the chaotic 1990s it was mostly those of Jewish descent who rose to power within Russia itself, for better or worse.
Thank you. Very interesting. ‘…they were rapidly rising through the ranks.’ It is really amazing that the USSR survived so many decades of western sabotage, infiltration, propaganda… Its leaders had to be very well prepared if they aspired to rise through the ranks.
For worse .
“What this government has done is a dangerous thing. They have pushed both Israel and Egypt into the hands of the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Nonsense. The Cypriot economy was trashed by the Cyprus bank bail-in, and the Greek economy was trashed as a result of a (((certain))) bank faking their economic status to get them into the Euro – in anticipation of ‘pulling it’ at a suitable time. Israel then comes along to these economically precarious states and makes them an offer they cannot refuse – the (((banksters))) will go easy if you allow Israel energy to pass through your countries to Europe. Maybe they will get a low interest deaal to build the infrastructure for Israel’s benefit with minimal transit fees (probably sufficient for the intrest payments) as an incentive.
“The Cypriot economy was trashed by the Cyprus bank bail-in …”
The bank that trashed Greece was of course Goldman Sachs. Right now, there a 4 different countries involved in the “Government Sachs” scandal. Although GS has lots of its people at the upper reaches of Washington, I think it will be difficult for them to avoid bankruptcy. Of course, that is very bad news for Israel.
An interesting little article, but debatable at the same time. Who really gave the order for Khashoggis assassination ? He was not only a “journalist” writing for a Washington publication, but a CIA operative as well. As far as I can see, the Turks overreacted. The went after Bin Salman, when they should have stayed neutral. Yes, they had every right to state that it was an assassination, but without name calling. While Bin Salman might officially be pro-Washington, he is no fool, Business is business. He has quietly been turning towards Russia and China. One has to wonder who really gave the order for Khashoggis assassination. Perhaps those who wanted to make Bin Salman look guilty ?
Exactly. Bin Salman is said to have hugged Putin and was very visibly pleased to have met him. It was quite the opposite with regards to Trump.Check out the pictures at G20:
Latest news is that US Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of the US 5th Fleet, has been found dead in Bahrain. Offical explanation is that he commited suicide. Strange, a US admiral committing suicide. Unofficially he was suicided because he opposed a false flag directed at a US Naval vessel. The Middle East is apparently being set up for a new conflict, probably in conjunction with Ukraine and the Donbass.
I agree with your intuitive analysis – who is the initiator of the murder and what is the motive ?
Position of Turkey is specially puzzling. Turkey’s territory was chosen as a place of the crime . Why ?
Why Saudi consulate if Prince is giving order, it is like murderer is leaving its ID on the crime scene ?
Why Khashoggi ? Many unanswered questions. It looks like someone tried to frame someone !?
Bin Salmon is definitely not a fool.
This part of the world is in the process of transformation . Dawn of Geo-political metamorphosis
of the Middle East with unpredictable consequences .
Turkey , Egypt and Saudi Arabia are competing for the Sunni leadership and in the same time
they are trying to achieve some sort of sovereignty (some level of independence from USA) each one in different way. However Russia is appearing to 3 of them ( though in different ways) as possible natural ally in this process of deep changes . That makes Middle East again the most sensitive region in the planet .
It seems to me that Khashoggi was in Turkey, the embassy was a convenient place to lure him to, and the Saudis simply thought they could get away with it. They had no idea Turkish surveillance would bust them.
What’s not clear is what Turkey hopes to get out of it.
“What’s not clear is what Turkey hopes to get out of it”
Clear enough. Turkey and Qatar are the Muslim Brotherhood. Deadly foes of Saudi monarchy.
By putting pressure on Saudi Arabia, Turkey gets the USA – Turkey’s protector – to remove pressure on Turkey. And perhaps deliver the main threat to Erdogan – Fethullah Gülen.
Still, what is the motive ( reason ) of this high profile crime.
To harm Muslim brotherhood ? One dead (even very important member) will not change much
the huge movement. So if Prince did it he must be retarded to risk everything for almost no gain.
Motive to harm Mohamad Bin Salman and remove him from power in order to stop the rapprochement with Russia that just started is much more realistic . USA, Israel .and many
sheiks and princes are not happy with new orientation of SA .
Mystery is not over . We need Sherlock Holmes specialized in Geo politics .
If they were trying to blame Turkey, wouldn’t it be stupid to use the Saudi consulate and draw attention to themselves?
Considering the noise Western media made about this, this is probably Washington’s work, granted they may very well have used agents embedded in the Saudi establishment as a proxy – like in the case of Turkey shooting down a Russian jet.Except in this case the ones providing the response/reaction is the West itself, probably, because they can actually control the response this way(unlike with an independent actor like Russia) and not have it blow up in their own faces, as happened with the Turkey-Russia incident.
There is one possible cause for this assassination. The ousted family members of MBS were trying to give a coup d’etat in Saudi Arabia and Kashogi was an allied on this maquination. That was a clear message to all of them.
The professor and Pepe miss the fact that MBS “anti-Muslim Brootherhood policy” is because of Wahabi kefirs are Talmud affiliated while the MB (and Qatar as well as Gulen) are Safafi kefirs and Kabbalist affiliated.
Read The Muslim Brotherhood: The Many Faces of Their Majesties’ Service, by Ramtanu Maitra:
When Erdogan’s Chief Advisor the other month announced that “Turkey is switching from Google to Yandex under a New World Order” he was not talking about search engines…
That was esoteric Illuminati semiotics that Ankara now will play the part of a rogue nation, false flagging a switch away from NATO and towards Moscow.
For the initiated that means Erdogan has now taken upon the role of the Biblical Antichrist (like all scriptures they are written by the Scribes and the Pharisees, i.e. Illuminati bloodlines) and thus relieve MBS and his “black-flagged, black-dressed men that the Koran says will exist during the End Times).
MBS failed to become the Antichrist and now Erdogan will go for Jerusalem…
Interesting views, but really have to disagree about Russia recognising N. Cyprus and pushing Armenians out of Nagorno-Karabach. Both carry very little advantage for the Russians. What benefit would there be to alienating Greece and Armenia – for decades (if not centuries)? I am sure VVP is careful not to give Erdo too much of what he wants, since the knows E. could turn on a dime…
Unsurprisingly, he’s just thinking as a Turk and not as a Russian. Turks have no business being in Cyprus.
The Turks have every right to be there according to the Treaty of Guarantee found in the Treaty Concerning the Establishment of the Republic of Northern Cyprus:
In the event of a breach of the provisions of the present Treaty, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom undertake to consult together with respect to the representations or measure necessary to ensure observance of those provisions.
In so far as common or concerted action may not prove possible, each of the three guaranteeing Powers reserves the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present Treaty.”
Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus was legal given the illegal attempt by Greece to unite Cyprus with Greece (a violation of the treaty). Turkey’s presence on Cyprus is still legal, and will continue to be until a agreement between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots is successfully negotiated. It might be noted that this could have already happened with the Annan plan referendum in 2004, except that while the Turks voted for union, the Greeks voted against union.
It might be noted that Cyprus belonged to the Ottoman Turks from 1571-1914. The Cypriots and their Orthodox Church were liberated by the Ottomans from the papist Venetians in 1571. The Turkish Cypriot community stems from that time.
The British took over in 1878 (while the Ottomans retained sovereignty):
“The Cyprus Convention of 1878 between Britain and Turkey provided that Cyprus, while remaining under Turkish sovereignty, should be administered by the British government. Britain’s aim in occupying Cyprus was to secure a base in the eastern Mediterranean for possible operations in the Caucasus or Mesopotamia as part of the British guarantee to secure the sultan’s Asian possessions from Russia. In 1914, when Britain and Turkey became adversaries during World War I, the former annexed the island; Turkey recognized this under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Two years later Cyprus was officially declared a crown colony.”
The Republic of Turkey has every right to protect Turkish Cypriot rights on the island of Cyprus according to the Treaty of Guarantee. The Turkish Cypriots have every right to be regarded as cofounders of the Republic of Cyprus according to The Treaty Concerning the Establishment of the Rebublic of Cyprus.
I am not so sure about your argumentation, but you need to ask all the Greek Cypriots who were displaced. This happened only because Kissinger cooked the provocation up, Makarios fell for it. USofA blinded all Greek electronics, thus disabling their defenses. Kicking Americans out of Greece was just a knee jerk reaction, that did not help Republic of Cyprus. So lay off the line: Turkey had the right to defend the turks on the Island, who were never threatened in any way.
any time cyprus is mentioned in any media, turkish trolls post long and false arguments to spam the waves… sad.
The actual turkish cypriots want the turkish army and settlers out so they can rake in the EU dough (they think) but turkey has a strategic interest in keeping them destitute and the military all powerful… but no mention of that.. it’s just greeks vs turks in trollworld.
Anon, unfortunately this is in Greek. Dimitrios Kazakis gives an interview and talks at length about the situation of Cyprus. In short he explains that while Greece is subjected to the worst enslavement by the West, particularly the USofA and Israel, he says that USofA and Israel are working hard to dissolve Cyprus’ existence (remove it from the map as he puts it) and are working hard to hand it over to Turkey (all of it). The key issue is to forbid Russia from any access to Cyprus.
The interview was given few days ago:
Kazakis talked to Trangas’ yesterday, where he paints the most horrible picture for Greece in 2019:
He admits, after Trangas asked him directly, to used to be a member of KKE (communist party). Also, after being asked, he confirms that one of the Tsipras’s partners in “political crime” was his friend and mentor at KKE, who turned to the right and eventually joined Tsipras’s coalition. The said, politician used to be called “Stasi” for his connection to East Germany’s secret service (bespieka). Today one of the biggest traitors.
The Kazakis’ comments are so eye opening, as well as depressing for the dying Greek society.
I am back. As I am listening to Kazakis’ talk with Trangas, at ~19:30 he discusses the case of American bases in Greece, he goes on to discuss the case of the two Russians from Greece, which he says was done on USofA’s order. He continues, by stating that Russia does not seem to have clear military plans for the MED. Interesting.
The article reminds me how Americans like me (until I made an effort to look into it) who aren’t Greek or Turkish American just don’t think how important Cyprus is to Greeks and Turks, much less Cypriots.Turks and Greeks have been fighting each other for hundreds of years, millennia? Most Americans hardly know how much the US has meddled post WW2 in Turkish and Greek affairs to their detriment. Now offshore Cyprus gas deposits will ramp up hostilities.
Hundreds yes, thousands definitely no.
First Constantinople fell to Mameluks (Otomans) in 1453, then relative lull followed until 1821 – 1922 sort off. Turkey never stopped till today. The did not exist even as Ottomans before XII BC. They sit on Greek as well as Armenian lands (they have no history or culture of their own all stolen).