Interview with Alexey Malashenko – one of the best Russian experts in political Islam and a scholar with the Carnegie Moscow Center.
And just there is an idea that Turkey attempts to reconstruct the Ottoman Empire. Of course they refuse to recognize it but anyway their activity approves that they want to be involved in all kinds of situations in the region. So, that’s true. Let’s add to it their activity in the Central Asia. I don’t want to exaggerate it but anyway the position of Turkey’s activity is respected and taken into consideration in Kazakhstan, in Kyrgyzstan, in Uzbekistan and so on. I don’t even want to mention Caucasia where the Turkish are present all the time and I would say are very important. So, we could say about some political and economic offshoots of Turkey to all directions. And moreover, don’t forget their ambitions to become a real member of the European community.
So, if before, five years ago, the general opinion was that Turkey is first of all an ally of the West or the United States, at the moment they attempt to play an autonomous, independent role. But first of all I don’t know if they are able to do it because Turkey is not China, it is not America and they haven’t enough forces to be present everywhere. So, they have to make an option where they want to be present more, be more active – this is a problem number one. The second problem is in the Arab world. From the beginning of course they were very glad, I mean the so called revolutionary forces, when they saw that Turkey is ready to help and give some assistance. But at the moment once again the historical fear is beginning to come back because as we suddenly understood in the Arab world they never forgot about the Turkish Empire.
So, now Turkey occupies a double position – of course it is respected but I repeat once again don’t forget about the fear of Turks. In the Central Asia of course they accelerated their presence, they once again began to talk about the Turkish world, Turkish culture and so on. In the Central Asia – in Kazakhstan, in Kyrgyzstan they’ve never forgot about the first wave of Turkish arrival in the region and it failed. So, just there are sometimes political misunderstandings.
If we want to understand the Turkish role as a bridge between the West, between the Muslim world and something else, well… this bridge is just very difficult to build. So, I think that Turkey sometimes occupy the so called double position as far as Iran is concerned, as far as Egypt is concerned. Of course Turkey is an ally of the West and America but the relations between the Europe and Turkey, between the United States and Turkey are not so easy to understand because we have to recognize the presence of the so called rivalry.
I repeat once again about the Caucasia where indeed Ankara is able to play a very prominent role and I repeat once again that Turkey has to do a certain option. In my opinion Turkey will turn more and more to Caucasia where it is able to do something basing by the way on the cooperation with Russia. So, I don’t expect a huge presence of Turkey in the Middle East. I doubt that Turkey will be able to create a new model of relations with the Central Asia. The main direction of Turkish foreign politics resides in Caucasia and of course in the European and Western direction. But anyway it is a problem of the Turkish Government, of Erdogan, of the President Gul. And indeed it is very interesting, very I would say problematic that the country is now on the crossroad.
Nobody knows it indeed and I don’t know either. Of course the Turkish model is very interesting but it is a certain exception. I know my colleagues who admit the possibility of construction of such a political model in Egypt or in Tunisia for instance. Ok, it is possible, there are moderates or soft Islamists, it is very well, but all the time inside this moderate branch of Islamism there is a radical trend. And if moderation as a phenomenon fails somebody will say – that’s happened because we didn’t use Islam…
Yes. So, moderate Islamism is very well but I don’t know what kind of trend will develop inside it.
It is a very good question. I think that at the moment Turkey will attempt to use all kinds of instruments in order to penetrate in the Central Asia, would it be the Shanghai Organization or something else, that’s no doubt. But at the same time when we talk in the frames of the Shanghai Organization don’t forget that first of all it is a Chinese organization, not Russian, not international, but the Chinese organization where China is the most powerful state. And without the Chinese position nothing could be done.
And besides there are a lot of ideas of how to make the Shanghai Organization broader, to take India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Mongolia and so on. If it happens I think that Shanghai Organization as a real institution will disappear because I cannot imagine the organization with India, Pakistan, China and so on, it is useless. In case if it happens we would see a double-leveled Shanghai Organization. The first level would be very pragmatic with China, with Russia, maybe with Mongolia, maybe, I don’t know. And the second level will be a virtual level with the participation of all kinds of countries including Turkey, even Brazil and so on.