Isa Yusibov has a background as a Eurasia geopolitical threat analyst, predominantly specializing in Russia, Turkey and former Soviet republics. Based mostly upon his broad space of experience as a senior analyst he has contributed to varied suppose tanks and media shops, and labored for numerous UK-based company intelligence corporations over the past years, whereas additionally being a visitor speaker at related establishments such because the Dutch Ministry of Protection and a number of other universities.
The place do you see essentially the most thrilling analysis/debates taking place in your subject?
I might level out China in most of them, whether or not it’s in regards to the geopolitical penalties of the One Belt One Highway challenge, the rising Chilly Battle rhetoric between China and US, and final however not least the challenges derived from the worldwide corona pandemic and the way which may change the availability chain from a world perspective for instance. There are some subjects within the Eurasian area which can proceed to be vital within the coming years, such because the scenario in Ukraine, frozen conflicts in post-Soviet hemispheres, power safety and provide to the EU, Chinese language affect in Central Asia, developments concerning Iran and sanctions and naturally the upcoming political transition in authoritarian international locations like Russia and Turkey.
How has the way in which you perceive the world shifted over time, and what (or who) prompted essentially the most important shifts in your considering?
After I was born, the Soviet Union was nonetheless there. The very first geopolitical occasion I skilled, as a child although, was the autumn of the Soviet Union and the creation of a brand new actuality in the entire area with its alternatives and challenges. After I was learning Political Sciences and continued my grasp’s in Russian and Eurasian Research I already had a set of values, a body which outlined my world view, I might say based mostly on the liberal internationalist facet from a theoretic perspective. That has not modified a lot, I have to say. However there are in fact sure subjects the place I can see a distinction: as a scholar, I used to be far more enthusiastic in regards to the geopolitical energy of the European Union. As a geopolitical analyst, years later, I do contemplate the EU being completely toothless with regards to the geopolitical chessboard.
You’ve gotten repeatedly dismissed issues over Turkey probably leaving NATO. Are you able to clarify your reasoning?
To be trustworthy, I’ve by no means understood why famend suppose tanks preserve pushing the situation risk that Ankara will depart NATO and pursue its personal overseas/army coverage. If there’s one factor which can by no means occur in Turkey, that’s the exit from this alliance. By no means. For a easy motive: NATO is the final word protect defending Turkey towards nuclear powers within the proximity, particularly towards Russia. That’s the reason Erdogan instantly referred to as NATO Basic Secretary when Putin threatened Turkey after Ankara shot down a Russian army jet in November 2015. Ankara completely understands that leaving NATO will likely be a disastrous factor to do. Turkey’s geostrategic place can be means too vital for the US specifically to simply accept Turkey’s potential (however inconceivable) exit from NATO. Turkey helps NATO membership of Ukraine and Georgia whereas some Western international locations are cautious about it. Turkey additionally desires extra NATO affect within the Balkans and subsequently supported Montenegro and Albania as nicely.
As Azerbaijan and Armenia clashed within the battle over Nagorno – Karabakh in 2020, we noticed Russia and Turkey supporting totally different sides within the battle. Are you able to clarify what the respective pursuits of the Turks and the Russians are within the Caucasus, and the way the scenario has advanced for the reason that ceasefire was brokered between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
It’s certainly an fascinating battle to watch. When the struggle began within the late 80s till a ceasefire in 1994, Russia supported Armenia, however Turkey didn’t help Azerbaijan just because Ankara didn’t need to get entangled in a conflict with Russia. In 2020, Russia was apathic, didn’t help Armenia, however Turkey supplied army help for Azerbaijan when it comes to drones for instance. Russia didn’t intervene till a sure level to push each Baku and Yerevan to signal a ceasefire settlement, and the rationale why Russia determined to to not intervene derives from Moscow’s geopolitical pursuits. On the one hand, Putin needed to place the pro-Western Armenian PM Pashinyan underneath stress, then again, he needed to indicate goodwill to Azerbaijan by permitting Baku to retake its occupied territories. With out Putin’s approval, that gained’t be the case. On the subject of the pursuits of Russia and Turkey, the area is in fact inside their sphere of affect and sure elements overlap them, particularly the South Caucasus. Russia considers the Caucasus as its yard. For Turkey, it’s the final route for opening as much as Central Asia for instance.
Personally, I believe that the struggle in 2020 and its aftermath have been completely deliberate by Russia to exert and improve its affect within the area. First, the timing was vital: the US was busy with presidential elections, the EU was busy coping with the pandemic. Russia has all the time supported the status-quo of the battle, as in to maintain it frozen. However this time, altering the status-quo had two particular benefits for the Kremlin: on the one hand, Russia introduced again army personnel to the territory of Azerbaijan, then again, it made clear that the political institution in Armenia shouldn’t even attempt to depart the Kremlin’s orbit, trying to the West. At this second, Russia is the one participant within the area with all the required instruments for affect.
How do Russia and Turkey see one another in relation to their geopolitical place?
There has all the time been a rivalry between these two international locations, additionally once they have been empires previously. There are not any different nations which have been concerned in so many wars with one another because the Turks and the Russians. And it’s not a shock as a result of the combat for spheres of affect is just not one thing new. Below Erdogan and Putin, they’ve tried to redefine their geopolitical pursuits and co-operate when it comes to sure subjects, resembling power, however from a macro perspective they’re two actors with totally different geopolitical aspirations inside the identical area. And that makes it inconceivable for Ankara and Moscow to be geopolitical allies. It’s only a co-operation of comfort when needed. That’s the reason I oppose the dominant concept within the West that Turkey has been pivoting in direction of the East (Moscow/Beijing axis) abandoning the West. That’s positively not the case.
Western media typically reviews on the variations of opinion between Western-European international locations and Turkey. Are you able to clarify the connection between Jap-European states and Turkey? Is that this relationship altering?
It’s an fascinating relationship with new dimensions, altering the general outlook within the area. The principle motive for that’s the truth that the vast majority of these international locations have been as soon as a part of the Soviet Union. So Turkey desires to make use of that to extend its geopolitical affect by providing them co-operation towards Russian affect. And that’s thought-about as an amazing technique from the angle of these Jap European international locations, in order that they have tried to tighten the co-operation with Turkey, principally in financial and army phrases, but additionally visa-free journey alternatives. In that sense, I’m not stunned that a number of the Jap European international locations have additionally determined to purchase Turkish drones and different army tools. Poland for instance grew to become the primary NATO nation to purchase Turkish drones after its successes towards Russian missile programs in Syria, Libya and extra not too long ago within the Nagorno-Karabakh struggle. Ukraine has been following the identical path and has already began utilizing Turkish drones above Donbass, at present occupied by separatists backed by the Kremlin.
How do Russia and Turkey observe and interact with the rise of China within the worldwide political area?
Relations between Moscow and Beijing have been all the time nice, as a result of they didn’t see one another as important rivals. On the contrary, they’ve tried to co-operate as their important anti-Western sentiment may very well be aligned. On the subject of Ankara, it’s a bit ambiguous. Turkey has additionally sought co-operation with China and accepted rising Chinese language affect to draw overseas investments so as to revive its economic system. In some unspecified time in the future, through the go to of Turkish Ministry of International Affairs to Beijing, the minister actually mentioned that China’s safety was linked to Turkey’s safety and no detrimental messages in Turkish media can be allowed to disturb the friendship.
Then again, Turkey has been very quiet in regards to the ongoing genocide towards the Uyghurs in China. Turkey was additionally one of many first international locations to import Chinese language corona vaccines. However I believe the scenario would possibly change if Erdogan succeeds in attracting Western investments whereas taking place towards China could be a requirement from a geopolitical perspective. The pragmatic in Erdogan gained’t suppose twice about it.
What are the pursuits of Russia and Turkey within the Center East? Why have we witnessed each international locations supporting totally different sides in Libya and Syria for instance?
Identical as in different areas: geopolitical affect. Particularly with diminishing American affect, each Turkey and Russia have tried to fill that energy vacuum, to reveal their capability as a mediator, to draw new political alliances and so forth. The Center East can be a area with entry to the Mediterranean Sea with its (newly) confirmed fuel reserves, which makes the world much more fascinating.
Russia and Turkey have supported totally different sides in each Syria and Libya certainly. In Syria, Turkey was one of many first international locations from the Western coalition which demanded the resignation of Assad. Russia intervened in Syria in 2015, as soon as once more utilizing the political vacuum created by the indecisiveness of the Obama administration to punish Assad for using chemical weapons towards his personal folks. Russia noticed a chance to get on the board, by offering army help to Assad so he might regain management over the misplaced administrative territories. For Russia, the involvement in Syria is just not solely about defending Assad, however principally about safeguarding the Kremlin’s entry to the Mediterranean. You will need to be aware that the Soviet Union had its naval base in Syria within the 70s, and it was the one one outdoors the borders of the previous Soviet republics which has been operative since then. In the meantime Russia has expanded its air forces in Syria.
In Libya, Turkey helps the central authorities acknowledged by United Nations because the rightful administration, whereas Russia helps the militia led by Basic Haftar. As soon as once more, it’s about geopolitical pursuits. Turkey is within the political continuity of the present authorities which has shut ties to Turkey. Russia is aware of that Haftar will have the ability to safeguard Russian power function in Libya, one thing the central authorities doesn’t favour to take action. However each conflicts are intertwined and push Turkey and Russia to barter. Escalation in Syria means de-escalation in Libya and vice versa.
What’s a very powerful recommendation you might give to younger students of Worldwide Relations?
What helped me perceive Russian and Turkish geopolitical ambitions is my data of each languages. If you’ll be able to communicate and perceive the languages of your area of curiosity, you may be one step forward of individuals and analysts with out that linguistic benefit, as a result of they gained’t have entry to different sources to provide you with a extra detailed evaluation. So my first recommendation can be: familiarize your self together with your area.
Moreover, I might encourage younger students to be much more crucial towards well-known suppose tanks, related strategic establishments and their analyses as they could reveal critical flaws based mostly on incorrect conclusions and forecasts. Don’t be afraid to problem dominant theories and approaches as a result of they don’t seem to be essentially appropriate methods of considering in a subject which is continually evolving.
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