Nothing in history completely vanishes; like energy, at most, it morphs and takes on new shapes with different components. In other words, continuity is a constant in history. What NATO, a byproduct of the Cold War, is undergoing right now can be examined through this lens.
First of all, we must admit that what has happened so far points to the definitive exclusion of Turkey in NATO’s metamorphosis. There is only one Turkey that is compatible with this new NATO: a version that accepts the establishment of a PKK state in its south and then risks its inevitable disintegration. This is what is being asked of it.
As Turkey resists this, it is being pushed out of NATO’s sphere. Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and, finally, Ukraine and Georgia are taking on the role that Turkey used to play in this region following the Second World War. We should bear in mind that the aforementioned region is one that encompasses the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the Black and Caspian seas.
At first glance, this view can be traced back to the tension between Russia and the U.S. Yes, there is an element of truth to that. But we must take into account that there is a multitude of other developments going on behind the scenes as well.
The Atlantic powers, namely the U.S. and the U.K, are at the core, while Canada, Australia, New Zealand and finally India are brought into the fold by the Brits. We are talking about a large formation that also includes Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
This formation, an expanded Atlantic-Pacific NATO, that excludes France and Germany, is now on the table. Call it PANATO if you may. The region it encompasses is, of course, the Pacific. So it goes without saying that China is the target.
Then the following question springs to mind: Where does Russia figure in this new iteration of NATO, which once used to target the Soviets and mainly included Europe? I can immediately say that Moscow is hovering over at least two points that concern the new bloc. The first one is to shatter ties between China and Russia, and the second is to keep Russia and Europe in a deadlocked relationship fueled by crises and dependency.
The fact that PANATO is ramping up its forces in Bulgaria and Romania, as well as Greece, which is already a member of NATO, is linked to further sidelining both Russia, the former master of these countries, and Germany, which is the tough guy next door. It would not be a gross exaggeration to say that Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, which are EU members, are under U.S. occupation today. This also means that the U.S. has actually invaded the EU.
As Europe continues to be dependent on Russia’s energy resources, the U.S. has lifted the blockade imposed on Nord Stream. This means that Russia now has room to maneuver, putting Putin at ease. It seems that Russia and the U.S. will be able to find common ground in the Eastern Mediterranean. But in the Black Sea and Caspian, the U.S. does not seem to want to leave Russia’s turf.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin’s visits to Georgia, Ukraine and Romania prove that the noose is tightening. Russia’s abolition of communication and negotiation grounds with NATO and the failure to extend the term of the Russian diplomats carrying out this mission indicate that tensions have only escalated.
In this new reality, Russia is pursuing a dual-sided policy. It is extremely pleased with the continuation of the dollar-bound oil and gas regime. The increase in prices keeps Putin happy on the economic front.
Furthermore, he is extremely pleased with his ballooning weight in the EU. On the other hand, Moscow continues its rapprochement with China in Asia.
In my opinion, Austin’s latest visit is about sending signals to Russia to abandon this dual policy and end its rapprochement with China. Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to put pressure on Russia through Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania.
The risks and opportunities this picture poses for Turkey constitute the main issue. The latest Black Sea and Caucasus landings of the U.S. undermine the Caucasus 6 project, on which Turkey and Russia have largely agreed.
This is the first item added to the risk column. Turkey’s recent support to the Ukraine over Crimea, where we also have reservations, has angered Russia. But Russia, in fact, did not strongly react. It only bared its teeth in Idlib. Russia knows full well that it will not be easy to overcome these pressures without Turkey, which is blatantly being excluded by NATO.
So far, Turkey’s Black Sea policies have followed the reflexes of a typical Western state, even NATO. But in line with new developments, this does not have to continue to be the case. The opportunity is to alleviate Russia’s isolation by using the ties Turkey has forged with Ukraine and Georgia, and in return, to negotiate with Russia in Syria and Libya, to overcome its own isolation, finding some middle ground that enables it to move freely. I think that Turkey-Russia relations will enter a new phase in the coming days.