THE NEW GREAT GAMESir Ignatius Valentine Chirol,
the newest member
of Coming Anarchy
, has begun a series on the potentialities of Turkic Central Asia entitled The Eastern Question Part I
. and Part II.
In Part II. Chirol noted:"To begin, it would be helpful to consider the unofficial border between the West and the East. The modern border between Croatia and Bosnia was long the frontier of Europe, separating Austria-Hungary from the Ottomans and also Christianity from Islam. Later after World War II, the line was pushed back to West Germany, Austria and Italy separating not culture and religion, but two ideologies. Today, in 2005, the border extends from Estonia almost directly south past Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, a significant shift. And while overlapping EU members with NATO members creates the de facto border, it is a very porous one these days in terms of cultural and economic influence."
An timely observation. In the comments of section of Part I. at Coming Anarchy, I drew attention to the following possible dichotomy for Central Asia, Turkey and the West:"An interesting set of questions will be if Turkey can maintain its adherence to secularism or will grow more Islamist. Secondly if Turkish involvement will lead to a revival of "Pan-Turkism” and investment in the Turkish identity among the Turks or if a ” Pan-Turanism” is established that makes Turkey a synthesizing transmission belt of European and Western ideas to their cousins further East."
I'm less confident that Turkey's Westernization and secularism established by Ataturk
can completely avoid being eroded by creeping Islamism as the Turkish military recededs politically in favor of democratization. Particularly if Turkey, after jumping through a series of pride-injuring hoops, ends up being rebuffed for EU membership. I forsee a very, very, bad popular reaction in Turkey if that eventuallity should come to pass. It would be helpful, if the U.S. took some complementary moves to strengthen Turkey's identification as a member of the Core rather than leave the question entirely in the laps of the Europeans.
As for Central Asia there are six and soon to be seven or eight powers competing for influence in the next quarter century: Russia fearfully watching its " near abroad"; Turkey; Iran reaching toward Shiites and Dari-speakers; Saudi Arabia proselytizing Salafism in Sufi territory; the United States, seeking GWOT bases and oil and gas deals and the EU, seeking to expand the EU values model eastward. With their energy requirements, China and India will soon join in, jockeying for influence as well. That's a large number of 800 pound gorillas in a relatively small playground.
The United States needs to leverage a combination of players with congruent minimum goals in Central Asia that emphasize connectivity - a non-zero sum outcome for the West, Russia and China that shuts out Islamism and spurs liberalization, stability and markets.ADDENDUM: Zenpundit
wishes to welcome Coming Anarchy's newest partner, Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol
, to the blogosphere