Transcript: In the South Caucasus, “The West“ means Turkey

Posted on Friday, Mar 8, 2024 by Hovik Manucharyan | Category: Armenia, Politics, Clip, Transcript | Series: Blog | Antalya Diplomatic Forum, Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, Geopolitics, Regional Politics, South Caucasus, EU Strategy, Turkish Influence, Geopolitical Challenges, EU Alliances, Diplomatic Relations, Ararat Mirzoyan, Ruben Rubinyan, Serdar Kilic, Hakan Fidan, Sergey Lavrov, Toivo Klaar

The dialogue at the Antalya Diplomatic Forum illuminates a critical facet of EU’s geopolitical calculus: when they speak of “The West” in the context of the South Caucasus, they implicitly refer to Turkey. We dissect Armenia’s diplomatic challenges, laying bare the stark realities of power dynamics in the region. Against the backdrop of Turkey’s strategic significance, the debate underscores the profound implications of EU’s reliance on Ankara to assert its dominance and open communication channels in the region. We shed light on the urgent need for Armenia to navigate a complex geopolitical landscape where alliances and allegiances are constantly shifting.

Listen to the segment and/or read the transcript below.

Hovik: Arthur, earlier you had said that Russia sees Turkey as a counterbalance to the West. But I question how far can that theory go in case of more acute conflagrations?

Let me read another statement heard in Antalya, and I’m quoting.

“In addition to the involvement of the EU, we’re also waiting for Turkey and its regional leadership to become involved. Ankara can have a strong influence in opening communication channels in the region and asserting the role of its dominant power in the region.”

That was Toivo Klaar, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus.

Your thoughts on that statement?

Arthur: My thoughts on this statement are that this is something that we’ve been talking about for the last 35 years. So asking me now, why is it so, makes me laugh. And I know you know it, and I know Asbed knows it. We have been saying it for the last 35 years, that the West is going to hand this region over to Turkey to balance Russia, force Russia out, and have Turkey manage the region, which would result in Armenia’s annihilation and in declarations from the West. Just like they said, the ethnic cleansing of Karabakh is not acceptable. And a few days later, they were shaking Aliyev’s hand and congratulating him on his re-election.

So we have been saying this for a long time. Why did people not want to understand it? I don’t know. But now we hear it loud and clear. They want Turkey to be the boss, because they want Iran out, and they want Russia out.

Asbed: Do you think that the same fate awaits Georgia by any chance? Is Georgia in as much trouble as Armenia is?

Arthur: If I were Georgia, I would think very carefully about who’s going to come next. Because as the Kurds in the Ottoman Empire found out, after they ate Armenians for breakfast, they ate them for lunch. And now they’re busy fighting for their own existence in Turkey.

So if I were Georgian, I would think very carefully about what’s going to happen to them once Armenia disappears and Turkey and Azerbaijan unite and turn their gaze northward, towards the north. Because then Georgia is going to be the next little sandwich they’re going to want to chew. And they can. They have like 95 million people. Georgia has like four, I think. They’re also very small.

And then if I were Russia, I would think very carefully about where Turkey is going to go next with its Ottoman Empire. But we can’t talk to Russians this way. They don’t like it. And we shouldn’t explain to them what their interests are.

We should at least try to be reasonable and rational in our own foreign policy. And this is not a rational foreign policy. This is a tragic sitcom. This is not a foreign policy. This is a disaster. One disaster after another with complete complacency from the diaspora and from the Armenian people.

Hovik: So my question is not related to questioning Russia’s motivations with regard to Turkey. But geo-strategically speaking, obviously Russia also has made some calculations in its relationship with Turkey.

So is it reasonable for even Russian officials, in your opinion, to question Turkey’s loyalties to the West and NATO? I mean, how far, how much, if this thing goes, if the, you know, merde hits the fan, excuse my French, how much can Russia rely on Turkey? Let’s forget about Armenia, you know, just Russia-Turkey relations. How much can Russia rely on Turkey?

Arthur: Of course Russia understands that it’s a dangerous game. Of course they know this. But in this situation, they have no choice. They’re dependent on Turkey. Their existential enemy, sadly, is the West. And in their war against the West, they need Turkey to help in some way.

Until recently, Turkey was their main gateway to the outside world. They were selling their gas and oil through Turkey. And a lot of their import or re-import, illegal import from Europe and the West is coming through Turkey. Turkey’s trade grew by 100%, by 200% in one year. They are dependent on Turkey.

So it is understandable that they’re making a temporary concession to Turkey at our expense. It’s ugly, but it’s understandable. It’s realpolitik.

But eventually, of course, they would rather not give the whole Caucasus and Central Asia to Turkey. Because Turkey, when it creates its empire, it usually looks north. And Turkey hasn’t given up its claims on the Crimea, etc., etc.

It’s just a forced compromise, I think. And that’s what they’re saying. But in any event, we should first start with our own policy and our own government. Because we don’t have one. We have a bunch of hysterics who have nothing to do with real policy or rational thinking or calculation. Who have ruined everything they could have ruined in six years. And they’re still blaming the previous regime for it. The problem is with us. It’s not with Russia.

Asbed: I think actually more than can Russia trust or rely on Turkey, Russia can expect a reliable response from Turkey. They’re expected to look out for their interests and they are absolutely looking out for their interests. So in a sense, they are a rational actor on the geopolitical stage. So Russia can rely on that. They know how the other side is going to respond.

Arthur: Yes.

Asbed: Unlike Armenia.

Arthur: Yes. Turkey is predictable. It’s logical. Yes, sometimes it cheats. Sometimes it doesn’t fulfill its obligations. Like I said during the conference and then this ridiculous government picked up on it. They didn’t even understand that I was making a point to the Russians. You were cheated. That Turkey deceived you. That’s what I was trying to convey. And, of course, this government. I wonder if they graduated from fifth grade. They didn’t even understand my sarcasm. It’s unbelievable who is running our country.

Because I told Russians, yeah, you’re playing your game with Turkey. We understand. But they cheated on you, didn’t they? Because Finland and Sweden were allowed to join NATO. They cheated on you.

I mean look how smart Turks are and how manipulative. They got their F-16s from America even though that was temporarily on hold. They got their concessions from Russia at our expense and then Finland and Sweden still became part of NATO. They still allow some NATO military ships into the Black Sea. It’s like they have everybody.

They play everybody. They’re playing everybody. The West and Russia. And they get everything they want.

NOTE: The above is a preliminary transcript and may contain errors.