Turkey’s territorial claims are dramatically transforming the global balance of power, creating the basis for changing the boundaries of existing states through military conflicts. The speeches of the head of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, challenge the international security system, which is based primarily on the concept of peaceful coexistence. The biggest problem for Turkey along this path is the Lausanne Treaty and the ideology of Kemal Ataturk, which impede the implementation of a new variation of the Ottoman Empire from the Middle East to the Russian Crimea.
Recep Erdogan’s expansionist intentions are determined by the conclusions that can be drawn from an analysis of a number of interrelated facts: the suppression of the “Kemalist” opposition as a result of the staged military coup attempt in 2016; Ankara’s position on the issue of Crimea’s ownership; interference in the internal affairs of Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, the countries of the Balkan Peninsula; dispute over the Greek islands; support of Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia. Many experts explain this increased militant activity of the Turkish leader by the upcoming expiration of the Lausanne Treaty, which is hated by the Turkish president for the reason that this international agreement made it possible to tear away from the Ottoman Empire a significant part of the territories that Ankara is now seeking to “return” at any cost.
The Lausanne Treaty, signed on July 24, 1923 for a period of 100 years, finally put an end to the First World War, dividing the once mighty Ottoman Empire into a series of mandated political subjects. The treaty established peaceful relations between Turkey and the Entente countries, eliminated Turkish control over the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Sudan, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, as well as over a series of islands in the Aegean Sea, due to which since then, the dispute between Ankara and Athens does not subside (the islands of Lemnos, Samothraki, Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Ikaria). Ankara actually lost influence over the Iraqi city of Mosul, because, without reaching a consensus on this issue with Great Britain, a League of Nations protectorate was established over the territory.
On November 22, 2016, during his speech in Busra, Turkish President Recep Erdogan questioned the Lausanne Peace. In particular, he said: “It is completely ignorant that people asked what is Turkey doing in Iraq, Syria and Bosnia? … each of these geographic points is a part of our soul. ” Even then, the Turkish leader identified the return of all the lost territories torn away from the Ottoman Empire as the primary strategic goal of the state for the next 7 years. Turkey is confident that from 2023 it is possible not to comply with the obligations assumed in the document, in particular: free passage of foreign ships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles; the sovereignty of some of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea; the belonging of the city of Mosul to Iraq and other points. On the example of subsequent events, we will see that Ankara is rapidly moving towards achieving its goal, thereby creating a threat to the existing world order and undermining the foundations of the international security system.
Turkey & Syria
After the end of the First World War, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of San Rim of 1920, French control was established over the territories of Lebanon and Syria, with the exception of the Alexandretta Sanjak (modern province of Hatay). Until the beginning of the Syrian popular uprising led by the Druze sheikh Sultan al-Attrash in 1925, the Alexandretta Sanjak was part of the formed state of Aleppo, and then became part of the united Syria, but with the preservation of the French mandate.
Turkey protested against Paris, demanding that it recognize the Alexandretta Sanjak as part of Turkish territory. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, speaking on March 15, 1923 with a speech in Aden, set before his supporters the task of returning the northwestern region of Syria under the control of the Turkish Republic at all costs. In this regard, separatist movements were formed in Alexandretta (Iskenderun), Antioch (Antakya) and other strategic regional points aimed at reuniting the Alexandretta Sanjak with Turkey.
The French mandate over the territory expired in 1935, which allowed Kemal Ataturk to begin active actions to implement his ambitious plan. In this regard, the Alexandretta Sandjak was renamed into “Hatay”, in the elections to the regional parliament, Turkish candidates gained an overwhelming number of votes, as a result of which they received 22 out of 40 seats. On the basis of the decision of the League of Nations, it moved and continues to formally remain a part of Syria, adopted the Turkish flag as the state flag, introduced the Turkish lira into circulation and allowed the teaching of Arabic in schools. All this led to the fact that on June 23, 1939, Hatay was annexed by Turkey, despite the fact that this territory continues to remain under the jurisdiction of Damascus.
It is worth noting that it was the Hatay factor that served as the main reason for Ankara’s intervention in the Syrian conflict. At the same time, the formal struggle with the Kurdish YPG units and the Syrian Democratic Forces, in general, is viewed by the Turks solely as a pretext for the implementation of their own territorial claims. So, the Kurds are not of interest to the Turkish state. However, they create a unique pretext for using the fight against them as a “curtain” to move deeper into Syrian territory.
In the modern province of Hatay, pro-Turkish sentiments are quite strong, which in 2023 may lead to a regional referendum on reunification with Turkey. From a strategic point of view, this region is extremely important for Ankara also because two main oil pipelines stretch into the Iskenderun Bay: Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Kirkuk-Ceyhan, with the US and EU countries as ultimate beneficiaries.
Turkey & Iraq
Until 1909, the oil region of Mosul was the private property of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and after the end of the First World War, property rights to this area were formally transferred to the heirs of the last autocratic ruler of the Ottomans, Sultan Abdul-Hamid II. He had 8 sons and 13 daughters, most of whose descendants still maintain close ties with the Turkish leadership.
In accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, Mosul became part of Iraq, which was under British control. Nevertheless, the Young Turkish government, headed by Kemal Ataturk, demanded the transfer of all lands to Turkey, due to the provisions of the 1918 Mudros Armistice. The strategic importance of Mosul for the Turkish state is explained not only by the presence of huge reserves of hydrocarbons, but also by the fact that Nineveh is the “gateway” of Kurdistan. Meanwhile, the question of the ownership of the Iraqi territory was significantly complicated due to the existing disagreements between the oil companies “Turkish Oil Company” (the main shareholder is British Foreign Minister Lord George Curzon) and “Standard Oil” (USA).
By decision of the Council of the League of Nations on October 29, 1924, Mosul was retained as part of Iraq, despite strong opposition from the leader of the Young Turks. Two years later, Ankara, through the mediation of London, was able to obtain from Baghdad an insignificant adjustment of the state border, in connection with which it received the right to 10% of the income from the sale of Mosul oil over 20 years. However, this has not met the expansionist needs of Turkey, which is still determined to take full control of Mosul. For this reason, it is not surprising that it was Turkey that was the main beneficiary of the occupation of Mosul by the ISIS terrorists from June 2014 to June 2017.
To this day, Turkey maintains a military base in Bashik, northeast of Mosul, which was often used to transport Islamic State militants to Iraqi territory. Among other things, Ankara maintains at its own expense a local militia – the “Guard of Nineveh” – numbering, according to the most conservative estimates, up to 3,000 people, consisting of Sunni Arabs, Turkomans and Kurds. During the fighting for Mosul, the militia fighters actively cooperated with ISIS, despite the fact that they were formally considered independent.
Ankara seeks to establish control over Mosul not only through the use of illegal armed groups occupying the area. The construction of transport lines between Mosul and Turkey is a huge help for this. In particular, in September 2020, a railway was inaugurated connecting Turkey with the Iraqi region. This allows Ankara to exercise control over the region practically without hindrance, bypassing Baghdad, and, if necessary, provide military support to local separatist organizations.
Turkey & Armenia
On August 10, 1920, the Peace of Sevres was concluded between the Entente countries and the Ottoman Empire, according to which Armenia was proclaimed as a “free and independent state”. The parties to the peace treaty came to a common opinion that the Armenian state should have access to the Black Sea through Batum. For this, it was planned to build a railway connecting Armenia with the Batumi port.
In December 1920, representatives of the Armenian public, led by the Dashnaktsutyun Party, signed the Alexandropol Peace Treaty with Turkey, according to the enslaving terms of which Armenia lost control over a significant part of the territory, including the Kars region and Surmalinsky district. In addition, the regions of Nakhichevan, Shahtakhty and Sharur passed under the protectorate of Turkey. In return, Turkey committed itself to hindering the advance of the Bolsheviks. However, already a few hours after the signing of the Alexandropol agreement, the Red Army entered Yerevan, under the pressure of which Armenia was forced to annul the previous agreements with Turkey. In accordance with the terms of the Moscow Treaty of March 16, 1921, Nikhichevan was transferred under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan, where by that time Soviet power had already been established.
Formally, the Treaty of Sevres did not come into legal force and was canceled on the basis of the Lausanne Peace. In addition, in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty of Kars of October 13, 1921, the government of the Armenian SSR officially agreed “not to recognize any international acts concerning Turkey and not recognized … by the Grand National Assembly.” This, first of all, concerned the Sevres Peace Treaty. In turn, modern Armenia, represented by the country’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, does not recognize the conditions of the Alexandropol Peace Treaty, since he actually put the Armenian state in conditions of complete dependence on Turkey. However, if the Alexandropol Peace Treaty had not been annulled by a unilateral decision of the Soviet government, then its validity period would have expired in December 2020. Based on this, it is quite logical that the Second Karabakh War was organized on the eve of the presented time. Thus, Ankara reminded the Armenian leadership of the commitments taken 100 years ago, which Nikol Pashinyan began to question.
As already indicated, the Treaty of Sevres actually lost its legal force in connection with the signing of the peace agreement in Lausanne, which does not contain any conditions regarding the eastern borders of Turkey. This means that Ankara considers itself free from the recognition of Armenia as an independent state and refuses to provide it with any security guarantees. Meanwhile, Yerevan formally has 2 more years to mobilize its domestic and international resources in order to prevent the complete loss of its own statehood under the pressure of the Turkish army.
Turkey & Crimea
After the conquest of the Genoese possessions in 1475, the Crimean Khanate was under the protectorate of the Ottoman Empire. The Crimean Khan was subordinate to the Ottoman sultan and, in accordance with the hierarchy of vassal relations, was one step higher than the Grand Duke of Moscow, who for a long time was forced to pay tribute in the form of the so-called “commemoration”.
Crimea turned out to be a “war trophy” for Russia, obtained as a result of the next Russian-Turkish war in 1783. Turkey still cannot come to terms with the fact that, on the basis of the manifesto of Empress Catherine II, Crimea became part of Russian territory. The Turkish President considers this decision illegal and insists that Crimea be returned to the Turkish state. At the same time, Recep Erdogan is not at all embarrassed by the fact that from the 1950s to 2014, the territory of Crimea was actually and nominally part of Ukraine.
By supporting Kiev in the escalation of the conflict in Donbass, Ankara aims to put pressure on Russia. At least, this is the opinion of a number of European experts, and, in particular, the Greek political analyst Paul Antonopoulos. At the same time, it is wrong to assume that the units of the Turkish army will appear on the territory of the LPR. With a high degree of probability, they will appear in Crimea, where, simultaneously with the actions of Turkish saboteurs, mass demonstrations by supporters of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis terrorist organization are expected.
Rejection Of The ideology Of Kemalism
The main obstacle in the project of the revival of the Ottoman Empire, implemented by Recep Erdogan, is the ideology of Kemalism. The President of Turkey and his entourage cannot forgive Mustafa Kemal Ataturk for signing the Moscow Treaty with the RSFSR on March 16, 1921, which called into question the jurisdiction of the Great Sultan. In addition, the founder of the Young Turk movement is accused of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire as a result of the signing of the “capitulating” Treaty of Lausanne, as well as the abolition of the Sultanate and the expulsion of the Caliph.
In the minds of Recep Erdogan’s supporters, Kemal Ataturk is a traitor who actually gave Turkish territory to the Entente countries in exchange for guarantees of maintaining his own power in the country. Kemal Ataturk, according to members of the ruling “Party of Justice and Development”, was not interested in preserving the Ottoman Empire in an unchanged state, since he was driven by selfish interests associated with the implementation of personal political ambitions at the cost of territorial concessions. In this regard, in modern Turkey, despite the formal adherence to the ideas of Ataturk, a campaign is being actively promoted to destroy any mention of the founder of the Young Turk movement. In particular, quite recently, Erdogan’s party managed to finally cancel the “Ataturk oath” (“How happy to be a Turk!”) In the country’s educational institutions, as well as remove the portrait of the founder of the Turkish Republic from orders and medals.
Recep Erdogan took a course towards the Islamization of the country, since, in his opinion, it is Islam that is the consolidating factor contributing to the revival of the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate By the way, the proclamation in 2014 of the former leader of the ISIS terrorist organization Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the “Caliph” was partly initiated Turkish leadership.
In this regard, Ankara, in its foreign policy projects, seeks to establish with its allies, and, first of all, with Azerbaijan, not only military-political and economic ties, but also religious ones. This allows her not only to find supporters of the revival of the Ottoman Empire, but also to fight her key competitors, who are also interested in realizing their own imperial ambitions. This is, first of all, about Iran, in which Turkey sees a real threat in connection with the active role of the Shiite camp.