Turkey is blessed and cursed by geography as relations with neighbours worsen

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dreams of making Istanbul the new political and spiritual centre of the Middle East, but Turkey is both blessed and cursed by geography, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday. 

“Its central position makes it a significant force in Mediterranean, Balkan, Caucasian and Middle Eastern affairs, but that centrality also leaves Turkey exposed on all sides to potentially hostile powers,” Walter Russell Mead said.

“At the moment its relations with the European Union, Russia, Iran, Israel, Egypt and Greece are uniformly poor.”

Mead said that the geopolitical situation in the Middle East is shapeless and chaotic, and the status quo is “neither benign nor sustainable” as wars in Syria, Yemen, and Libya grind on with little serious efforts to make peace, and economic and political stagnation is rife across the region. 

“For now, the muddled Middle East is a place where no one is happy but American interests are reasonably secure,” he said. “Oil flows freely to the world’s markets; Israel is as safe as a country in the region can be; and the defence of this messy status quo doesn’t depend on large-scale deployments of U.S. power.”