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Q: Mr. Veranyan, what are the messages of Turkey’s unprecedented activity in the region in recent years? Does that country want to change the status quo?
A: In recent years, Erdogan has been able to reach serious success in strengthening his political positions in Turkey. This allows Ankara to act more confidently and freely in foreign policy. You have rightly noticed that recently Turkey has started to be more actively involved in both regional and international military-political, security, energy-economic and other processes. It should be noted that the tension in relations with Washington has caused security, political and economic problems in Turkey, however, Ankara sees it as a resource or opportunity to play as independently as possible in various regional and international processes or to formulate an independent political agenda. Turkey significantly endangers the international security system, the stability of different regions: the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, the South Caucasus. However, referring to today’s Turkey, I would like to emphasize the image of Erdogan, who strives to realize his ambitious, imperial and neo-Ottoman ambitions. Therefore, I can say that the key message of Turkey’s current foreign policy is Erdogan’s desire to restore the Ottoman Empire, which has a significant negative impact on maintaining international and regional stability and peace.
I think, Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman ambitions in themselves sum up Ankara’s intentions and policy strategy to transform the status quo of a balance of power between the interests of key players in different regions. It also refers to the fragile balance of power in our region. Erdogan seeks to make Turkey a superpower in the Middle East and neighboring regions. Unfortunately, the international community today faces serious problems with the use of security measures. And this reality allows Turkey to get maximum trump cards in various developments of the case more easily. I will not be wrong in stating that today Turkey is one of the exceptional states that openly bypasses international law, violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighboring and non-neighboring states, but remains unpunished. As an example, consider the illegal actions of Ankara in Syria, Iraq, Libya in North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and, in particular, in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. Despite all this, there are no clear and effective international legal, political and economic sanctions that can curb Erdogan’s ambitions. Admittedly, even the United States, a superpower, could not afford such a ‘luxury’ of impunity. Let us remember what serious international resistance and criticism was directed at Washington when the American troops entered Iraq in 2003.
Q: To what extent do Turkey’s aspirations to increase its influence in the region threaten our country’s defense security, territorial integrity and sovereignty?
A: I would like to mention at the outset that any foreign policy activity of Turkey contains direct and indirect, short-term, medium-term or long-term challenges and threats. First of all, it follows from the general logic of the destructive, anti-Armenian policy of Turkey towards Armenia, Artsakh and all Armenians. Consequently, the more Ankara’s involvement and influence in our region increases, the wider the range of risks and threats, which pose a more or less possible threat to the security and defense of Armenia and Artsakh. The threats or risks coming from Turkey, which may be related to the territorial integrity of Armenia, are of a very indirect nature. That is, today Turkey has no grounds to carry out direct military operations against Armenia. Today, Turkey is not going to get directly involved in another conflict for the sake of Azerbaijan in another region, which is of vital importance to Russia. It is clear that if Turkey had the opportunity to take such a step, and if it was in its national interests, it would have taken such an initiative the day before. Today, there are no political, military or economic preconditions for the development of that scenario. I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that Turkey has been waging a hybrid, mediated war against Armenia for three decades. This is evidenced by Turkey’s policy of economic and political blockade of Armenia, Armenia’s isolation from regional transport-communication and energy projects, the formation of an anti-Armenian agenda in various regional and international arenas. In order to correctly assess the potential of our country’s collective power, we can say that Armenia directly confronts not only Azerbaijan, but also indirectly, one of the regional powers, Turkey. Under the ‘potential of the collective power’ of the state, we mean the internal and external capabilities of the country in such areas as economic development, public mobilization opportunities, defense-security potential, international weight and prestige, foreign policy cooperation capabilities, etc.
Q: Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises are not new, why did the recent military exercises have such a great resonance?
A: Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises have been held in recent years, this is not really new. These joint military exercises are held on a planned, unplanned basis, in some cases the parties do not even warn in advance about the intention to hold military exercises. And, indeed, in the case of these military exercises, Turkey and Azerbaijan try to present them as unprecedented events. It is a fact that this is not the first time the parties have conducted such a large-scale military exercise. It is obvious that this is done primarily for propaganda purposes. First, with this step, Turkey seeks to maintain the atmosphere of July tension in Armenia and throughout the region. Second, the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem seeks to exert information and psychological pressure on the military-political leadership of Armenia, to create an atmosphere of fear and tension among the Armenian society. From this point of view, the entry of Turkish-made military equipment into Nakhichevan was a rather primitive propaganda trick. The parties tried to create the impression that the entry of Turkish military equipment into Nakhichevan is a symbolic and unprecedented reality. Meanwhile, Turkish military equipment and armaments have been supplied to Nakhichevan for more than a decade. Turkish servicemen, military advisers and other professional groups work in Nakhichevan. Turkish F-16s on the border with Armenia were also a trap of propaganda and misinformation, as if Turkey was trying to check the possibilities of using air power in the direction of Yerevan. Our Ministry of Defense operatively denied that information. I would like to clarify that in such situations it is very important that our society does not give in to sensibility, does not fall victim to the enemy’s propaganda and misinformation, but relies on our official messages.
By GAYANE POGHOSYAN
Photos by AREG VARDANYAN