The foreign minister of Turkmenistan, Rashid Meredov, recently met with the secretary general of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (Turkic Council), Baghdad Amreev, to discuss closer cooperation between the Central Asian nation and the Turkish-dominated bloc.
Turkmenistan is the only Turkic-speaking former Soviet republic in Central Asia that is not currently a member of the Turkic Council. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are members along with Turkey and Azerbaijan.
It has never joined either the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States, the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) or the Russian- and Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), although the other four Central Asian nations have joined all three.
The above meeting occurred in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, where the parties deliberated over “the current level and prospects of cooperation between Turkmenistan and the Turkic Council, aimed at promoting constructive partnership between the countries of this format,” to quote an Azerbaijani news source.
Turkmenistan’s relationship with the Turkic Council was praised by the latter; particularly the regular participation of its president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, “in high-level events organized by the Council.”
At a summit of the Turkic Council this March the Turkmen president spoke of a common approach to “resolving urgent tasks of the global and regional agendas.”
The recent meeting also discussed the prospects of Turkmenistan being granted special status in the Turkic Council. Currently Hungary has special status. Ukraine has expressed interest becoming an observer, as has Afghanistan recently. The latter two nations have Turkic-speaking minorities. The Hungarian government’s claim to ethnic kinship with the Turkish people is the subject of another article.
Uzbekistan joined the council in 2018 after leaving the CSTO six years earlier. That trajectory may be replicated with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan; and perhaps with the SCO as well as the CSTO. (Azerbaijan and Georgia withdrew from the CSTO in 1999.)
Russia’s accommodation (the kindest word for its behavior) of Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh last year and against Armenia starting this May sounded the death knell of the CSTO.
Three members of the SCO that are not majority Turkic have Turkic minorities: Russia, China and Tajikistan. So does observer state Afghanistan. On Russia’s initiative Turkey was admitted to the SCO as an observer in 2012.
The Turkic Council was set up in 2009 with Turkey as its prime mover, five years after the nation hosted the NATO summit in Istanbul that recorded the largest-ever expansion of the military bloc. Seven new nations joined – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – including for the first time former republics of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The summit also launched NATO’s military partnership with nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
Its web page says of its founding mission that it was not to be limited to Turkic-speaking-majority nations but had a broader purview. It reads in part that “by promoting deeper relations and solidarity amongst Turkic speaking countries, it aims to serve as a new regional instrument for advancing international cooperation in [the] Eurasian continent, particularly in Central Asia and [the] Caucasus.”
Its mandate is nothing less than the Eurasian continent.
The SCO has no military, hasn’t even a security component. The CSTO is a shrinking paper organization. When NATO member Turkey invaded CSTO member Armenia this May (it still has 1,000 troops there) Armenia appealed to the CSTO. The latter did nothing.
When violent clashes occurred between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (which is non-Turkic) in late April, the CSTO played no effective role in ending the conflict. However the Turkic Council met on the issue and stated, “The Turkic Council will continue to maintain close contact with brotherly Kyrgyzstan, a founding member of the Turkic Council.” Expect to see Kyrgyzstan follow Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan in departing from the CSTO.
Two weeks before the Kyrgyz-Tajik crisis the aforementioned leader of the Turkic Council, Baghdad Amreev, spoke of last year’s war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia and said: “We are very glad that Azerbaijan has liberated its de-occupied territories. We, the Turkic states, express our solidarity with Azerbaijan.”
The moribund CSTO has never occupied itself with anything other than crossborder crime and immigration. It has no real military role. The SCO has not even pretended to be a security much less a military alliance.
An expanding Turkic Council under Turkish domination will assuredly have a military component. One it will not hesitate to employ.