THE NEXT 100 YEARS – A FORECAST for the 21st Century

An extract from the book:

THE NEXT 100 YEARS – A FORECAST for the 21st Century

By George FRIEDMAN published in 2009 by Anchor Books

The books gives us a Global Forecast. We are giving our readers as a sample the chapter on Turkey pages 144 to 148.

TURKEY

During the Russo-American confrontation in Europe leading up to 2020, there is going to be a subsidiary confrontation in the Caucasus. The Russions will press south into the region, reabsorbing Georgia and linking up with their Armenian allies. The return of the Russian army to Turkey’s borders, however, will create a massive crisis in Turkey. A century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of modern Turkey, the Turks will have to face again the same threat they faced in the Cold War.

As Russia later crumbles, the Turks will make an unavoidable strategic decision around 2020. Relying on a chaotic buffer zone to protect themselves from the Russians is a bet they will not make again. This time they will move north into the Caucasus, as deeply as they need to in order to guarantee their national security in that direction.
There is a deeper issue. By 2020, Turkey will have emerged as one of the top ten economies in the world. Already ranked seventeenth in 2007, and growing steadily, Turkey is not only an economically viable country but a strategically crucial one. In fact, Turkey enjoys one of the strongest geographic locations of any Eurasian country, Turkey has easy access to the Arab World, Iran, Europe, the former Soviet Union, and above all the Mediterranean. The Turkish economy grows in part because Turkey is a center of regional trade as well as a productive economic power in the region.

By 2020 Turkey will be a surging, fairly stable economic and military power in a sea of chaos. Apart from the instability to its north, it will face challenges in every other direction as well. Iran, which has not been economically or militarily significant for centuries but whose internal affairs are historically unpredictable, lies to the southeast. To the south, there is the permanent instability and lack of economic development of the Arab world. To the northwest, there is the perpetual chaos of the Balkan Peninsula, which includes Turkey’s historic enemy, Greece.

None of these regions will be doing particularly well in the 2020s, for several reasons. The Arabian Peninsula to Turkey’s south will, in particular, be confronting an existential crises. Except for oil, the Arabian Peninsula has few resources, little industry, and minimal population. Its importance has rested on oil, and historically the wealth produced by oil has helped stabilize the region. But by 2020 the Arabian Peninsula will be declining. Though it will not yet be out of oil, and far from impoverished, the handwriting will be on the wall and crisis will loom. Struggles between factions in the House of Saud will be endemic, along with instability in the other sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf.

The broader issue, though, will be the extreme fragmentation of the entire Islamic world. Historically divided, it has been badly destabilized by the U.S. – jihadist war. During the U.S. – Russian confrontation of the late 2010s, the Middle East will be further destabilized by Russian attempts to create problems for the United States to the south of Turkey. The Islamic world in general and the Arab world in particular, will be divided along every line imaginable in the 2020s.

(Balkan paragraph omitted).

The Islamic world is incapable of uniting voluntarily. It is, however, capable of being dominated by a Muslim power. Throughout history, Turkey has been the Muslim power most often able to create an empire out of part of the Islamic world – certainly since the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century. The century between 1917 and 2020 has been an anomaly, because Turkey has ruled only over Asia Minor. But Turkish power – the Ottoman Empire or a Turkic power ruling out of Iran – has been a long-term reality in the Islamic world. In fact, Turkey once dominated the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa.

During the 2020s, that power will begin to re-emerge. Even more than Japan, Turkey will be critical in the confrontation with the Russians. The Bosporus, the strait connecting the Aegean and the Black Sea, blocks Russian access to the Mediterranean. Turkey historically controlled the Bosporus, and therefore Russia historically saw Turkey as a power that was blocking its interests. It will be no different in the 2010s or early 2020s. The Russians will need access to the Bosporus to counter the Americans in the Balkans. The Turks know that if the Russians are given such assess and succeed in achieving their geopolitical goals, Turkish autonomy will be threatened. The Turks, therefore, will be committed to their alliance with the United States against Russia.

(one paragraph omitted).

When the Russian finally collapse, the Turks will be left in a position they haven’t been for a century. Surrounded by chaos and weakness, the Turks will have an economic presence throughout the region. They also will have a substantial military presence. (…)

Of course the Arab world will have severe problems with Turkey’s re-emerging power. Turkish mistreatment of Arabs under the old Ottoman Empire has not been forgotten. But the only other regional players that could exert as much power will be Israel and Iran, and Turkey will be much less objectionable to the Arabs. With the Arabian Peninsula beginning its decline, the security and economic development of the Arab countries will depend on close ties with Turkey.

The Americans will see this development as a positive step. First, it will reward a close ally. Second, it will stabilize an unstable region. Third, it will bring the still significant hydrocarbon supplies of the Persian Gulf under the influence of the Turks. Finally, the Turks will block Iranian ambitions in the region.
But while the immediate response will be positive, the longer-term geopolitical outcome will run counter to the American grand-strategy. As we have seen, the United States creates regional powers to block greater threats in Eurasia. However, the United States also fears regional hegemons. They can evolve into not only regional challengers but global ones. That is precisely how the United States will begin to view Turkey. As the 2020s come to an end, U.S. – Turkish relations will become increasingly uncomfortable.

The Turkish perception of the United States will change as well. In the 2030s the United States will be seen as a threat to Turkish regional interests. In addition, there might well be an ideological shift in Turkey, which has been a secular state since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Historically, the Turks have taken a flexible approach to religion, using it as a tool as much as a system of belief. As it faces U.S. opposition to the spread of its influence, Turkey may find it useful to harness Islamist energies by portraying itself as being not only Muslim but also an Islamic power (as opposed to a faction like Al-Qaeda) attempting to create an Islamic superstate. This would shift Arab Muslims in the region from a position of reluctant alignment to energetic participation in Turkey’s expansion, regardless of the history and cynism of the move. We will see, as a result, the United States confronting a potentially powerful Islamic state that is organizing the Arab world and the eastern Mediterranean. The United States will be existentially threatened by the combination of Turkey’s political power and the vibrancy of its economy, even as challenges continue to arise on other fronts.

(unquote).

Note by the editor: It is of course only a personal forecast by the author, but it does make interesting reading.

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