Is the Turkey Fiasco an Opening for Mideast Peace?
And Russia, too, can play a role.


Conrad Black

Lost in the latest Middle Eastern controversy is the fact that the prospects for Israeli-Arab peace are steadily improving, and that the apparently impending defection of Turkey from the Western camp is a great opportunity. The predictable consequence of Europe’s treating Turkey like a shabby, swarthy mendicant knocking at its back door for 30 years — embracing it when an ally in the region was needed, but rebuffing it at other times — is the defeat of the Kemalist Western emulators by the Muslim Turkish nativists.

If the Turks, who are historically no more popular with the Arabs than the Persians (Iranians) are, are throwing in with the militant Islamists, this will severely erode Arab enthusiasm for continuing to carry on the struggle with Israel. Turkey is now playing footsie with the Islamic Brotherhood, which murdered Anwar Sadat and is the principal foe of the Mubarak regime in Egypt. Israel is no threat to these Arab powers, but Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood are.

Obviously, if the Turks go any farther down this road, they will have to leave NATO, which probably should have happened in 2003, when they declined any cooperation in the Iraq War. The current NATO formulation, “a coalition of the willing,” in fact means those sufficiently needful of the American military guarantee (in practice, those countries with the most recent experience of Soviet domination) doing the least they can to accommodate American military initiatives and maintain Washington’s goodwill. Of the NATO countries, only the British acted more forcefully than that to support the Americans in the Iraq War.

Such a move by Turkey would facilitate the more important move of a revival of good relations with Russia, something the West has rarely enjoyed. Premier Vladimir Putin plays the nativist card pretty aggressively, too. But of all the major powers, rivaled in this only by India, Russia has the most serious indigenous-terrorist problem, largely due to Russian Muslims and fomented by Islamists in some of the former Asian republics of the USSR.

There is a long and not very creditable history of Western partitions with Russia, giving rise to much sorrow in the history of Poland, especially. A benign version of this tradition could be revived. Russia can take the two provinces of Georgia it effectively seized in 2008, and the eastern, Russian-speaking half of Ukraine; and Belarus and Moldova (if, as it appears, that is the desire of these countries) can return to affiliation with Russia, and the U.S. and Russia could agree on the treatment of the Asian republics. The Russians would be expected to cooperate in matters involving Iran and North Korea, and it would be possible to guarantee some level of annual oil-and-gas acquisitions from Russia.

There is no logical dispute between Russia and the West, and our anti-terrorist interests are almost identical. The return of Belarus, Moldova, the eastern half of Ukraine, and two provinces of Georgia would add about 45 million people back to the Russian population, and would be a dramatic accretion for Putin and Medvedev, putting them in the company of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Stalin, and the other great expansionists of Russian history. Western Ukraine and Georgia could join the EU and NATO.

The end of the Turkish attendance upon Europe would also be the end of Turkish and most other Muslim infiltration of Western Europe, and would facilitate the assisted departure from Western Europe of some of the millions of so-called guest workers, who, like some house-guests, are proving very reluctant to go home. If the European nationalities could just reenergize sufficiently to prevent further natural population decline, Europe’s apparent death wish could be replaced by a period of revitalization, as economic realities are going to force some retrenchment in the socialist Euro-state.