J. Berkshire Miller* CNN
Surrounded by a sea of uncertainty, Turkey continues a sustained effort to bolster its ties with East Asia. Ankara has long established relations with the region’s key players, including China, Japan and South Korea. A historical lack of management of these key relationships, though, has led to Turkey underperforming in its attempts to brand itself in the region. At the same time, though, Turkey is facing considerable challenges and opportunities in its own geopolitical neighborhood.
The strategic topography of the Middle East remains dynamic and unpredictable, and the sovereign debt crisis in Europe risks jeopardizing Ankara’s significant interests in exporting and serving as a transit country to the continent. This region will always be Turkey’s backyard and the legacy of the Ottoman Empire allows a certain amount of exceptionalism – and sometimes isolation – when dealing with neighbors.
One area where Ankara is hoping to secure an agreement with Asia is through the development of its civil nuclear program. As Turkey’s economy and population have continued to grow, the government has remained committed to finding new energy sources to meet increased demand.
But complicating matters have been strained relations with Syria, Iran and the Kurdish region of Iraq. Nearly half of Turkey’s energy imports come in the form of gas, mainly from Russia and Iran. Gas from Iran makes up as much as 20 percent of Turkey’s total energy imports – a number that’s declining rapidly due to American pressure to isolate Tehran over its nuclear program.