Twenty years ago the democratic revolutions in East and Central Europe prompted the first great-power retreat in the continent since the end of the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops, supported by generous German funding, decamped for home, to be followed by many more after the Soviet Union itself collapsed. And while imperial nostalgia lingers still, the Kremlin has had to accommodate itself to the new reality. The tentative and ragged sphere of influence that remains is a shadow of what once was, writes Mary Dejevsky.
That was one chapter. But are we now, I wonder, watching the second half of the post-war retreat from Europe, that of the other great victor, the United States? Of course, the withdrawal is less military or imperial than Russia's - the majority of the US troops have been reassigned over the years - nor is it enforced. It seems more to reflect a lack of interest. Barack Obama's America has other fish to fry. But could it be that Washington's European age is drawing to a close? And if it is, what might it mean?
I ask these questions after a weekend spent in Istanbul at the annual Bosphorus Conference, organised by the British Council, the European Commission and Turkey's foreign policy institute, TESEV. For the EU side, this meeting is a chance to gauge the state of our sometimes fractious relations with Turkey. For the Turkish side, it offers a forum to vent frustration with the obstacles Brussels strews in its path. Read full article in the Independent...
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Is European influence in Turkey on the wane?
In a bid to assert its role as a key power "at the meeting point between Europe and Asia," Turkey is increasingly active diplomatic circles, notes Le Monde. Having concluded an agreement to normalize relations with Armenia, it has recently "demonstrated its disproval for the invasion of Gaza by excluding Israel from military exercises to be conducted with a number of NATO countries," and also announced that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who could potentially act as a mediator between Iran and the West, will shortly visit Tehran before traveling on to Washington. At the same time, it has taken advantage of shifting alliances in the field of energy and competing gas pipeline projects to build closer ties with Russia. No doubt, it is also looking to likewise with the countries of Central Asia. "Is European influence in Turkey on the wane?" wonders the French daily. Turkish leaders are adamant that their country remains fully committed to NATO, and is still a candidate for membership of the EU. However, as Le Monde explains, "Turkey is confident that it will play a key role in the new geopolitical status quo, and it may not be content to remain an EU candidate for long."
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