Balkans-Caucasus-Middle East, Interaction in the Crises Triangle
BALKANS-CAUCASUS-MIDDLE EAST, INTERACTION IN THE CRISES TRIANGLE and POSSIBLE AFFECTS OF THIS INTERACTION TO THE SECURITY OF EUROPE AS A WHOLE
The importance of the Balkans Caucasus and Middle East, we call triangle, increased relatively year by year, which none of them a part of one single state since the collapse of the Ottomans. World Wars of the past century much more destructive for the other regions if compare these above-mentioned three. They might be less damaged but fewer stables as well. Stability and the security understanding of these regional states were either desperately beaten by their own ambitions, or, their sensitiveness were abused unfairly by the big powers of the period they fought, so the people suffered from the calamities of the endless interest struggles and wars so far. Contrary to the other two corners of the triangle, nowadays, quite and calm appearance of Balkans might be in the sleeping term or waiting new challenges being sourced not nationalism but economy. The possible new unrests at the all three regions in future will require new actors, which were not tried or preferred as main role-player before.
A. Short background
“Balkan” is a Turkish word, which means “rough, mountainous territory” and it was the name given by the Turks to the mountain range that runs across Bulgaria from west to east. The first time the name "Balkan" was used in the West for this mountain range is said to be in late 15th century and at the end of the 18th century authors started applying the name to the wider area between the Adriatic and the Black Sea. As the Europeans were calling these regions as the “Balkans”, Turks, who had first entered this region in the 5th century A.D. under the leadership of Attila, were referring to it as “Rumelia” (in Turkish Rumeli)
. After the Turkish rule started at the end of the 14th century and lasted for some 500 years, Austro-Hungarian Empire became stronger in the north and weakened the hegemony of the Ottomans at the end of the 17th century. The Balkan political boundaries was mainly redefined by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 and Serbia, Montenegro and Romania became independent from Ottoman Empire, furthermore the principality of Bulgaria was created also Slovenia as well as Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina left under the rule of Austria-Hungary.
During the last two centuries, the region has earned the reputation as the most flammable and problematic part of the Europe. Precisely the past century witnessed the local/internal conflicts and coalition confrontations, revolts, revolutions, military coups, genocides, mass expelling of certain ethnicities, terrorism and various forms of violence which made the regional peace mostly unrest. At the end of the “Cold War”, the collapse of communist regimes and transition to democratic systems and to market economies, had largely inflamed the developments in deed. After about four decades long relative quiet and calm period, the latest bloody violence and wars took place in the region, in 1990–1995, again in 1998–1999 and in 2001. Particularly the Western Balkans was noticed as an unstable region since the sensitiveness of relations among major powers and revenge sourced from the deep historical roots. In these regards the Balkans different from the rest of Europe and is similar to the China part of Asia and Caucasus. How sensitive of the ethnic formation of the region is well known and experienced before. As it is noticed, similarity between China- Caucasus and Balkans, sourced from their problematic background because of the ethnically enriched demographic structures of them and nationalist movements against unitary state policies in mentioned three regions.
It is a bridge among the ancient urban regions such as South Eastern Europe, Anatolian and Central Asia, namely “Caucasus” geographically between Black Sea and Caspian Sea which is a land of mountains and seas, squeezed into the borders of three old empires—Persian, Ottoman and Russian it also has been strategically important during its history. Starting from the second half of the 18th
Century till the end, Caucasus, witnessed the hegemony struggle among the Ottomans, Russia and Iran. When Russia beat the rivals, at the end of the century, entered the region for good and immediately started an eradication policy against the opponents to its hegemony including co-religionists. Although this domination was interrupted by the first and second world war shortly, it resumed later till disperse of USRR. Disorders started again from the point of they were left, when the cold war was over in favour of USA. Rather than the local and limited skirmishes, even both ended in short-term, Azeri-Armenian and Russian-Chechen wars were raised the violent in the region. When we take a look at the last two years, we can see the new hot spots between Russia and Georgia as well, in the southern part of the region. The Russian Georgian tension is not actually new and signs were noticed first when Georgia led the foundation of new initiative GUAM
rather than Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) immediately after the collapse of the USSR. Addition to the unfriendly historical relations with Russia, Georgian wish to take part in NATO and her close relationship with USA and taking part in the new formations such as GUAM, caused deeply concerns to Russia.
(3) Middle East:
The “Middle East” is a term that it was first used in 1902 by Alfred Mahan to describe the area between the north-eastern Africa and southwestern Asia. The Middle East is the most ancient region of human civilization. Around 10,000 BC farming first developed in the area referred to as the Fertile Crescent (the area of land arching from the Persian Gulf over the watersheds of the Tigris and Euphrates River in Iraq through the eastern coast of the Mediterranean into Egypt.)
. Latter 12.000 years, many powerful civilizations and various cultures grown up from or occupied the region time to time, such as; Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans in Ancient Times, Ottoman Empire, Safavid Empire in Modern times. From Persian-Greek wars to Iran-Iraq war, the region was the main battle field of the more than twenty conflicts. After the decline and break down of the Ottoman Empire, lands of Palestine and adjacent area witnessed the new stage of the war and violations. Arab-Israel wars, Lebanon civil war, Iran-Iraq war, First Gulf War and the Invasion of USA led Coalition to Iraq are most significant events of the last half century. However, on 17 December 2010 the Arab Spring was sparked by Tunisian people and within a few months, a wave of protest had swept away the despots of Arab states with some exceptions, as a main events of the region. Since then protests have been keeping the region, which has until recently been viewed as having stable authoritarian regimes and as being largely resistant to democratization, on edge. Since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, parliamentary elections and constitutional debates have been taking place in North Africa and the Middle East and the public discourse has been defined by open criticism of the remaining autocracies. How fundamental and sustainable these changes will prove to be cannot yet be judged with certainty. However, some striking commonalities can be noted. Now the Syria is in the civil war for last three years with almost the same arguments.
B. Current Situation:
(1) Balkans: As far as its territorial background and reasons of the lacking of peace in the whole area considered, it might be separated two main regions as; West and Eastern Balkans by whom will quest the matters, either in the past or today.
Contrary to the some views on the Slovenia is also the Balkan country, western Balkan Countries are known and widely accepted as Albania and others are the Former Yugoslav Countries; Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. If we take a brief look at the reasons and the starting points of the clashes still resume today in Balkans, we notice the ethnic and religious facts of the nationalist policies coming from past. Past events and the US intervention to the solutions because of the insufficient contributions of the European States, proofed the pretension of Americans, that the collapse of the Soviet communist system showed that the liberal Democracy, particularly implemented in USA, is the only model of ideology can stand on own feet all over the world.
In this sense, three historical theses are submitted about the reasons of the recent Balkan wars generally. First one, which is mainly granted in Balkans, these nationalist conflicts shows that the endeavour of the big powers sourced their ambitions, in order to build up their own hegemonic areas again. Second one, which is accepted widely by West, the cause behind of the fights is the relapse of historical hostilities and the new appearance of the repressed nations. And the third searches the causes of the wars that are based on the struggles between civilisations. In spite of the fact that the importance of the historical background is the undeniable reality for the region, some of the former Yugoslav Republic politicians incited the aggressive nationalist movements during the process of disintegration. It is also accepted as, the willing to have new soils by force and violation and tries to drive out original owners so build up new totalitarian governmental systems instead.
These new born of the old ideologies deeply harmed the Balkans mostly the western part of it. Those renegade regimes threatened the stability of the international system by challenging and violating the norms of ‘appropriate’ conduct in international system such as overt aggression towards other states, Therefore, it is imperative to understand how and why the leaders of those regimes choose to behave in the manner that they do to enhance our ability to deal with similar crises in the future.
After the independence of Montenegro in May 2006, one other key development in the region is occurred in February 2008, which is Kosovo’s independence declaration. Meanwhile, the official recognition process of the Kosovo as a state is not finished by some states since their decision making system is slower than the states which are very much aware the importance of this recognition in the Balkans as well as whole Europe as far as security is concerned.
There is relatively calmer and more quite period for the region of eastern Balkans after the collapse of Soviet Empire. Bulgaria, Moldavia and Romania tried to cure the damaged social and democratic institutions internally, they also have spent very much appreciated afford in order to take part in the NATO and EU. On the other side Turkey and Greece froze the current problems for a while and started new “détente policy” period during the first decade of new millennium. Regardless of the fact that this peaceful period gave chance to restore the economies and relations with neighbours, still some doubts are valid. 
Nevertheless, nowadays there are not much big troubles foreseen in the eastern Balkans at least politically, but economically still problematic presumptions are in possibility which they can easily spark first internal, later regional unrests.
In sum, non-state actors and threats have become key factors for contemporary security general and the Balkans security particular. Accordingly, it is argued that new security threats do not target states, but societies and individuals. Therefore, issues of domestic order and stability must be given an analytical priority, because they are the primary determinants of most of the conflicts. The collapse of communism, the liberalization accompanied by political and economic vacuum of the institutions and the number of conflicts and wars in the Balkans region led to the impoverishment of the population. These factors also created a fertile ground for growth and spread of non-traditional security issues. That’s why, with the beginning of the 2000’s, it is necessary to rethink the security predicament of the Balkans region as a whole.
The region is divided into two geographical parts even artificially but dictated by the nature of goods. Northern Caucasus is currently in the Russian Federation and the Southern Caucasus covering three independent states; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and contiguous countries Turkey and Iran which are main actors as well.
Caucasus is very valuable for Russia since being a gate to Middle East so as far as the strategic and economic potentials are concern, the Russian endeavour to keep the Caucasus region in his hegemonic area is comprehensible. Although the whole Northern Caucasus inside the state borders of Russian Federation, instability of the region is not secret for world since after the beginning of the second Chechen war in 1999, nearly 300,000 refugees, who were fleeing from the violence, occurred in Chechnya, moved to neighbouring countries.
Though the numbers are only estimates, from a population of a million people, 40,000 to 60,000 civilians dead were reported.
This Russian backed conflict caused another danger rather than refugee humanitarian crises. In summer 1999, it was seen that mostly Chechen fighters aim an Islamic State build up in the region as a reflexive offence. It may be claimed that since that period these conflicts were interpreted by radical groups as an invasion of Muslim territory, which necessitates jihad. A shift from nationalism and separatism towards global Islamic ideology in North Caucasian conflicts had resulted in creating of self-declared Caucasus Emirate in 2007. It was announced an establishment of Islamic state throughout the entire territory of North Caucasus composed of the nine provinces.
When we turn to the southern Caucasus, another discomfort of the region, which is between two neighbour states, Armenia and Azerbaijan is not solved yet. Latest developments proofed that the positive and constructive negotiations were founded by the main endeavours of Russian Federation in appearance and the Turkey as a hidden actor and mediator, between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the matter of Armenian invasion of Nagorno Karabag, a long unrest period after the ceasefire signed in year 1994. The proposed resolution by new mediator Russia hoped to allow the return of stability and calm in the South Caucasus and in the post-conflict period maintain the historical balance of power in the beginning. 
Meanwhile, large-scale fighting has begun in Nagorno-Karabakh on the night of April 2nd, 2016. After the day of fighting it was ceased, but may resume at every moment. Artillery, aviation and tanks were used. Both sides blamed each other for the escalation of the change of fire, however, the features of the conflict indicates a pre-planned operation.
(3) Middle East:
In order to even roughly understand the regional turmoil and demanded rights or claimed lands of the nationalities, that are settled in there, besides, concerns of the external powers, which are deeply impressed from fascination of it, we can use some parameters such as; Ethnics, natural resources and religions.
Even though most of the people of The Middle East are Muslim Arabs who speak Arabic there are some exceptions
. On the surface, unhappy ethnicities in the region, intentionally misaligned borders, religious fundamental activist traditions and the unstable dispersion of the nationalities are the main causes of struggles. However, as it was stated in the Irish broadcaster David Keen’s article;
“One key aim has been to make money. US interest in Afghanistan has been inseparable from the oil and gas fields of the Caspian; just as US interest in Iraq has been linked to the oil.”
From beginning to nowadays, all imperialist countries or tyrants to threat the world peace whenever desire to enlarge their lands and tried get the absolute power; initially they felt the necessity of the economic power. In this content, the story of the oil actually based on the three big phases, such as; Capitalism and also the born and progress of the business life since oil was becoming the most and common business of the world, secondly oil was seen as the good, which is firmly embraced with the national strategies and the world politics and the third is the changed human nature of the 20th
century which is called “man of the hydrocarbon” and the irresistible attractiveness of the oil for him.
These phases show us the reasons why the confrontation is the fate of the region and the affects of the relatively increasing importance of the rich oil recourses of the Middle East to the unrest.
Nationalism is arisen, as a protective movement and the reaction to the foreigners’ ambitions on the region and then turned to the regional conflicts when imperialist powers left the region to instability. Now three main problems in the Middle East are the still headache for the international society and cause the pessimistic approaches as far as stability in the region is concerned. The first one is the Palestine problem and Israel’s uncompromising attitude to the solutions. In close future there is no chance to resolve the disaccords, however, after the United Nations mission mandate and the resolution of the UN Security Council in order to cease the confrontations.
The one another problematic are the Iraq issue. Not only the ISIS attacks countrywide against US backed Iraq security forces, but also the unrest among ethnicities in the north of the country and the intrust between Shiites and Sunni communities in whole country are still the unsolved matters for reaching the lasting peace environment in Iraq. There is no hope in close future to stop the ISIS caused violence in Iraq; meanwhile, after the coming elections in USA, the new administration may announce their intention to apply a new plan about Iraq and to focus on Southeast Asia probably. Thus, presumably US will leave the Iraq totally to the chaos if they cease their support to the central government and its security forces without building the military contingency plan to leave.
The conflict in Syria began as a continuity of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. When residents of a small southern city took to the streets to protest the torture of students, the government responded with heavy-handed force. Demonstrations quickly spread across much of the country; furthermore, the conflict had greatly increased on all sides. The Syrian government has carried out a campaign to the tens of thousands of people. In cities throughout Syria, the opposition had united armed groups identifying themselves as elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). As the conflict has continued without resolution, all fighting factions involved in the struggle ISID, which has emerged with adapted fighters from Al Qaeda
, have been taking a prominent role in the resistance and has taken control of huge swathes of territory across northern and eastern Syria, as well as neighboring Iraq. There are many foreign fighters and external soldiers on the Syrian soil. All they are now involved in a "war within a war", battling who object to their interests, such as separatist Kurdish terrorists, FSA as well as government forces. Latest Turkish involvement to the conflict as a warring faction against terrorist forces on the field near its borders hopefully will cause the starting point to the large-scale peace talks.
In this content, Iran-Israel, Syria-Israel and most dangerously some other frictions among the actors causing from the Syria civil war are the possible dangers for the regional stability seekers but not for the arm producers. Most probably new regional order is emerging out of the conflicts, where the important players are Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. Presumably only optimistic thought for Middle East is, the heavy interest of the international community with the mutual understanding between the external powers and the organisations already working to build the lasting peace in the region.
2. POSSIBLE FUTURE IMPACTS OF THE THREE REGIONS’ UNSTABILITY TO THE SECURITY OF SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE:
From my point of view the headlines of the worst scenario for the Balkans in future, which affects the regional stability, listed as follows;
(1) Kosovo would be the headache for the Europe again. After a long and bloody struggle for its independence from Serbia, Kosovo faces a number of complex challenges and security and political concerns had taken the spotlight off the country’s serious economic development challenges. However, despite a turbulent political situation, continued attention to stability building and a more focused deployment of resources could turn things around.
(2) When Kosovo trouble occurs once more, unrest may spreads to the neighbour Macedonia since both, Muslim Albanian minority and the Slavic Orthodox majority of the country were not pleased to sign the Ohrid Agreement in 2001. Therefore, as it was happened during Kosovo incident in 1999, settling accounts with each other of the former warring factions most probably appear again.
(3) Last but not least assumption is, after the independence of Montenegro in 2006, the question is appeared that what if both Kosovo and Macedonia fall in disturbance, as far as the border re-alignment matter is considered, whether Montenegro would be affected negatively or not.
The above three pessimistically presumed possibilities are all based from the regional circumstances of fact; moreover, the causes of the background of past disorders are remained unsolved. Particularly border issues between Yugoslav republics remain unresolved 17 years since nearly a decade of wars ended in 1999. Even two EU member states — Slovenia and Croatia — still dispute over one part of the border going through the Adriatic Sea.
As far as the security of Kosovo is considered, particularly after the official military neutrality declaration of the Serbia, it is better to have the Kosovo in NATO-PfP process rather than let the Kosovo build an security force for its own protection.
It was clearly understood from the latest developments in Caucasus that the Russia does not allow any formation that can harm his interests. For Russian security perspective, as far as Caucasus is concerned, separatism or radicalism are not subject to tolerance
. Moreover, Russian Federation seeks to reach the power she has during the USSR era, even has in Russian Empire time.
If we correctly read the “Medvedev’s Doctrine”, which was announced in early September 2008, it could be seen between the lines that Russian territorial interests will cared in the areas which they are already exist. These areas most probably can be listed with starting from Caucasus since has a top priority.
Although European Countries dependency because of the energy requirements caused obligations is leaving very limited compartment to NATO to move particularly in Caucasus, improvement of Georgian NATO relationship caused tension between Russia and Georgia; easy escalation of Azerbaijan Armenia dispute and increase of ISID or El Qaida activities under the name of Caucasus Emirates may influence the regional stability in the future.
C. Middle East:
The Middle East keeps its strategic position in the big picture. During the Syrian Civil War, even for own interests, Russia took part in the game as an external power, beside US and coalition countries participating in the Inherent Resolve Operation, furthermore, even very low profile, some EU countries and China.
We cannot mention Middle East, if Turkey is not considered as a main actor. One of the main topics for the Turkey is the terrorist movements that coming from unstable Iraq by crossing the border which lays in most mountainous parts of the both country and Syria because of the on-going Civil War. Turkey suffered last almost thirty years from bloody separatist terrorist activities based in northern part of Iraq and Syria by PKK terrorist organisation. During this period and recently, Turkey repeatedly announced red lines against all kind of terrorist activities close to her borderline coming from either ISID or PKK. In this content, Turkey finds the rational to get precautions against the terrorist groups operating in Iraqi and Syrian territory attacks the Turkish security forces and civilians on her soil. UN article 51 gives the states self-defence right against these kind of hostile acts of any aggressors. Turkey has launched a major military intervention in Syria in the mid August 2016, sending tanks and warplanes across the border in a coordinated campaign with Syrian opposition fighters, who seized an Islamic State-held village in the area in the first hours of fighting. The operation, called “Euphrates Shield”, has a dual purpose: to dislodge ISIS from Jarablus, its last major redoubt on the 500-mile border, and to contain the expansion of other terrorist group PKK affiliated YPG terrorists in northern Syria
. Turkey announced that the response was Turkey’s “most legitimate right” and that Turkey could not be a “mere spectator” amid the intensifying threat either by ISIS or PKK.
When Europe fashioned its open border agreements late last century, it did not anticipate more than a million migrants in one year alone, as happened in 2015.
The conflict in Syria continues to be by far the biggest driver of migration. But the ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq are also leading people to look for new lives elsewhere. Thousands have died trying to cross by sea, posing a moral challenge for the continent. The stream, which continues unabated, has brought on both generosity and xenophobia, ultimately shaking the open-border arrangement to the core.
Europeans are now erecting barriers along the migrants' Balkan route from Greece to Germany, after initially allowing entry to hundreds of thousands. Multitudes fester in squalid conditions in southeastern Europe. Many face legal limbo around the continent, waiting for asylum applications to be processed or residing without permits.
Before to conclude, I would like to propose firstly using the name “Central Balkans” for the region consists of; Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo
, since the possible future troubles that the area most probably will fall in coming decade because of the economic and social problems, therefore requires to be defined specifically by the way of having unique name. However, secondly, I strongly recommend considering the Balkans a an undivided one piece, since the division of the Balkan region to West, Centre or East does possibly cause the further problems as far as the security is concerned.
Secondly, I also propose the allegation about the necessity for to please the Turkey in consequence of seeking her facilitative position in the Middle East, which could be done by the endeavour of the internal and external actors. This initiative gives a chance to figure out Iraqi and Syrian questions in close future most probably. Also this positive development gives a glade the region since its consequence to external actors’ repatriation from the region hopefully for good.
To sum up as a conclusion, the below list shows the main threats from the above mentioned triangle towards the South-eastern Europe could be considered as security challenger in coming future;
1. Refugee flow (migration);
2. Terror/terrorist export of ISIS (transnational terrorism);
3. Balkan discomfort (Kosovo Unrest);
4. Tolerance to Russian rearmament;
5. Economic considerations (budget constraints);
But most dangerously, European countries’ indifference against the above mentioned threats and transatlantic alienation must be understood as a significant threat to European interests, since in all these possible chaotic conditions, Europe needs un-divided NATO and one single piece EU entirely. Thus, in this content, Montenegro’s upcoming NATO membership is a significant and very key for the Balkans since the highly possible contribution of this accession to the trans-regional stability by the way of providing security to all Europe.
Turkey in the first world war, 21 November 2008, http://www.turkeyswar.com/prelude/balkanwars1.htm
Cooperation between Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova started with the GUAM consultative forum, established on October 10
, in Strasbourg
and named after the initial letters of each of those countries. In 1999, the organization was renamed GUUAM
due to the membership of Uzbekistan
. A summit in Yalta
on June 6
to June 7
, was accompanied by the signing of GUUAM's charter which formalized the organization. However in 2002, Uzbekistan announced that it planned to withdraw from the organization, and following this announcement started to ignore GUUAM summits and meetings. On May 24
, shortly after the Andijan massacre
, Uzbekistan finally gave an official notice of withdrawal from the organization to the Moldovan presidency, thus changing the group's name back to GUAM.
Kiev Ukraine news blog, 28 May 2006, http://blog.kievukraine.info/2006/05/russian-tv-sees-revitalized-guam-as.html
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Expository - The Middle East and North Africa: Religions, Nationalities, and Languages,
Petrol, Daniel Yergin,1991, sf.12
Tomasz Żornaczuk, The Croatian-Slovenian Border Dispute and Croatia’s Accession Negotiatons with the EU, the Polish Institute of International Affairs Bulletin No.28, May 2009, p. 56
The Bear is back, Paul Dibb, 10 November 2008, http://www.the-american-interest.com/ai2/article.cfm?Id=187&MId=3
ABD nin Kafkasya çıkmazı, Maya ARAKON, 23 September 2008
 The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy, George Friedman, 02 September 2008, http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/medvedev_doctrine_and_american_strategy
Phillip Connor, Number of Refugees to Europe Surges to Record 1.3 Million in 2015, Pew Research Center, August, 2016, p.4
Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Gerasimov’s press briefing on 14 September 2016 concerning Russian new force structure enlargement and capability increasing in the South Army