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The School of International Regional Studies is a research and educational centre seeking to revive international regional studies as an academic discipline in Russia. The department’s world-class professors train the next generation of regional studies specialists while developing an increasingly prestigious research school.
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The meeting was organized by ProfessorVera Vishnyakova, Head of the HSE School of International Regional Studies of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs. The invited experts were Dr. Amur Gadzhiev, Director of the Centre for the Study of Modern Turkey of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Altunay Alieva, Research Fellow, School of World Politics, Lomonosov Moscow State University; Elmira Imamkulieva, visiting lecturer of the School of International Regional Studies of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs of the HSE University, and scientific fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Dr. Renat Karamurzov, Professor, Department of Economics and Economic Geography of Asia and Africa at the Institute of Asian and African Studies Lomonosov Moscow State University.
Professor Başkan expressed the general concern that none of the countries in the world was prepared for the pandemic crisis. Turkey, as almost any other country, had its own domestic and foreign problems that were now put to background of the crisis. To start with these pre-COVID settings of Turkey, it’s worth mentioning the fragile geography of the country that borders Syria and thus is involved into an armed conflict there. The conflict in Syria has seriously challenged Turkish-Russian relations that had been very close before.
Secondly, Turkey has 5th largest diplomatic network and during the pandemic Turkey sent humanitarian aid all over the world. The expert noted that some countries received this aid as donations, but for a number of countries it was a trade deal, where Professor Başkan drew the connection of pandemic and politics noting that Turkish government could use this opportunity to strengthen the ties with new strategic partners and to defend its foreign policy objections.
Turkey is in fact a very active international player, it holds a membership in G-20 and NATO as well as being a part of an informal consultation and coordination platform among Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA) that has references to NATO and WTO. MIKTA can further contribute to develop constructive solutions to several regional and global problems. Turkey strongly supports to strengthen cooperation among MIKTA countries and is committed to improve its bilateral relations with other MIKTA members. Therefore, Professor Başkan suggested that Turkey can become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, while many of the international organizations are going to be reformed after the pandemic. Some experts also expect that the countries that showed the better performance in overcoming crisis will be included in G-20.
Moreover, the rapprochement of Turkey and the EU is expected in the future and even now the warming in the relations can be observed. Turkey has long been trying to enter the Union identifying itself as a part of Europe not only in geographical terms but in the cultural one as well.
The expert also identified several challenges for Turkish foreign policy that have deep roots in the history. One of them is the Armenian issue that was only fuelled by the recent attack on Armenian church in Istanbul. The second issue is the refugee conflict with Greece: in middle April Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Turkey to use the situation with COVID-19.
For the pandemic Turkish government Imposed strict measures and therefore managed to control the situation at rather stable level that was positively commented in the WHO. Professor Başkan however pointed at domestic challenges caused by COVID-19 among which were the increased number of domestic violence cases, xenophobia and worsening of refugee crisis. Serious damage is done to the country’s economy and especially to the tourism sector.
According to the expert, Turkish President Erdogan may use the situation with COVID-19 as an opportunity to strengthen his power and restore Turkey’s image in the world. However, there is the serious fragmentation of ruling party in the country: some ministers were replaced being unable to perform their tasks anymore. The opposition in its turn is becoming more powerful and is openly criticizing government for failing to react in time and provide the citizens with free medical supply. Moreover, the policies were changed very often during the pandemic revealing the lack of the official strategy. The official statistics is considered to be incomplete and thus the real situation with COVID-19 cases stayed underreported.
Summarizing his presentation, Professor Başkan advised to consider every situation from different perspectives and develop a strong critical thinking.Video is available to the link: https://youtu.be/oaWmecKknjU