Another Name for Power Struggle: ‘Corridors’ and ‘Side Belt’

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21st century witnesses a deepening and widening geopolitical power struggle between the land and naval Powers. The aim of the “empire on which the sun never sets”, which is identified with England and stamped the period of the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, has once again involve with the countries which has the power already, and the ones who are candidate for this. It seems that progress of this power struggle between oversea powers and land powers will be determined by “side belts” and “corridors.” Current and potential geopolitical earthquakes of Ukraine to Taiwan are the most significant indicator of this.

This line definitely shows the quick transformation of the geopolitical idea, which is based on land and territorial dominance including side belt, from the theory to the practice. In that regard, the increasing acts of controlling water ways/routes, parallel to strengthening mercantile marine and navies, and strategic documents and doctrines established in that sense, especially by China and partway Russia, are quite important.

That’s why, we are facing geopolitical rivalry, which is multi-dimensional/targeted, would depolarize the status, and even perpetuity of naval powers, as much as land powers.

Except the “World Island” (Afro-Asia), in this process, which is based on the reallocation of the seas with polars and oceans, therefore a new geopolitical map, “slippery ground” in the international arena, and “slippery relationship” between the actors seem that they will be replaced with new alliances or powerful strategic cooperation, as it happened before the First World War.

One of the most important and salient issues are the determinant role of the losers of the First and Second World Wars in the new process and “Historical Empires”, who show a tendency to come back to international politics even they are late for the struggle of colonialism/hegemony.

It is aimed to surround and exulcerated China, as well as to “exit/outflow” and to fail the “hegemony building” project of China which includes Indo-Pacific. Moreover, it is aimed to fail “Asian Era/Challenge”, that is tried to be customized with China.

The one who controls corridor will rule the world

Therefore, increasing number of actors, make the web of relations more complicated as spreads the geography in a wider area. At that point, we see that the Russian-Ukrainian War is aiming not only Eastern Europe, but also the line starting from the Arctics to Caspian, even Central Asia. Here it creates the center of the power struggle not only based on Eurasia, but also Arctics.

A simultaneous project towards “North-South” and “East-West” corridors, which is based on land and coastal regions that the two countries carry out, as well as surrounding of Russia and partly China, is implied.

“Taiwan Crisis, developments in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and even Pakistan, emerge as a part of power struggle from South China Sea to Malacca, and from there to Red Sea (Indo-Pacific) and Mediterranean Sea emerges as a part of power struggle over sea corridors.

It is needed that to think about US policy towards Pakistan not unrelated from policy towards India. At the end, India is a member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS, which challenges unipolarity of the US. Even China and Russia will not be in the same polar, it seems that they aim to take place in a multipolar world, over the leadership of “New Neutrals/Non-Aligned.”

Kissenger responses

This shows us why the US is placed in Afghanistan in the post 9/11 and that it pushed the region to a big dangerous uncertainty with the advantage of the capability of power projection here. Therefore, the European-Pacific cantered crisis, which shows the tendency of deepening-widening, and which the US put into practice, point outs that the Washington watches a global strategy, in contrast with the points that Henry Kissinger expressed in his interview in the Wall Street Journal.

As US wants to eliminate the strategic loneliness over those crises, current/possible cooperation between those powers try to sabotage alliance process -as can be seen in Germany-EU/Russia and the others- establish its own alliance and make it unbeatable of its hegemony with lower cost.

In that sense, the US wants to control “First Ring” (Inner Crescent) with the operation it started over the “Second Ring” (Outer Crescent) in side belt with Taiwan crisis. At that point, the US policy aims to close the breach in the side belt; moreover, tries to re-establish its power in those regions with direct-indirect interventions and “threatening” the process going to challenge, and preventing it with crises.

As Germany-centred European Union (EU), the initiatives of including the South Asia and Far East countries, including Pakistan to the side belt are also quite important. The latest developments in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, even Japan and European countries should be evaluated in that sense.

Movements in the axis of Iran can be accepted as an important indicator of the continuation of widening operations towards other countries, which are seen as out of system by the US.

It is not possible that the US will give New Delhi a chance to be a third power center as even it is non-aligned/unbiased. That’s why, India needs a new strategy. New Delhi’s realization of this will destroy the new big game in the region. However, “strategic blindness” should be overcome.

Hard choice over India

India’s position in “Quadrilateral Dialogue”, where the US, Australia, and Japan take place, emerges as a part of an act against deterring China’s power and increasing threat in the territorial-maritime borders. Here, especially Himalayans, China-Pakistan relations and geopolitics of Indian Ocean are effective in the multipolar world seeking based on SCO and BRICS, as well as the process of New Delhi-Washington.

Parallel to China’s provocation and starting to turn into an agressive power, India’s membership to AUKUS can be more than a possibility. QUAD-AUKUS can be concrete steps towards a regional NATO structure, and in that sense, India’s alliance is primarily important for the US. The terminologic/conceptual preferations of the US give quite important clues, such as Indo-Pacific.

Therefore, India is facing a tough choice in this new geopolitical equation. Whether it will take place in “Asian Alliance”, which defends multipolarism, or play the role of regional power seems as global power such as Germany and Japan.

Tit-for-tat struggle in near belts-corridors

It clearly feels that China and Russia adapt attack strategy against the policy of the US targeting side belt and corridors, and they venture tit-for-tat struggle in that sense. With the latest doctrine, it appeared that Russia’s territorial challenge over Ukraine will continue in the dimension of maritime. Except China and India, Russia’s trial to be a naval power (although here it is seen that some of the European states have tendency towards this) and in that regard, “Naval Doctrine of Russian Federation” declared on July 31, 2022 is significant. To repeat, this issue points out that power struggle will spread to “Maritime Corridors” and “Side Belt”, including Arctics, polars, oceans and maritime areas.

As a result, a new structure of geopolitical balance-equation from a wider geography from the West to East and North to South and future of the process is about whom to control those corridors. Here, we are facing a bigger game-challenge which includes new/modern corridors including Spice Way and Silk Road, stands out with the Belt-Road Initiative.

This process, which is seen as equivalent to the end of the domination based on the seas for the US-led Western world, means the change of hegemony in the context of the East-West. It will not be a surprise for both sides that the power struggle based on the “World Island” and its surroundings, including the Arctic, will intensify in the upcoming period and follow a course towards the depths of Eurasia, including the inland seas. Because it will be this central geography and the “others” here that will determine the future of the process to a large extent.

Original article was published in Anadolu Agency on 31.08.2022.

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin EROL
1969 Dörtyol-Hatay doğumlu olan Prof. Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi (BÜ) Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden 1993 yılında mezun oldu. BÜ’de 1995 yılında Yüksek Lisans çalışmasını tamamlayan Erol, aynı yıl BÜ’de doktora programına kabul edildi. Ankara Üniversitesi’nde doktorasını 2005’de tamamlayan Erol, 2009 yılında “Uluslararası İlişkiler” alanında doçent ve 2014 yılında da Profesörlük unvanlarını aldı. 2000-2006 tarihleri arasında Avrasya Stratejik Araştırmaları Merkezi (ASAM)’nde görev yapan Erol, 2009 yılında Stratejik Düşünce Enstitüsü’nün (SDE) Kurucu Başkanlığı ve Yönetim Kurulu Üyeliği görevlerinde bulundu. Uluslararası Strateji ve Güvenlik Araştırmaları Merkezi (USGAM)’nin de kurucu başkanı olan Prof. Erol, Yeni Türkiye Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi (YTSAM) Uluslararası İlişkiler Enstitüsü Başkanlığını da yürütmektedir. Prof. Erol, Gazi Üniversitesi Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi (GAZİSAM) Müdürlüğü görevinde de bulunmuştur. 2007 yılında Türk Dünyası Yazarlar ve Sanatçılar Vakfı “Türk Dünyası Hizmet Ödülü”nü alan Prof. Erol, akademik anlamdaki çalışmaları ve medyadaki faaliyetlerinden dolayı çok sayıda ödüle layık görülmüştür. Bunlardan bazıları şu şekilde sıralanabilir: 2013 yılında Çağdaş Demokratlar Birliği Derneği tarafından “Yılın Yazılı Medya Ödülü”, 2015 yılında “APM 10. Yıl Hizmet Ödülü”, Türkiye Yazarlar Birliği tarafından “2015 Yılın Basın-Fikir Ödülü”, Anadolu Köy Korucuları ve Şehit Aileleri “2016 Gönül Elçileri Medya Onur Ödülü”, Yörük Türkmen Federasyonları tarafından verilen “2016 Türkiye Onur Ödülü”. Prof. Erol’un 15 kitap çalışması bulunmaktadır. Bunlardan bazılarının isimleri şu şekildedir: “Hayalden Gerçeğe Türk Birleşik Devletleri”, “Türkiye-AB İlişkileri: Dış Politika ve İç Yapı Sorunsalları”, “Avrasya’da Yeni Büyük Oyun”, “Türk Dış Politikasında Strateji Arayışları”, “Türk Dış Politikasında Güvenlik Arayışları”, “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti-Rusya Federasyonu İlişkileri”, “Sıcak Barışın Soğuk Örgütü Yeni NATO”, “Dış Politika Analizinde Teorik Yaklaşımlar: Türk Dış Politikası Örneği”, “Krizler ve Kriz Yönetimi: Aktörler ve Örnek Olaylar”, “Kazakistan” ve “Uluslararası İlişkilerde Güncel Sorunlar”. 2002’den bu yana TRT Türkiye’nin sesi ve TRT Radyo 1 (Ankara Radyosu) “Avrasya Gündemi”, “Stratejik Bakış”, “Küresel Bakış”, “Analiz”, “Dosya”, “Haber Masası”, “Gündemin Öteki Yüzü” gibi radyo programlarını gerçekleştirmiş olan Prof. Erol, TRT INT televizyonunda 2004-2007 yılları arasında Arayış, 2007-2010 yılları arasında Kanal A televizyonunda “Sınır Ötesi” ve 2020-2021’de de BBN TÜRK televizyonunda “Dış Politika Gündemi” programlarını yaptı. 2012-2018 yılları arasında Millî Gazete’de “Arayış” adlı köşesinde dış politika yazıları yayımlanan Prof. Erol’un ulusal-uluslararası medyada çok sayıda televizyon, radyo, gazete, haber siteleri ve dergide uzmanlığı dahilinde görüşlerine de başvurulmaktadır. 2006-2018 yılları arasında Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde ve Ankara Üniversitesi Latin Amerika Araştırmaları Merkezi’nde (LAMER) de dersler veren Prof. Erol, 2018’den bu yana Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde öğretim üyesi olarak akademik kariyerini devam ettirmektedir. Çok sayıda dergi ve gazetede yazıları-değerlendirmeleri yayımlanan; Avrasya Dosyası, Stratejik Analiz, Stratejik Düşünce, Gazi Bölgesel Çalışmalar, The Journal of SSPS, Karadeniz Araştırmaları, gibi akademik dergilerde editörlük faaliyetlerinde bulunan Prof. Erol, Bölgesel Araştırmalar, Uluslararası Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları, Gazi Akademik Bakış, Ege Üniversitesi Türk Dünyası İncelemeleri, Demokrasi Platformu dergilerinin editörlüklerini hali hazırda yürütmektedir. 2016’dan bu yana Ankara Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları Merkezi (ANKASAM) Kurucu Başkanı olarak çalışmalarını devam ettiren Prof. Erol, evli ve üç çocuk babasıdır.