To conclude, Turkey’s foreign policy towards the Caspian Sea region reflects its key strategic priority of protecting the political independence of the newly independence of Turkic countries of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. In this respect, as a medium-sized regional soft power, Turkey has been making significant contributions to the Turkic countries in the Caspian Sea region. However, Ankara had treated these Caspian Sea countries as its junior partners until the early 2000s. This approach was not positively accepted by these countries since they had just recently liberated themselves from the domination of another ‘big brother’ Moscow. Since then Turkey has made a significant progress in reformulating its cooperation with the Caspian Sea countries on a relatively more egalitarian basis. Currently Turkey enjoys close socioeconomic partnership and high level of cooperation and political dialogue with the Turkic speaking countries of the Caspian, particularly with its closest regional partner Azerbaijan.
Turkey’s approach towards the Caspian Sea region has been also reflected in its preference to use its soft power emphasizing socio-economic and cultural aspects. Despite its limitations, Turkey’s soft power and its inclusive approach to international cooperation have enhanced Ankara’s relations with these countries. This is particularly visible in the geo-economic dimension of Turkey’s relations with the countries in the Caspian Sea region albeit in varying degrees.
Turkey’s use of its soft power in its policy towards the Caspian Sea region has its own strengths and limitations too. Turkey’s soft power in the Caspian Sea region stems from three factors. First, Turkey has started to treat the Turkic countries in the Caspian Sea region as its equal partners since the 2000s which led to establishment of more practical mutual partnerships. Second, these countries consider Turkey as their gateway to Europe and the Western world in general in order to counterbalance the hegemonic powers of Russia and Iran. Last but not least, Europe’s southern energy corridor through Turkey makes cooperation with Ankara more attractive to the energy-rich Caspian Sea countries.
Turkey’s policy towards the Caspian Sea region suffers from some limitations too. Despite Ankara’s generous contributions to the Turkic states in the Caspian Sea region, Turkey’s capabilities were below its Turkic speaking Caspian partners’ expectations for assistance. Although these states are rich in terms of energy resources, still they needed huge foreign investment to keep their economies growing. Turkey lacked the financial sources and new advanced technologies that these countries needed. To counter these shortcomings, since 2000s Turkey have significantly improved its foreign and economic policy posture in Caspian Sea basin and established more pragmatic and practical cooperation with the regional countries.
All in all, Turkey has demonstrated a successful performance in establishing cooperation with the Caspian littoral states despite Ankara’s limitations in its capabilities. Ankara’s continuing commitment to the regional socio-economic development could enable it to play even a greater and more constructive regional role in future.