Is Turkey bluffing about joining Shanghai Cooperation Organization?
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey was seriously considering becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as an alternative to joining the European Union. This is not the first scary statement by Turkey, but the West still refuses to believe Ankara and is even trying to be ironic about it.
"The EU however, actually wants to forget us; however they are hesitating and cannot forget. We are not the ones that are undecided; the European Union is, whereas if they would just reveal their true intentions to us, we would be at ease. We could just look after our own business and go our own way. The European Union needs to stop stalling us," stated Prime Minister Erdoğan.
"We have a strong economy. I told Russian President Mr. Putin, 'You should include us in the Shanghai Five and we will say farewell to the European Union.' The Shanghai Five is much better off economic-wise. It is much more powerful. We told them if you say come, we will. Pakistan wants to join as does India. They have also made requests. We could all join together. In terms of population and markets, this organization significantly surpasses the European Union in every way," Erdogan said on January 24th in an interview with local television quoted by the Turkish newspaper Sabah.
The first thought about the purpose of such statements is the fact that Turkey is trying to express its disappointment with the stalled negotiations on accession to the EU. The disappointment does exist, because everyone is sick and tired of the EU's claims and concerns. They include failure to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, violation of women's rights and the fear of possible uncontrolled immigration of Turks to the developed countries of the Union, which is a sign of Islamophobia and xenophobia.
However, there is another theory. The Turkish Prime Minister may be seeking power wherever his country's economic strength is consistent with its geopolitical needs as a global player. In contrast to the weak Europe, preoccupied with its internal problems and where Turkey is expected only as a major investor, SCO (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) is gaining influence in the West and is seen as anti-American bloc in Asia. Pakistan, Afghanistan and India that now have a status of observers expressed a desire to join the organization.
"We share common values with many of these countries," Erdogan told Russian President Vladimir Putin last summer. In November, he applied for the SCO dialogue partner status (which is below the observer status). World analysts are discussing whether Erdogan is serious or bluffing, trying to force Brussels to reconsider their position.
It is worth noting that the Prime Minister has started his campaign for the parliamentary elections to be held next year. He is closely following the opinion polls, but they say that the number of supporters of the EU accession among the Turks fell from 70 percent in 2004 to one-third in 2012, according to the Statistical Service EDAM. Fifteen percent of respondents said that Turkey should make the choice in favor of the "rival organization". Economic indicators also suggest reduction in dependence of Turkey on the EU. The share of EU countries in Turkey's trade has been steadily decreasing over the last decade. In 2003, it accounted for over 55 percent, and today it is approximately 40 percent.
Famous Turkish economist and director of the Institute of European studies at the Center for Strategic Research Can Baydarol believes that the Turkish Prime Minister really wantes to put an end to the process of accession to the EU. He said that the European Union was losing a great deal of blood responding to the crisis. Turkey continues to grow each year. At the time when the balance of power is shifting to the east, Turkey has become one of the central states. With his statement Erdogan wanted to draw the attention of the EU leaders to current events.
The U.S. State Department tried to be ironic. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said that Washington was carefully studying the statement of the Prime Minister of Turkey regarding possible accession of his country to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. She added that this was a very interesting prospect, given that Turkey is also a member of NATO. This does not mean that Washington does not recognize that Turkey may join the SCO, but simply assumes that Erdogan is just bluffing, as membership in NATO and the SCO are supposedly mutually exclusive because of ideological confrontation.
For the SCO countries it is important that Erdogan demonstrated Turkey's "personal interest" in the union. It is contributed by sustainable economic development of Russia, Kazakhstan and China. The SCO demonstrated the desire for energy security in its territories, development of transport infrastructure and formation of relevant international transport corridors. The work on creation of the Development Fund and the Development Bank of the SCO is nearing completion. The influence of the block in Asia is steadily growing.
However, there is a question about the military aspect of the cooperation between Turkey and the West. Did Erdogan go too far, as against the backdrop of the Syrian conflict Turkey has never been as dependent on the assistance of NATO? Patriot missiles on the border between Turkey and Syria have been deployed to protect against hypothetical attacks of the army of Bashar al-Assad. What would happen if the war moves to the Turkish territory? There is only one answer to this question. The Prime Minister supports such propaganda in the Western media, but clearly knows that the conflict is impossible. "Turkey is not going to war with Syria, no matter what happens," said Turkish President Abdullah Gul. The opposite is also true, and was repeatedly stated by Assad. These assessments were made by many sensible military experts.
Given the current economic and political potential in the Ankara region, the loss of Turkey is a big mistake for the EU. The European Union understands it, and the signal that came from France - the main opponent of Turkey's integration - was not a surprise. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is expected to make a statement on this issue during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during the weekend (February 2-3) in Munich, where the two ministers will attend the annual security conference, Hürriyet Daily Newsreported.