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Monday, July 15, 2024

Turkey’s Shocking Strategy: NATO ally Cozying up to China & Russia? EU vs BRICS

The recent BRICS session in Russia highlighted the group's growing influence as a multipolar alternative to Western power structures, with Turkey expressing interest in joining the expanded bloc that now includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

The BRICS session held in Russia this week was a power projection by the upcoming multipolar world. It’s the first meeting of the expanded group to 10 which now includes Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan attended  the meeting underscoring Turkey’s interest in exploring cooperation opportunities with the BRICS countries and there are strong rumors emanating from Istanbul that Turkey, tired of being treated as a second rate country by its western allies, is seriously considering joining BRICS as well. President Erdogan had participated in the 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg in 2018 but despite an offer at the time to join in the next round did not take it up. But now, circumstances and objectives, both for BRICS and Turkey are different.

BRICS is an amalgam of countries from the world’s largest authoritarian government, China to the world largest democracy, India, currently contains western pariah states – Russia and now Iran as well as US Middle Eastern allies – Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt.

When Turkey joins it would be the first NATO country to jump into this group which is now a growing powerful alternative structure to those created post 1945 by the western countries coming out of WW2 to perpetuate their power.

Turkey finally tired of what it perceives as a racist, Islamophobia and non serious attitude shown by the Europeans to its request of EU membership has finally come to the realization that it needs to move on from what by this stage is a decades old aim to join Europe.

Read More: BRICS stable force in international affairs with ‘bright prospects’: China

This is a big message to Europe and the West. Its joining at this time when the West is at war with two of the major countries in BRICS- in Russia through Ukraine and an economic war with China. Even South Africa is not in their good books after its stance on Israel and for taking it to the ICJ for its genocide of the Palestinians.

Turkey signed its Association agreement with the European Community in 1963 – and requested full membership in 1987. European Community – the EC, which was the precursor to the European Union, only had 12 member states at the time. What’s interesting is that Spain and Portugal had just joined the year before in 1986. Both these countries had signed their Association agreements with the EC in 1970 and 1972.

When they officially joined the EC they had very bad economic situations with massive unemployment, high inflation and low growth rates and had recently emerged from dictatorship governments. Nothing made them especially different from the Turks…except for one major difference – their religion – they were Muslims.

At the Helsinki Summit in 1999 , Turkey was officially recognized as a candidate country for EU membership. Afterwards, the talks were carried out between Turkey and the EU, but with no significant breakthrough for turkey. Making things worse,, in 2018, The European Parliament voted to suspend Turkey’s accession talks due to concerns over human rights and rule of law issues.the European commission report also highlighted same concerns: significant backsliding in areas of democracy, rule of law, and fundamental rights, further hindering the way of turkey to join EU.

There is a sense of betrayal from Europe felt in Turkey and after 35 years of waiting they know they are never going to get accepted into this elitist Christian club and are looking to BRICS in the words of Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan during his recent visit to China he described BRICS to offer a “good alternative to the European Union”.

Given the European economic conditions in turmoil, with its GDP on decline,

Turkey probably has more to gain from joining BRICS – with the world’s second and third largest economies anyway! Recently the Russian spokesperson revealed that over 40 countries have lined up to join BRICS including Thailand, a stalwart US ally up to now in South East Asia.

So what does NATO member Turkey bring to the BRICS table and vice versa? Does BRICS threaten western hegemony? Does it matter to the US if Turkey joins the BRICs? How western countries are cleverly using the prisoner’s dilemma to keep BRICS in check.
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BRICS, was an acronym created in 2001 by a Goldman Sachs -the investment bank- report titled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs.” Brazil, Russia, India, China, were identified as emerging economies with significant growth potential and an increasing influence on the global stage. Officially it was set up in 2009 with its first meeting in Russia. The 2008 financial crisis exposed vulnerabilities in the global financial system and emerging economies like Brazil, Russia, India, and China (initially BRIC) recognized the importance of having a platform to coordinate their responses to global economic challenges and to assert their collective interests.

South Africa was added to the group in 2010, expanding it to BRICS, to better represent the African continent and enhance the group’s geopolitical weight. Many people expect it to dominate the global economy in the coming decades and see it as an alternative to the G7, which is led primarily by western nations. BRICS represents a significant shift in global power dynamics. If Turkey’s bid is successful, it would become the first Nato ally to join the bloc.

The creation of an alternative power bloc threatening the domination of the western power set up in 1945 sends shivers down the back of countries like the United States, UK, and Canada. The latter two countries are now irrelevant to the world and retain their power -to the extent they have any -by playing second fiddle to the United States.

Read More: Pakistan strives to collaborate with Russia to join BRICS

Threat to Western power:

  1. Economic Competition
  2. Geopolitical Influence
  3. Strategic Alliances
  4. Alternative Financial Systems
  5. Resource Control
  6. Technological Advancement
  7. Economic Competition

For western countries the BRICS countries collectively represent a close to 42% of the world’s population and 29% of global GDP as compared to the G7’s 43%, in fact on a PPP basis they are bigger at 36% than the G7’s 30% [show the stats here i sent you]

BRICS and G7 countries’ share of the world’s total gross domestic product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) from 2000 to 2023.

Their economic growth and increasing share of global trade challenges the dominance of Western economies. For instance, BRICS nations are rapidly industrializing and becoming major players in manufacturing, technology, and resource extraction, which can shift economic power away from traditionally dominant Western economies. Despite Turkey’s current economic issues it has a GDP of over $1 trillion in 2023, so it would be a significant addition to the BRICS plus club. While majority of Turkey’s trade is with Europe – joining BRICs offers it an opportunity to expand and deepen new trade relationships.

2. Geopolitical Influence

BRICS countries represent a multipolar world order which stands in contrast to the unipolar dominance of the United States and its Western allies. They perpetuate this power through dominance of international institutions like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank. The global south are not given their rightful voting share.

China for example only has 6% voting shares of the IMF despite having 18% of global GDP. The leadership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank has what can be referred to as a “gentlemen’s agreement.” In which the IMF is headed by a European and the World Bank by an American. Yet as far back as 2009 in the G20 summit western countries had promised that future leaders of IMF and WB would be chosen on the basis of merit and not geographical territory.

For the BRICS countries adding Turkey to its ranks strengthens them strategically – although it is only a middle income country it punches above its weight in the region given its strategic location straddling the West and the East, its historical role in the Middle East and its importance as a leader in the Muslim world as well as being a NATO ally for the US. BRICS is seen as a platform challenging American power, currently it is also giving legitimacy to Russia as well demonstrating it has allies in the world against the Western attempts to isolate it due to the Ukraine war. In the current BRICS session China has urged BRICS countries to take a stance against the new Cold War.

Turkey’s interest in potentially joining BRICS aligns with its recent broader foreign policy strategy of diversifying its international alliances and reducing its dependency on Western led system. Being an important member of BRICS would raise its own standing in many global economic and political forums.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out, in his opening remarks during the recent Meeting of Foreign Ministers from the expanded BRICS, that BRICS are becoming increasingly important in a changing world. “BRICS’ expansion confirms the process of forming a multipolar world order,” he noted, noting the growing influence of South and East Asian countries in global decision-making. The Russian foreign minister criticized Western attempts to maintain dominance and slow multipolarization. Economic “weapons” like sanctions and financial pressure are used by Western nations to influence sovereign decisions.

3. Strategic Alliances

The BRICS bloc often work together on strategic issues, which can counterbalance Western military and political alliances such as NATO. For instance, Russia and China have been strengthening their military and political ties, which poses a challenge to Western strategic interests in regions like Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Turkey can play an essential role in this.

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and contributes significantly to NATO with its substantial military presence. Turkey has approximately 355,000 active military personnel, making it the second-largest military force within NATO, after the United States. It hosts NATO bases and its military capabilities are essential for NATO’s collective defense and rapid deployment capabilities. Turkey’s strategic location – at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East makes it a critical ally in terms of regional security and strategic access. It offers the same strategic advantages for the BRICS nations.

The U.S.-Turkish relationship was built on shared security interests during the Cold War. Those interests have diverged considerably in the three decades since the Soviet empire collapsed. Turkey now views economic relations with Russia as essential, while the United States and much of the Western world are committed to Moscow’s military defeat in Ukraine.

4. Alternative Financial Systems

BRICS nations have started slowly to take steps to create alternative financial institutions and mechanisms, such as the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). This will help them to reduce their dependence on Western-dominated financial systems including the hegemony of institutions like the IMF and World Bank, as well as the dominance of the US dollar in global trade. Talk of de-dollarization is the fastest way to get yourself taken out of power – had Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi been alive you could have asked them about this.

In 2000, Saddam Hussein announced that Iraq would switch its oil sales from dollars to euros. This decision was seen as a threat to the dollar’s supremacy in the oil market. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, while publicly justified by concerns over weapons of mass destruction and the promotion of democracy, is often cited as having economic motives linked to securing oil reserves and maintaining the dollar’s dominance in global oil transactions Muammar Gaddafi, the former leader of Libya, obviously did not learn from Saddam Hussain’s example and he proposed the creation of a gold-backed currency, the “Gold Dinar,” to be used for oil transactions in Africa. This initiative is believed to have played an important part in contributing to the international intervention in Libya in 2011, leading to Gaddafi’s ouster and the subsequent civil war.

However, despite this many of the BRICs countries are increasingly trading with each other with their own respective currencies. Recently Russian President Vladimir Putin said that 80% of the trade between Russia and China is settled in either Russian rubles or Chinese yuan. Similarly much of its trade with India is being done in the Rupee.

The countries have discussed setting up a new currency to trade with each other – to reduce their reliance on the US dollar and enhance their economic independence, particularly seen as important after the way sanctions were placed on Russia, international reserves held in western countries were frozen and it was kicked out of Swift. China probably thinks the time is not too far when the same could happen to it. China is keen on using the BRICS platform to promote the internationalization of the yuan as well as being on board with the idea of a BRICS trading currency but the idea is sometime away before being adopted.

Read More: BRICS leaders agree to expand bloc

The New development bank is also important as it gives the BRICS economies access to infrastructure finance for projects which would be extremely helpful for countries like Turkey to access. So far it has approved a total amount of financing for projects of approximately $32.8 billion.

5. Resource Control

Several BRICS countries, notably Russia and Brazil, are major exporters of natural resources, including  energy and agricultural products, the addition of Saudi Arabia, Iran and UAE  [find out what is total oil reserves BRICs countries have, production, exports – you can show the charts] into the club brings in more resource rich members. While it’s probably not going to happen overnight there is the potential that control over key resources can influence global markets and impact the economies of resource-dependent Western nations. Russia supplied about 45% of the EU’s natural gas imports – this became a huge issue for Europeans when due to sanctions they could not buy Russian energy after the Ukrainian war in 2022. On earlier occasions Russia also periodically reduced or cut off gas supplies to certain European countries, during disputes over pricing and payments, as seen in the 2006 and 2009 gas disputes with Ukraine.

Read More: Western countries not welcome at BRICS – Moscow

6. Technological Advancement

Countries like China and India are rapidly advancing in technology and innovation. China, in particular, has made significant strides in areas such as artificial intelligence, 5G technology, and green energy. This technological competition can undermine Western technological supremacy and affect global standards and markets.

To keep a check on BRICS western powers have smartly played to keep the members in a game of prisoner’s dilemma – this is an important strategic concept in game theory taught in Economics, International affairs as well as other subjects. It illustrates why two rational countries in this case might not cooperate, even though it is in their best interest to do so. So players are used to playing off each other – in this case using BRICS members against each other by exploiting the incentives for individual countries to prioritize their national interests over collective cooperation. So instead of India and China (the world’s second and third largest countries) to work together to create the Asian century get them to engage in a fight for power, or resources in their region by Exploiting Distrust or competition among BRICS members to further drive wedges or by highlighting how national interests might be better served through individual deals rather than collective agreements often benefiting western countries or the US while this is happening.

The War in Ukraine has made it explicit that the US is no longer the sole power, with absolute say, paving the way for Turkey to come out of decades built safe -zone of Western orbit. Turkey, like many other states, Saudi Arabia, Iran and UAE, seems to understand that they will find themselves nowhere if they continue to pay heed to the US.  Also its closest ally, Israel is throwing it back into the face of American leaders, whatever they propose, and they still back Israel.  Showing that For the US , the interests of ‘’self’’ here US and Israel, as uttered multiple times by US leaders,  are more important than ‘’others’’, even if they come at  the expense of thousands of lives. In the larger spectrum of the third world, BRICS is attempting to become a choice , if not a replacement, of the US-led western leadership.

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