Analysis for novini.bg by Prof. Vladimir Chukov, famous Arabist, university professor and scholar in the field of Middle East politics and Islam.
On September 15 and 16, the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was held in the Uzbek city of Samarkand with the participation of the leaders of 14 countries. A number of observers consider this an important step towards Turkey’s obtaining the status of a full member of this authoritative Asian organization. What is interesting in this case is that many analysts call the SCO “the new Warsaw Pact”, and Turkey has been a member of the antagonistic NATO bloc for 70 years.
Initially, in 1996, the SCO was formed under the name “Shanghai Five”.
It includes China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Five years later, the organization was renamed the “Shanghai Cooperation Organization” with the main goal of strengthening regional security and countering terrorism. The area of the member countries is about 34 million square kilometers /the largest regional organization in the world/, with a population of nearly three billion people, which represents 40% of the world’s population. The economy of the SCO is about 30% of the world economy. Four countries are nuclear and two are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The organization currently consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan and Iran. The second category is that of observer countries, namely Belarus, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nepal, Cambodia, Armenia and Sri Lanka.
The third group is the countries participating in the “dialogue partnership”, in which since 2012 Turkey has also been included. Also, there are a number of countries showing interest in establishing some kind of relationship with the SCO, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain, UAE, Iraq and Syria. They have all declared their willingness to join the dialogue partnership initiative.
Economic development is the main impetus for the activation of relations between the member countries.
This is especially so in light of China’s rapid economic growth, which is shaping up to be the organization’s main driver. The special moment of this high-level meeting is the reverberation of the war in Ukraine on a global scale, as well as the unprecedented sanctions imposed by the West on Russia. According to analysts, the demand for the SCO by a number of countries is equal to their attempt at strategic rapprochement with China, which has demonstrated in recent years a desire to invest in different parts of the world.
In the Russian and Iranian press, the meeting in Samarkand is evaluated through the lens of increasing solidarity between countries that are subject to strict sanctions by the US and the EU. Although the anti-Western sentiments among the pro-government commentators of the event prevail, the topics that will be discussed prove that the West has no alternative in drawing the bold economic ambitions of the individual member states. The development of trade routes, based on the construction of new railways, will be discussed above all. lines. The first, which was introduced as a topic by Russia, was the creation of a railway artery that passes through its territory and reaches Europe. Moscow’s idea is to transport goods worth 75 billion dollars annually through it. However, it is not clear how this will happen in the conditions of the war in Ukraine and harsh Western sanctions.
The second topic on the agenda was brought by China. According to Beijing, it is necessary to build a railway. a line passing through Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey and reaching Europe again. It is more than obvious that through it Chinese goods will be transported to the rich European market. The third railway a line to be discussed is planned to connect Uzbekistan with Pakistan through Afghanistan. The idea of the government in Tashkent is to gain access to the sea through Pakistani ports. A second topic brought up by Uzbekistan was the situation in Afghanistan and the increasing instability that has increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Turkish press pays particular attention to Erdogan’s appearance in Samarkand. He attaches great importance to the meeting of the Turkish leader with his Russian counterpart. According to Habertürk newspaper, the two leaders, who meet frequently, have a lot to say. Among them are the possibility of reducing the prices of Russian energy resources imported from Turkey, the situation in Syria and Ukraine, and especially the “grain deal” concluded with Ukraine. Turkish commentators note that Putin is unhappy with her, since Russia has so far not exported a single gram of its cereals. Moscow’s criticism is that of the 87 ships of Ukrainian grain, all but two went to rich or “developing” countries. On his way back from his tour of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, Erdogan praised Russia’s policy as “correct”. According to him, “Western countries ‘didn’t care about poor people.’ Through these circumstances, Erdogan explained why Russia did not export goods and “Putin was right.”
Miliet newspaper, however, illuminates another reason for this behavior of Russia. According to this Turkish media
Russia does not export its goods due to fears that international insurance companies will seize Russian ships if they dock or pass through Western ports as a result of the sanctions.
Journalist Fahim Tastekin from the newspaper “Gazete Duvar” is of the opinion that the last meeting in Sochi held on August 5 between Erdogan and Putin was particularly favorable for bilateral relations. For this reason, the Russian president has invited his Turkish counterpart to Samarkand. Regardless of Turkey’s intention to build a Bayraktar drone factory in Ukraine, Putin is trying by all means to stimulate Erdogan’s anti-Western sentiment. Moscow appreciates Ankara’s position not to join the Western sanctions. In the light of the increasingly warm bilateral relations, Tasketin also explains the deposit of 10 billion dollars by Ankara in a Russian bank for the completion of the construction of the nuclear power plant “Akkuyu”, near the city of Mersin. Moreover, the Turkish analyst defines the potential reduction in the price of Russian gas delivered to Turkey as a “light within the light”. According to Tashkin, Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia is a result of Erdogan’s repulsion from the US. The Turkish leader stated: “I worked well with George W. Bush, with Barack ObamaBarack Obama – politician and the 44th president of the USA. He was born on August 4, 1961 in Hawaii. He is the first and with Donald TrumpDonald Trump – American businessman and politician Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946 in New Yorkbut I can’t say the same for Joe BidenJoe Biden (Joseph Robin Biden) is an American politician. Joe Biden was born on November 20, 1942 in.” Despite everything, the Turkish president hopes to meet this month with the American president on the sidelines of the United Nations, where the traditional session of the General Assembly of the international organization will begin. The author maintains the opinion that Erdogan’s presence in Samarkand is important not only for him, but and for the country. It shows “Turkey’s growing influence in the world, despite continued Western hegemony.”
In turn, Turkey’s former consul in Los Angeles, Gülru Gezer, who is a supporter of a more pro-Western orientation of his country, notes that Erdogan’s presence at the SCO forum emphasizes Ankara’s Asian foreign policy priority. In parallel, Turkey seems to be moving away from the West, perceiving another organization as an alternative to NATO and the EU. The former diplomat is of the opinion that Ankara should not deepen its relations with the SCO, especially at the expense of its relations with its Western partners.
The opinion of the researcher Barish Adebeli, expressed in an interview in the “Jumhuriyet” newspaper and quoted by the famous Lebanese expert on Turkey Nuredin Mohamed, is that his country’s membership in the SCO would be beneficial for it. As a direct consequence of it, Ankara’s weight will increase in the Asian environment, and the reason is that a number of Turkic-speaking countries are already members of this organization. Adebeli also makes an interesting internal political analysis of the SCO, outlining the centrifugal currents. According to him, there is already a hidden confrontation between the natural leaders, namely China and Russia. Pakistan and Iran gravitate around the first, and the countries of Central Asia and India around the second. He predicts that the invitation to Erdogan’s presence in Samarkand came not by chance from Putin, and not from Xi Jinping. If one day Turkey became a full member of the SCO, it would join the pro-Russian axis and be part of Russia’s quest to find a counterbalance to China’s enormous economic weight. Reasonings such as Adebeli’s reflect the importance of the symbiosis between the Eurasian and Turanian currents among the Turkish intelligentsia, at the expense of the pro-Western one, which has long been in opposition /especially with Erdogan’s coming to power.
All these mental constructions come against the background of neglecting the consequences of the war in Ukraine. The majority of Turkish experts perceive it as a conflict with regional dimensions. Obviously, they do not foresee serious domestic political upheavals in Russia. This is probably where their positions diverge from their Western colleagues, an increasing number of whom are already talking about the post-Putin era.