Can the SCO be Turkey’s alternative to the West? | News of Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his NATO member country’s intention to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), suggesting that Ankara is seeking alternatives to its problematic ties with the West.

Erdogan, who made the remarks after attending last week’s SCO summit in Uzbekistan, was also quoted as saying by Turkish media that the 2023 SCO meeting in India will be a place to discuss further. from this perspective.

China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan, India and Uzbekistan are full members of the political, economic and security organization.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are SCO observer countries, while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey are SCO dialogue partners. block.

“Our ties with these countries will be moved to a much different position,” Erdogan told reporters on Saturday.

When asked by reporters if he meant that Turkey would seek membership in the organization, the president replied, “Of course, that’s the goal.”

The SCO is not seen as an alternative to NATO, a military alliance vested with collective defense responsibilities under Article 5 of its founding treaty, which regards an armed attack against one or more members as “an attack on all”.

Mensur Akgun, a professor of international relations, told Al Jazeera that the SCO is a hybrid bloc that seeks to prevent a vacuum in Central and South Asia through cooperation.

“It aims to increase dialogue and cooperation, to solve problems between its members when needed and to stand in solidarity with each other against interventions in the region by outside powers,” he said, adding that the SCO is closer to the model of the European Union than to NATO.

“An organization that has great rivals India and Pakistan under its umbrella would not be able to have automatic military interdependence like NATO,” Akgun said.

Akgun also said growing political and economic ties between Turkey and Russia in recent years have contributed to Erdogan’s remarks on SCO membership, especially given Turkey’s often strained relations with the powers that be. Western.

Turkey purchased the Russian S-400 defense systems, which resulted in US sanctions in addition to Turkey’s withdrawal from a US-led program developing F-35 fighter jets. Russia is also building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and the two countries signed an economic cooperation agreement in August.

Even though Turkey and Russia have backed opposing sides in the war in Syria, the two countries have largely coordinated closely during the conflict.

The Turkish government also took a balanced stance on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. He has supplied Ukraine with weapons, including drones, but he has not imposed sanctions on Russia and has criticized what he calls Western policies “based on provocation” towards Moscow.

Ankara has tried to mediate between Russia and Ukraine since the start of the conflict and helped broker a deal in July for Ukrainian grain ships to sail to overseas markets.

Tense ties with the West

Galip Dalay, a nonresident senior fellow at the Global Affairs Council for the Middle East, said Erdogan’s remarks about joining the SCO stemmed from Ankara’s tensions with the West.

“Whenever there is discontent with the West – especially with the United States [over] the perception that Turkey is being treated unfairly – the idea of ​​alternatives came up,” he told Al Jazeera.

“And because of that, Ankara currently believes that Turkey’s interests are best served by a balance between different centers of power – that is, China, Russia and the West,” Dalay said.

Ankara has also been at odds with the US and some EU member states over its support for Syrian Kurdish fighters who have allied with the West in the fight against ISIL (ISIS) in the torn country. by war.

Turkey sees the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main part of the anti-ISIL alliance, as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish state for decades. decades.

Erdogan threatened to block Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids over what he said was support for those groups, but lifted his opposition after a meeting with US President Joe Biden in June.

Following the move, Biden voiced support for sales of F-16 jets to Turkey — warplanes currently in use and inferior to the F-35s in development. However, he needs US Congressional approval for the move.

In July, the United States House of Representatives approved an amendment creating a new obstacle to Biden’s plan to sell F-16s to Turkey, imposing strict conditions on any sale.

Erdogan said last week that his government could consider other options if the United States was unable to fulfill its promise to provide the jets.

Recently, the escalation of tensions in the Mediterranean Sea between NATO members Turkey and Greece has also prompted the EU and the United States to condemn Turkey.

Ankara and Athens are at odds over a range of issues such as overflights, the status of islands between the two countries, maritime borders and hydrocarbon resources.

However, Akgun believes Turkey is unlikely to become a member of the SCO for several reasons, given the structure and objectives of the bloc.

“Turkey’s membership in the SCO does not seem possible as a NATO member and EU candidate, but also because it is currently geographically and politically irrelevant to the existence goals of the SCO,” Akgun said.

About William Ferguson

Check Also

Will Russia and Turkey’s proxy wars spiral out of control?

The history of the Ottomans and the Russians is ancient. The long list of conflicts …