The Shanghai Five, which later became the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), was established on April 26, 1996 with the signing of the Treaty on Deepening Military Confidence in Border Areas, in Shanghai by the heads of state of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.
Full members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s de facto response to NATO, in addition to the Shanghai Five, are Uzbekistan, Iran, India and Pakistan, with Belarus in the process. of membership. Afghanistan and Mongolia are observer states. Sri Lanka, Turkey, Cambodia, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Armenia, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are dialogue partners.
What do the members, future members, interlocutors and future interlocutors of this exotic mixture of nations have in common?
With their growing democratic deficits and their regimes ranging from authoritarianism to dictatorship, they are at a cold war with the global democratic bloc of nations.
A brief timeline:
- “Let us [Turkey] and we will consider our candidacy for European Union (EU) membership” – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in July 2012 – the same year Turkey became a dialogue partner of the SCO.
- “I told Putin… Let us in to break with the EU. Shanghai five is better [than the EU]. It’s much more powerful. [With membership] we will have the chance to be with the countries with which we share common values” — Erdoğan, in January 2013.
- “Why wouldn’t Turkey be in the Five? – Erdoğan, in March 2016.
- And finally, in September 2022, Erdoğan became the first NATO head of state to attend an SCO summit, in Uzbekistan. “Our relations with these countries will be moved to a much different position with this step,” Erdoğan said. When asked if he was talking about joining the SCO, he replied, “Of course, that’s the goal.” But that’s also Putin’s target, like planting another ticking time bomb at NATO headquarters. Erdoğan went to the summit at Putin’s personal invitation.
It’s the natural result of West’s deaf ears and blind eyes. When Erdoğan first spoke about Turkey joining the SCO a decade ago, Western capitals reacted with shy laughter and a misdiagnosis: that Erdoğan was just bluffing to win a faster accession to the European Union.
Western bigwigs didn’t even get the message when, in 2013, Erdoğan referred to Eurasian dictatorships as “countries with which we have common values”. He was just saying what to him was the truth.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said last month he was “very angered” by attempts by Turkey to join this security bloc and all the rest of Central Asia dominated by Russia and China. Sorry, too late.
Amusingly, Erdoğan became the first NATO head of state to attend an SCO summit while pressuring Congress to deliver American-made F-16 Block 70 fighter jets to his Air Force. Behind closed doors in Washington, his emissaries and back-channels will tell their American audience that “Turkey’s future is in the Western bloc, that the SCO discussion is for Turkey’s balance between its commitment to the West and its inevitable proximity to Russia”.
Putin announced at the SCO summit on September 16:
“Our agreement on deliveries of Russian natural gas to Turkey is expected to come into effect in the near future, with 25% of the payment for these deliveries in Russian rubles.”
After Western sanctions hit Russia, five Turkish banks joined Russian payment system Mir (although two later pulled out), crippling sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February . Some Turkish banks have suspended lending to businesses after the latest round of Turkish government regulations increased their costs and forced many to reduce their balance sheet risks.
Nevertheless, Erdoğan’s eurasism, his revisionist neo-Ottoman policies and his aggression against Greece and Cyprus may not work as the miracle tools he might have hoped for in the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections of June 2023. He recently threatened to invade the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. He threatened to launch a new military incursion into Syria, where Turkish soldiers are already fighting US-backed Kurdish groups. In the past, such tools have always worked to raise the nationalist spirit of Turks and won votes for Erdoğan. But the Turks live in a totally different economic realm than in the recent past.
Turkey’s official annual inflation hit a new 24-year high of 80% in August – although ENAG, an independent research body, put the true annual inflation rate at 181% for the same period . The worst may be yet to come.
EPDK, the Turkish electricity regulator, and its natural gas distribution counterpart Botas, have just decided to increase electricity and gas prices by 20% for individuals and 50% for businesses. This measure is expected to further accelerate inflation in the country.
Among the member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Turkey has seen the highest increase in energy prices over the past year. According euro news, Botas’ wholesale natural gas price increased by 1,330% for power generation, 997% for industrial use and 216% for residential use. Meanwhile, Turkey’s currency, the lira, has lost more than half its value against the US dollar since 2021.
According to the findings of the polling institute Optimar, 76.6% of Turks say that their main problem is inflation and unemployment. This does not bode well for the leader of a country where per capita income over the past decade has fallen from $13,000 to $8,000 and is heading for a presidential election.
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey’s leading journalists, was recently fired from the country’s most famous newspaper after 29 years for writing in Gatestone about what is happening in Turkey. He is a member of the Middle East Forum.
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