As is well known, with the disintegration of the Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union), China and the Russian Federation have settled the Shanghai Five summit which includes also Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan. This was settled bue to China and Russia leaving the problems arising from the competition in line with the opportunities arising from the political gap in Central Asia in the international conjuncture. Although it started as a security agreement of 5 countries, in the following years the mutual relations developed in the perspective of trust and it has contributed to the region at the point of regional peace, economy and stability. The organization is attracting interest in the world public as it hosts the world’s largest market, the most energy-producing and consuming countries, and affects the attitude of the countries.
With the increase of the inter-members business association in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Chinese activity in the region has also increased. Along with SCO, China has created a platform for itself to develop relations with the Central Asian states. Thus, China is shaping its current regional politics through SCO and rising to become an active force in Central Asia. For example, the volume of trade between China and the five member states rose from $ 12.1 billion in 2001 to $ 123.7 billion in 2012. If the free trade zone and integration projects led by China are accomplished, it is predicted that the gross domestic product of China will pass the 30% of the world. The promotion of economic and security partnerships much further enhances the effectiveness of China’s policies in the international arena, allowing it to say that I am also in world politics.
SCO and its importance in terms of Turkey
As far as Turkey is concerned, the Central Asian region is an important economic, political and cultural region for Turkey. Turkey has developed very good political relations with the Central Asian states in the current international conjuncture because of both historical and cultural proximity. But economic macroeconomic policies have not been able to achieve the desired policies in the region. For example, the Central Bank of Kazakhstan, according to the September 30, 2012 for the investment. The first place was of 46 billion dollars for the United States, followed by the United Kingdom with 16.2 billion dollars, while Turkey was not even in the top ten. When it comes to infrastructure investments in the region, in the Asian Development Bank, which comes to mind first, Turkey has the power to cast 0.6% of the vote, while China has 5.45% and Russia has 2.77%. Examples like these state that Turkey has a long way to go economically when we compare it to its cultural and political closeness to Asian region.
Although the interpretations made in terms of Turkey after the disintegration of the USSR have attracted the better relations between the people, the inability to produce stable policies to address the national interest of the states has shifted the Central Asian states to different partners for their own benefits. This is the reason why the advantage of Turkey in the region is going down. Although Turkey has mutual cultural and historical heritage and events with the people of the region, mutual interest in inter-state relations is put always more important. Although the statesmen talk more about mutual friendship, it is just done to have more advantages when it comes to the domestic politics. On the kitchen side of the business, the issue is whether it falls in line with national earnings. For this reason, mutual cooperation is very important for our proximity to the Central Asia peoples to be reflected in the relations with the states of these countries. The point to be emphasized here is not the triviality of soft power, but rather the fact that countries with common values have taken care of their mutual trust issues and should give the other side of the medallion a necessary boost. Because if we do not turn the power we have in possession, the potential energy will not be left with the shrinking of the power gap.
NATO member Turkey and SCO
In 2011, Turkey officially applied to SCO to be a diyalog country, and in the following year it had joined. In the frame of foreign policy this action can be valued as a step to become the center country. In 2004, Abdullah Gul’s statement in his visit to China states that our goal of becoming a member of the european union EU does not mean that we will ignore central asia and its surroundings. These words reflect this foreign policy’s.
As it is known. The words of Erdogan who became president in 2012 to Putin : “take us in Five of Shanghai (SCO) and we forget the European Union”. This statement was more had become more on the agenda of SCO Turkish media. For this reason a perception occurred which showed that the cooperation (SCO) can be an alternative to NATO and EU. But when we compare the historical build up period, the discourse, and their buildup mechanism of NATO and EU with SCO’s. It can be seen that they have very different formations. When we look at EU we can see that that these countries have a similar history and their relations as relatives and cultural similarities. On the other hand SCO’s countries have mutual benefit which holds them together and it hosts countries which are very different historically and culturally. When it comes to NATO, its central committee, unity and pactin formation. It is different from SCO. In this regard it can be said that SCO can not be an alternative to NATO and EU. On the contrary, for the sake of Turkey’S arrow to hit West, it is like stretching the bow to the east. This would make Turkey have more power in both the sides and it would be a step to become the central country in its foreign policy frame. Due to the stated reasons, it can be said that the words of the president erdogan and the Turkish officials are to seek attention from the West. And the explanation of ministry of foreign policy during the time is : “just like how for our country SCO is not an alternative for EU or NATO, our involvements with these organizations are not an obstacle for us to not have relations with SCO”.
The advantages of Turkey joining
Turkey, by being a member of SCO. It can find the right platform to advance its relations with the middle asian countries which it is interested to have stronger relations with.
As you may know, NATO, EU and US have stayed most of the time sylent to Turkey’s politics in the near past. From turkey‘s view the wanted results are not obtained.To show that Turkey’s power is not under the pressure of the west, and so that Turkey’s words would be heard in this region, the arrow and bow tactik which Turkey will pull in the frame of SCO will help Turkey reach its goal.
In the course which started in 1991, and which had many of its planes and promises left on paper due to either economic or teknolojik reasons, Turkey was not able to evaluate and take benefit of the political void which was born in central asia . It does not look possible to be effective in the region while ignoring the countries which advanced by filling the political and economic void like USA, China, and Russia. Although there are no problems in bilateral relations, Turkey still needs to consider the regional values in mikro projects. Although we hold soft power, in the International Arena the most important thing for every country is its own national benefit. For the central Asia Point of view, the micro agreements and security work between central Asia countries and Russia or China holds a great value for their country’s public order and growth. at this point if another country shows up trying to take a portion of the central Asia cake, then Russia and China will unquestionably reject and will make things difficult for the involving country. And even if we take this as a reason, it can be seen that our chance of joining SCO is low. In this frame, If Turkey wants to have a goal of being a central country in Asia then it needs to improve its relation with Russia and China. We have many advantages and disadvantages on this matter.
The evaluation of Turkey entering SCO
Why would two countries like Russia and China want to divide the energy blast of central asia to three meanwhile they can just divide it to two between themselves? In this topic, Turkey needs to step up its relation with China and Russia from competition to cooperation. Just like when SCO was building up and Russia and China accepted to divide the cake to two between themselves Despite all the disagreements between them. but with Turkey joining in, the idea that this will improve the maneuver area of the central asia countries and will make the central asia countries to be able to market their energy to more countries, might cause them to support Turkeys interference. But under the supervision of the two countries Russia and China. no matter how much these central asia countries would like to make Turkey join. The final decision comes to Russia and China. On this topic, Turkey should use its historical and cultural connections with the central asia countries. Although the economic power of Turkey is incompatible with China’s economic power, on this subject Turkey has the soft power. This way by Making constant steady political moves, Turkey can play an effective rule in the region. having this power which china does not have strengthens Turkey. If we faluate this for an organization point of view, an organization which has Turkey’s soft power and China’s economic power will be alot stronger. This will enlarge the organization against US and EU, and benefit Russia who is a supporter for being with a euro/asia organization. while China’s need is political power, Turkey’s need in the region is economic. And it should not be ignored that while this will be better to strengthen and to have mutual benefits for the organization, it is also a security measure. At this point, the mutual benefits should be improved and misunderstandings should be fixed. With Turkey’s approach to China’s security worries with more intimate and concrete policies, and with correction of the misunderstandings, the two countries will have a healthier relation and Turkey’s regional policies and decisions will be more effective.
Another issue which Turkey faces is its image as the allie of EU in the region and a country which makes its moves as told to it by EU. Even in the period of dialogue country, similes we made depicting Turkey as the Truva hours of the EU. Actually we look at the situation from another angle, SCO and China can turn this situation as an opportunity. Turning a country which is trying to enter the EU to its side, is like swallowing a black elephant and putting a white horse on the bord. In other words this situation is like a double edged sword with no handle. While Turkey is the sword in this situations the two edges are USA and SIO. What Turkey needs to do in this situation is not to pressure either of the sides by protecting the hands of the both sides. And for this to happen, diplomacy Should be used very effectively. in this situation it is very important to well present Turkey’s “central country” politics to both sides. Turkey needs to show that the reasons to enter SCO are disconnected from its politics with EU and at the same time explain that we will not be following a political. And this is up to having mutual relations in the frame of confidence. Just like Ahmet Davutoglu explains it, he says that our improvement of relations with Russia, is not a reason to not enter EU and it is not a reason to not have relations with EU, but it is what being the central country brings. Although in 2004 the Minister of Foreign Affairs Of China Bo Xilai has commented on Turkey’s behavior by saying “ two legs in different boats”. due to the location of Turkey, it has the potential to integrate with every region. For example while the BM decision on the issue of Palestine concerns Turkey, a decision of NATO about Afghanistan also concerns Turkey. Just like how we strong of relations we have with Europe and the middle east, same case can be with Asia. And it should be improved more. In this situations the steps taken to join SCO gives Turkey a better area to maneuver and more power to its hand.
First, we can say that Turkey joining SCO is not an alternative to EU, on the contrary it is a step to become the “central country”. From this point of view this step should not be seen as a step against EU, but it should be seen as an improvement step.
Second, if we evaluate the possibility of Turkey entering the SCO we can see that it is remarkably hard in this situation. Turkey faces problems like security concerns and the distribution of Asia’s energy cake. These topics should be thought carefully for a solution and the relations should be brought to a higher level. But even if in the end we do not join SCO, the relations which will be brought to higher levels might convert that competition understanding between us to a cooperative relation. Establishing mutual trust is very important.
Third, if we consider Turkey’s relation with central Asia, by Turkey taking steps forward for the sake of its relation with central Asia, Turkey should evaluate well the potential of its soft power and use it wisely.