Above, the photograph shows President Tayyip Erdoğan speaking while the leaders attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Sept. 15 are listening to him. Only Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are not seen in this photo. Perhaps they joined the group later. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin is there, so as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev sitting on a chair next to Erdoğan.
Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who suppressed the turmoil in his country just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is there. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is next to Putin on the coach. The host is the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, standing next to the table garnished with snacks as a gesture of hospitality.
Apparently there is a profound discussion, Erdoğan is telling a story while others are listening to him.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu shared the photo on his social media account with a caption “The world leader. May God protect you from the evil eye”.
“World leadership” is a nice wish. However this photo represents a counter balance, rather than world leadership. Fifteen years after its establishment the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an initiative of the old world, Asia, to curb the Western Alliance which we can regard as the cooperation of Japan and the North Atlantic. In this sense, Turkey, which is a “dialogue partner” of the organization, is the only country that has a place in both the Western Alliance with NATO membership and the Eurasian initiative.
The photo and second interpretation
This photograph is also a representation of a counter-balance to the concepts of free elections, independent judiciary and freedom of expression; a dark picture in that respect
Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the world’s largest regional cooperation organization, represents 40 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of the income generated. Russia, China, India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. The Shanghai group’s picture of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms is not bright at all.
In this photo, the countries where the power is likely to change with elections are only Turkey, India and to some extent Pakistan. In other countries, elections are a mere formality. As for the state of the judiciary and freedom of expression…
Turkey ranks 117th in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index. India’s rank is 79, China 98, Russia 101, Iran 119. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany are in the top five of this list. Germany is the 4th largest economy in the world after the USA, China and Japan. Ranked 149th in the freedom of press and expression index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) India ranks 150th, Russia 155, Pakistan 157, China 175, Iran 178.
Will Erdogan get what they want?
Let’s rephrase the question: How much of what he wants will Erdoğan get?
For Erdoğan, who attended the summit as a special guest, the most important meeting is the one with Putin. Turkey’s president wants to be the side that reconciles the two countries after tying the grain deal in the Ukraine war. On the other hand, he now accepts that the war will not end easily. If, as feared, Russia launches an all-out attack on Ukraine and NATO (with Turkey’s vote, of course) decides on a military response, the weather will not be as pleasant as in this chat photo.
We will find out later whether the money from Russia will also make the country undertake the Sinop Nuclear Power Plant project, which the Japanese abandoned because of “Turkey’s current inflation and currency crisis.”
This circumstances reminded me of former President Süleyman Demirel’s words: “Turkey should never be in a position to seek money with political provisions again”.
Shanghai, USA, NATO, Biden
There is also the New York stop after Samarkand; UN General Assembly and the possibility of meeting with US President Joe Biden in New York or Washington. I don’t attach so much importance to that after this moment, but obviously Erdogan does.
As of yesterday, Iran became a full member of Shanghai. It is also in question that Turkey will be promoted to “observer membership”. The fact that a NATO member is in this group should be considered a gain, not a loss, for the West; when considered strategically. It is not only Erdoğan’s government which has been negatively affected by the EU’s constant exclusion of Turkey, it is Turkish people who had to pay for the democratic and economic recession with inflation and high cost of living.
However, the reality that the USA and the EU have to understand but still do not want to see is that the concept of “You are either an ally or an enemy” is no longer valid in the multipolar world. In this respect, the multipolar world opens new doors for regional powers such as India, Brazil, South Africa and yes, Turkey. The photo also shows that.