22.06.2024 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Тurkey is examining the prospect of BRICS membership

Тurkey is examining the prospect of BRICS membership

Turkey’s advantageous geography makes it an attractive participant in important international organisations, which strengthens the country’s sovereignty. BRICS is gaining geopolitical and geo-economic momentum, and Ankara is considering with whom and in which direction it should go. 

Reasons for formation and the essence of BRICS 

The formation of large international political, economic and, especially, military organisations is always the result of the dynamics of international relations and the interests of their actors. The BRICS grouping finds its origins in 2006 when Brazil, Russia, India and China – all great actors – decided to integrate within the framework of a quasi-organisation. Four years later, in 2010, SAR joined as well and in 2024 BRICS expanded to include yet another five countries: Egypt, Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. It should be noted that each year more and more countries express interest in this grouping, including Venezuela, Thailand, Belarus and others.

The establishment of BRICS itself is mostly tied to the status and nature of the interests of its founders, which are self-sufficient countries adhering to the principles of the inviolability of national sovereignty and respect for the rights of other countries. On the other hand, they reject monopoly and dictate of any one country or entity. In other words, BRICS is the natural product of the policy of forming a multipolar world as a counterbalance to the artificial and conflicting strategy of unipolarity with the US at its helm.

BRICS members are concentrating on economic integration and forming equal approaches without a shared political-military structure, which is exactly why the grouping is attractive in this day and age for other countries, that are tired of the US dictate and ambitions. Though it must be said that Washington is trying with all its might to continue the policy of not allowing new BRICS candidates that instead are of considerable interest to the US. Such US interference with the right of free choice was obvious in the case of Argentina, which was previously planning on becoming a member of BRICS. Javier Milei, the new populist president of Argentina and the puppet of the Anglo-Saxons, rejected BRICS membership in 2023.

 Turkey in BRICS: a «historic alternative» to the EU?

Considering the declared political course of the administration of R. Erdoğan to strengthen national sovereignty and elevate Turkey’s status in international affairs, Ankara has, in the past years, tried to compensate for its total dependency on the US and EU though developing mutually beneficial partner relations (first and foremost in the economic sphere) with other important players, namely China and Russia.

As an important regional country in the Middle East, Turkey cannot stay on the side-lines of expanding BRICS ties with key neighbouring states. The accession of Egypt, Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia to the organisation creates a precedent for Turkey and leaves food for thought. There are other arguments in favour of BRICS too, for example that it is a storehouse of natural resources (especially energy), dynamically developing industry and modern technologies, overproduction of goods in the markets of the ‘Asian tigers’ and the search for markets, global multimodal transit and communication projects in the East-West direction and vice versa with Turkish territory playing a connecting role, Turkey’s widening economic ties with the founders and members of this organization, as well as prospects for the implementation of the Turan project under BRICS auspices.

Turkey is traditionally trying to pursue flexible diplomacy, manoeuvring between the West and the East, handing out promises of ‘eternal friendship’ first to one partner and then to another – sometimes even simultaneously. However, such diplomacy, accompanied by the wording “based on national interests”, remains acceptable until the point when key world players opposing each other maintain a façade of external tolerance with the exception of conflict confrontation. In the conditions of dynamic turbulent processes at the regional and global levels, the time for reflection; having your cake and eating it too is less and less realistic.  Accordingly, Turkey must decide on its course and partners.

In 2018 Ankara publicly declared its desire to join BRICS. Erdoğan said: «If you take us, then the group will be called BRICST», pointing to Chinese support in the matter.

Since then, Turkey has not yet moved from words to action. It is obvious that Ankara’s final decision was influenced by the position of its NATO partners led by the US, the growing financial and economic crisis in the country, high credit and investment dependence on the West, membership in NATO, regional plans to strengthen their positions (for example, in Syria and Karabakh) with the connivance of the United States and Europe, the blocking of the Kurdish issue, etc.

Many experts note that Turkey allegedly sees BRICS as a ’historical alternative’ to the EU, where the West stubbornly refuses to accept it. Perhaps such an argument for Turkish motivation to join BRICS is justified based on public statements by Turkish officials. During his recent visit to China, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said that BRICS is a “good alternative” to the EU, as Turkey has realistically become an eternal candidate for membership in the organisation. In February of this year, Fidan noted that Turkey is not going to wait for its admission to the EU and will look for other “historical ways”. What does he mean by this if not BRICS?

Given the technological breakthrough and financial well-being of Europe, many BRICS members are themselves interested in the European market. However, the EU countries are also members of NATO, which ensures their strategic security. BRICS does not have such a provision and cannot guarantee Turkey Article 5 of the NATO Charter.

Moreover, in relying on BRICS within the framework of constructive cooperation, Turkey is first of all trying to increase its economic potential and minimise crisis processes inside, and, secondly, to become a key transit link fir goods travelling from BRICS countries to the EU. Thirdly, Turkey is also trying to receive direct transport and territorial access to the Turkic countries of the post-Soviet space for the formation of a common Turkic market and the implementation of the Turan project. That is why Ankara is trying to convince the West that it is pursuing a balanced policy that will allow NATO to enter the South Caucasus and Central Asia on ‘Turkey’s shoulders. Therefore, BRICS cannot become a ‘historical alternative’ to the EU for Turkey, but only an addition to Turkish-European and Turkish-Asian relations.

Fidan participated in the BRICS+ meeting, but will he participate in the Kazan summit in October this year? 

In Beijing, Hakan Fidan, as reported by the Chinese newspaper South China Morning Post (SCP), advocated for Turkey’s accession to BRICS. He said: «Of course, we would like to become a member of BRICS. Let’s see what we can achieve this year». Later on June 10-11, Fidan paid a visit to Russia and took part in the meeting of BRICS Foreign Ministers in Nizhny Novgorod to discuss Turkey’s accession to the grouping.

Naturally, the growing importance of BRICS in the international arena is becoming attractive to others and evokes reasonable interest from Turkey. Russia welcomes Turkey’s interest in the organisation. Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, stressed in this regard: «We certainly welcome such heightened interest in BRICS from our neighbours and our important partners such as Turkey».

However, BRICS cannot satisfy the interests of all countries if they do not comply with the current principles and rules of the organisation. Here it is, first of all, important to keep up the principles of a multipolar world, to increase the role of developing countries, as well as considering the economic and political importance of the candidate country. In addition, the fate of the new BRICS countries will be decided by all the participants of the grouping.

In any case, the Turkish application for membership in BRICS may be considered at the upcoming October 22–24 summit in Kazan, chaired by Russia. By that time, Moscow would also like to clarify Ankara’s position on a range of bilateral issues in the financial and banking sector, the cessation of military and technical equipment of the Kiev regime, working out debt obligations, constructive cooperation in the field of regional security etc. In other words, before the BRICS summit in Kazan, Turkey must decide with whom to develop a partnership.

 

Alexander SVARANTS – Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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