CAN TÜRKİYE JOIN BRICS+?

upa-admin 07 Mart 2024 783 Okunma 0
CAN TÜRKİYE JOIN BRICS+?

Introduction

Having been pointed out as one of the 6 key “swing states” of the 21st century -together with Brazil, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa- by Cliff Kupchan[1], Türkiye is an important regional power that contributes a lot to the shaping of the emerging multipolar world order. Being a full member of the building stone Western institutions including the Council of Europe since 1950 and NATO since 1952, Türkiye has also been in accession talks with the European Union (EU) since 2005. However, Turkish membership in the EU does not seem a realistic target recently due to the Cyprus Problem in addition to various other problematic issues that distance Brussels and Ankara.

To diversify its search for multi-dimensionalism in foreign policy since the 1960s, Ankara also became a member of the Islamic Cooperation Organization in 1969 (Organization of Islamic Conference previously) and the Organization of Turkic States in 2009. Moreover, to further diversify its strategic options, Türkiye recently became a dialog partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) (2013) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (2017) in addition to its strategic partner status in the African Union since 2008. Being also a full member of economic organizations such as the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), IDB (Islamic Development Bank), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Developing Eight Organization for Economic Cooperation (D-8), and the Group of Twenty (G-20), there are now serious political discussions about Türkiye’s possible membership to BRICS+.

In this article, I am going to analyze and discuss Türkiye’s potential membership to BRICS+. But first, I am going to summarize the history of BRICS+ as well as its current status and powerful characteristics.

The History of BRICS+

BRICS is an abbreviation used for pointing out 5 countries that have been challenging the United States (U.S.)-led Western hegemony in global affairs: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The informal grouping of these 5 countries in the early 2000s, later turned into an important intergovernmental organization. The process started in 2006, when -at a time when the U.S. was a very unpopular international actor in the world due to the Iraq War- representatives of Brazil, Russia, India, and China held an informal meeting during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.[2] It was Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill who first coined the term in 2001 from an economic perspective in his study called “Building Better Global Economic BRICs”[3], to describe these four countries that might dominate the global economy by 2050. In 2009, BRIC meetings turned into a legal intergovernmental organization upon the wishes of these four states and the first official meeting took place in Ekaterinburg, Russia. In this first official meeting, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s infamous speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007[4], BRIC pledged commitment to a multipolar world order and global non-interventionism and called for a new global reserve currency as an alternative to the U.S. dollar.[5] In 2011, South Africa became the fifth member of the platform as the name BRIC turned into BRICS. BRICS’ second meeting convened in Brasilia, Brazil, the third in Sanya, China, the fourth in New Delhi, India, the fifth in Durban, South Africa, the sixth in Fortaleza, Brazil, the seventh in Ufa, Russia, the eighth in Benaulim, India, the ninth in Xiamen, China, the tenth in Johannesburg, South Africa, the eleventh in Brasilia, Brazil, the twelfth in Saint Petersburg, Russia (as video conference due to COVID-19 pandemic), the thirteenth in New Delhi, India, the fourteenth in Beijing, China, and the last one, the fifteenth last year in Johannesburg, South Africa.[6]

BRICS+

Although BRICS made some steps for institutionalization such as the inauguration of the BRICS-based New Development Bank (NDB)[7] and the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism[8], the organization continues to be a political platform based on mutual understanding and the search for harmony among its member states and especially their leaders. So, the organization still does not have a charter, it does not work with a fixed Secretariat, nor does it have any funds to finance its activities.[9] In addition, there is no formal application process to join BRICS, rather, new members must be unanimously approved by existing ones.

However, in time, BRICS member states were able to develop a kind of shared values and common interests that underlie mutually beneficial cooperation and a shared vision for a better world. According to the 2023 Declaration announced at the 2023 BRICS Summit in South Africa, BRICS’ guiding principles for membership are as follows:[10]

  • The BRICS spirit of mutual respect and understanding, equality, solidarity, openness, inclusiveness, and consensus,
  • The BRICS practice of full consultation and promoting concrete cooperation based on consensus,
  • The BRICS vision of strengthening multilateralism, strengthening and reforming the multilateral system, and upholding international law,
  • The BRICS objective of strengthening cooperation under the three pillars of political and security, economic and financial, and cultural and people-to-people cooperation,
  • A resolve to maintain the identity, coherence, and consensus-based nature of BRICS by consolidation of cooperation and promoting institutional development,
  • Acceptance of the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations as an indispensable cornerstone of multilateralism and international law,
  • Support for increased representation of, and a more significant role for, emerging and developing countries in the international system, including geographical balance,
  • Support for a comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including its Security Council, to make it more democratic, representative, effective, and efficient, and to increase the representation of developing countries in the Council’s memberships so that it can adequately respond to prevailing global challenges and support the legitimate aspirations of emerging and developing countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America, including Brazil, India, and South Africa, to play a greater role in international affairs, in particular in the United Nations, including its Security Council,
  • The commitment to the central role of the United Nations in an international system in which sovereign states cooperate to maintain peace and security, advance sustainable development, and ensure the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms for all.

Following these principles, at the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, BRICS members approved the membership of 6 states: Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Ethiopia, and Argentina. Among these states, Argentina withdrew its formal application under its new President Javier Milei. So, among these 6 states, 5 of them became new members of the organization, thus, BRICS reaching the number of 10 member states by 2024. With its new members approved, the organization has been started to be called the BRICS+ by the international media[11], although so far, no official name change has been announced. Becoming a more important economic and diplomatic platform each year, so far, many countries applied for membership in BRICS+. According to South Africa’s BRICS+ Ambassador, Mr. Anil Sooklal, 22 countries formally applied for membership.[12] These potential member states include Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Senegal, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam. South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor on the other hand said that there is a huge worldwide interest in the BRICS+ group and she received many official letters from 12 different countries for their potential membership.[13] Among these willing states, Mexico, Tunisia, and Türkiye (Turkey) are also stated by some journalists. In that sense, further growth of BRICS+ in the coming years is a strong possibility.

BRICS+ in Numbers

BRICS represented 42 % of the world’s population (3.2 billion), 30 % of the world’s total surface, 23 % of the total global GDP, and 18 % of total trade in the world.[14] According to IMF’s 2020 data, BRICS already represents a much larger portion of the global economy compared to the G7. Accordingly, the share of BRICS in world GDP is 34 %, whereas the share of G7 countries in the world GDP is 29 %.[15] With 5 more important members included in 2024, BRICS’ numbers in these categories are now even further increased. The most striking feature of the BRICS experience so far is the positive economic outcomes similar to the EU experience in the past. BRICS member states’ economies since the 2000s have shown steady growth, making the organization an attraction center for new members. In that sense, the role of BRICS+ in the global economy will be even more dominating compared to G7 in the near future.

BRICS countries’ economic performance[16]

Within the current 10-member BRICS+, 6 countries belong to the Asian continent, more specifically 3 or even 4 (including Egypt, which is in fact in the African continent) members are from the Middle East, whereas 3 members are situated in Africa, and Brazil is the only South American member. In that sense, BRICS+ could play an important role in the future for the solution of political crises in the Middle East as well as Asia due to its encouragement of increasing economic ties between states rather than military-based approaches. Moreover, with energy-producer countries included, BRICS+ could now also play an influential role in the energy market and contribute to the pricing of oil and gas. In addition, with countries having important geopolitical positioning such as Egypt controlling the Suez Canal[17] and Iran controlling the Persian Gulf, BRICS+ geopolitically also has recently become a key player in world affairs both in geopolitics and in geoeconomics.

BRICS map[18]

BRICS so far was instrumental in the development of economic relations between Russia and China and challenging the hegemonic status of the U.S. dollar in global trade by encouraging the use of local currencies. For instance, by 2023, 80 % of trade between China and Russia is already conducted in ruble and the yuan.[19] In the coming years, BRICS will further pressure the use of local currencies in trade for its members, which would certainly weaken the hegemonic situation of the U.S. dollar. However, it should be stated except for a critical stance against U.S. interventionism and the hegemonic status of the American dollar, BRICS members do not have a strict political agenda and they have a lot of differences among themselves in terms of ideological and political preferences. For instance, while China, and especially Russia and South Africa are more assertive and critical towards Western countries, Brazil and India are less anti-Western and want to keep their close ties with the U.S. and European countries.

Türkiye’s Potential Membership: Why Not?

Türkiye’s potential membership in BRICS+ is a widely discussed issue in the country in 2018. It should not be forgotten that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the BRICS Summit in 2018 and called for Turkish membership in the organization.[20] In addition, Türkiye became a dialogue partner recently for the SCO although it had some military characteristics which might be in contradiction with Ankara’s membership in NATO. President Erdoğan even talked about a full membership to SCO in 2022.[21] In that sense, BRICS+, not having a military feature, seems to be an ideal and less risky organization for Türkiye’s full membership compared to the SCO.

BRICS leaders during the 2023 Summit: Lula da Silva of Brazil, Xi Jinping of China, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Narendra Modi of India, and Sergei Lavrov of Russia -replacing Vladimir Putin-

Demircan thinks that there are 5 good reasons for Türkiye to become a member of the BRICS: (1) It is a platform for developing countries like Türkiye, (2) Both sides defend multipolarity and justice in the world order, (3) It is the union of producer countries which seek for new markets similar to Türkiye, (4) It is an institution for colonized and oppressed nations and Türkiye never truly was an imperialist state like Western countries, (5) Both BRICS members and Türkiye have a young and dynamic population.[22] The man who invented the term, Jim O’Neill also thinks that Türkiye could be an ideal member of the BRICS expanded or BRICS+ due to its problematic relations with the U.S.-centered world system.[23]

President Erdoğan of Türkiye

Chinese Ambassador to Ankara, His Excellency Mr. Liu Shaobin already announced in 2023 that his country endorses Turkish membership to BRICS+.[24] Chivvis, Coşkun, and Geaghan-Breiner on the other hand wrote that Türkiye’s new and “360-degree foreign policy” is based on flexibility and strategic independence and Ankara does not consider its multi-dimensional diplomatic openings as a contradiction with its classical foreign policy.[25] Diriöz wrote that the EU’s unfair treatment of Ankara during the full membership process also increased Ankara’s search for strategic autonomy and appetite to become a member of BRICS.[26] Karataş also believes that Ankara’s strategic stance is not pro or anti-West, but rather based on the “Türkiye Century” understanding, which represents a more independent-minded, assertive, and national interest-based foreign policy.[27] However, Karataş also adds that the Turkish political elite does not question the country’s membership in NATO or give up on the EU membership process. That is why, he concludes that due to the risks of fully aligning with BRICS+, Türkiye for the moment will try to improve its economic and political relations with BRICS+ members and not seek membership.[28] But Victor Gao from the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) thinks that there is no Quran-based holy restriction for Ankara to become a member of BRICS+, so Türkiye and Mexico could very well become members of this organization shortly.[29]

From my perspective, BRICS+ membership would be an advantageous step in many ways. First of all, the global economy is shifting towards the East (Asia) and none of the countries in the world could do anything about this systemic change. In that sense, BRICS+ membership and close cooperation with strong Asian states such as China and Russia would not be an irrational decision for Ankara. Secondly, Türkiye is not treated equally and fairly in its relations with Washington (the U.S.) and Brussels (EU) recently. Although Ankara’s accession to the EU was blocked by European countries and the freezing of the full membership process led to the deterioration of Türkiye’s democratic progress, only Ankara was accused of this toxic relationship by the Western public and media. In my opinion, since relations involve a minimum of two sides, mistakes are reciprocal in diplomacy. In that sense, to fix its relations with the West, Türkiye’s search for strategic autonomy and BRICS+ membership is a rational, wise, and pragmatic solution. Maybe thanks to its membership in BRICS+, Ankara could even finally reach a real chance to become a full member of the EU. Thirdly and lastly, Turkish membership to BRICS+ could trigger demands and efforts for a UN reform, which seems absolutely necessary to keep peace and stability in the world. President Erdoğan has been implementing that kind of foreign policy in the last few years with the motto of “The World is Bigger Than Five” to criticize the composition of the UN Security Council, which could not do anything to prevent genocides, massacres, and wars.

However, one should be aware of the risks of such a move as well. In that sense, the main risk would be the growing isolation of Ankara from and/or within Western institutions. But since Türkiye’s cordial ties with the West will continue due to -still- undisputed NATO membership and BRICS+ does not carry any security/military features, the consequences of this move might not be that risky for Ankara. Secondly, trying to keep its political system within the boundaries of democracy and free-market, Ankara, distancing itself from the West and getting closer to the East might create extra burdens and new problems in terms of governance and democracy. But considering the position of Brazil and India, two large democracies, Ankara might very well keep and even improve its democracy with BRICS+ membership. After all, BRICS+ does not intervene into the domestic politics of member countries and encourage states to cooperate with each other rather than competition.

Conclusion

To conclude, due to failures to provide a just and well-functioning world order, the U.S. and its allies are constantly losing power and the world is progressing towards a new multipolarism. In such a system, countries having a wide range of trade networks, geopolitical advantages, and stable domestic political systems will be more influential. In that sense, Türkiye has great potential to become a regional power having a global appeal if it could further enrich its diplomatic ties with countries all around the world. Türkiye has a true potential to achieve this if it does not fall into Western traps as in the case of the Syrian civil war. In that sense, Türkiye’s BRICS+ membership should be achieved as soon as possible so that Ankara will show its Western allies that it is very serious about this “new deal” in foreign policy. Türkiye’s role in the BRICS on the other hand could be like Lula’s Brazil, better integrated and having good relations with the West though not ignoring or underestimating but rather strengthening the power of the “global south”. Lastly, especially China’s contribution to Türkiye’s involvement in BRICS could be a great asset for both sides since Beijing needs strong regional partners to further develop and successfully implement its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project and Türkiye needs strong investors to develop its economy.

Assoc. Prof. Ozan ÖRMECİ

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Cliff Kupchan (2023), “6 Swing States Will Decide the Future of Geopolitics”, Foreign Policy, 06.06.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/06/06/geopolitics-global-south-middle-powers-swing-states-india-brazil-turkey-indonesia-saudi-arabia-south-africa/.

[2] Britannica.com, “BRICS”, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.britannica.com/topic/BRICS.

[3] Jim O’Neill (2001), “Building Better Global Economic BRICs”, Goldman Sachs, November 2001, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.goldmansachs.com/intelligence/archive/building-better.html.

[4] RussianPerspective, “Putin’s famous Munich Speech 2007”, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ58Yv6kP44.

[5] Britannica.com, “BRICS”, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.britannica.com/topic/BRICS.

[6] Ozan Örmeci (2024), “BRICS’in Genişlemesi ABD Hegemonyasına Bir Meydan Okuma Mı?”, Uluslararası Politika Akademisi, 05.01.2024, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://politikaakademisi.org/2024/01/05/bricsin-genislemesi-abd-hegemonyasina-bir-meydan-okuma-mi/.

[7] New Development Bank website, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.ndb.int/.

[8] BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism website, Date of Accession: 07.02.2024 from https://xn--90ab5f.xn--p1ai/en/international-multilateral-cooperation/the-brics-interbank-cooperation-mechanism/.

[9] Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (2014), “Learn about BRICS”, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.ipea.gov.br/forumbrics/en/learn-about-brics.html#:~:text=As%20a%20group%2C%20BRICS%20has,funds%20to%20finance%20its%20activities.

[10] BRICS 2023 (2023), “BRICS Membership Expansion: Guiding Principles, Standards, Criteria and Procedures”, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://brics2023.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/BRICS-Membership-expansion-guiding-principles-criteria-and-standards-2023.pdf.

[11] José Antonio W. Cai (2023), “BRICS+: An alternative to the Western bloc?”, Aceprensa, 28.10.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.aceprensa.com/english/brics-an-alternative-to-the-western-bloc/.

[12] Kate Bartlett (2023), “40 More Countries Want to Join BRICS, Says South Africa”, Voice of America, 21.07.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.voanews.com/a/more-countries-want-to-join-brics-says-south-africa-/7190526.html.

[13] WION (2023), “South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor sees India’s G20 leadership as opportunity for Global South”, 05.03.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.wionews.com/world/south-african-foreign-minister-naledi-pandor-sees-indias-g20-leadership-as-opportunity-for-global-south-568817.

[14] BRICS 2023 (2023), “Evolution of BRICS”, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://brics2023.gov.za/evolution-of-brics/.

[15] Necati Demircan (2023), “Is it possible to see Türkiye into BRICS?”, Modern Diplomacy, 26.07.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2023/07/26/is-it-possible-to-see-turkiye-into-brics/.

[16] Astrid Prange de Oliveira (2023), “A new world order? BRICS nations offer alternative to West”, DW, 04.10.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.dw.com/en/a-new-world-order-brics-nations-offer-alternative-to-west/a-65124269.

[17] Emile Amin (2023), “BRICS Plus ve yeni dünya düzeninin temelleri”, Independent Türkçe, 24.08.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.indyturk.com/node/656646/d%C3%BCnyadan-sesler/brics-plus-ve-yeni-d%C3%BCnya-d%C3%BCzeninin-temelleri.

[18] Marcus Lu (2023), “Visualizing the BRICS Expansion in 4 Charts”, Visual Capitalist, 24.08.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.visualcapitalist.com/visualizing-the-brics-expansion-in-4-charts/.

[19] Necati Demircan (2023), “Is it possible to see Türkiye into BRICS?”, Modern Diplomacy, 26.07.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2023/07/26/is-it-possible-to-see-turkiye-into-brics/.

[20] Turkish Minute (2023), “[OPINION] Is Turkey serious about joining BRICS?”, 02.08.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.turkishminute.com/2023/08/02/opinion-is-turkey-serious-about-joining-brics/.

[21] Baris Balci & Selcan Hacaoglu (2022), “Turkey Seeks to Be First NATO Member to Join China-Led SCO”, Bloomberg, 17.09.2022, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-17/turkey-seeks-china-led-bloc-membership-in-threat-to-nato-allies.

[22] Necati Demircan (2023), “Is it possible to see Türkiye into BRICS?”, Modern Diplomacy, 26.07.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2023/07/26/is-it-possible-to-see-turkiye-into-brics/.

[23] Gokhan Kurtaran (2023), “Türkiye obvious nation for expanded BRICS, says leading economist”, AA, 12.05.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkiye/turkiye-obvious-nation-for-expanded-brics-says-leading-economist/2896122.

[24] Press Tv (2023), “China announces desire for Turkey to join BRICS”, 02.09.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2023/09/02/710130/China-BRICS-Turkey-membership-idea-envoy.

[25] Christopher S. Chivvis & Alper Coşkun & Beatrix Geaghan-Breiner (2023), “Türkiye in the Emerging World Order”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 31.10.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://carnegieendowment.org/2023/10/31/t-rkiye-in-emerging-world-order-pub-90868.

[26] Ali Oğuz Diriöz (2023), “What should be Türkiye’s approach to BRICS?”, Daily Sabah, 19.09.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.dailysabah.com/opinion/op-ed/what-should-be-turkiyes-approach-to-brics.

[27] İbrahim Karataş (2023), “Should Turkey Join BRICS?”, Politics Today, 04.09.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://politicstoday.org/should-turkey-join-brics/.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Burak Ünveren (2023), “Türkiye’nin BRICS’e katılamayacağı Kur’an’da yazmıyor”, DW Türkçe, 10.12.2023, Date of Accession: 07.03.2024 from https://www.dw.com/tr/t%C3%BCrkiyenin-bricse-kat%C4%B1lamayaca%C4%9F%C4%B1-kuranda-yazm%C4%B1yor/a-67682398.

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