In about two months’ time, Turkey will hold perhaps the most important election in the history of the Republic. On the eve of such an election, which will determine the fate of the country, the people are faced with the unprecedented material and moral destruction caused by an earthquake, which has been described as the disaster of the century. In this difficult period of frustration and fatigue in the country, no one is properly interested in what is happening in the world. However, very important developments are taking place in the international arena that also concern Turkey’s future.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in its second year
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has entered its second year. In a vote in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly last month on the anniversary of the aggression, 141 of the 193 UN member states once again condemned Russia’s aggression. However, there was no consensus among those who voted for or against the resolution on how to resolve this issue. There was, so to speak, a voice from every head.
On the other hand, the massive arms aid provided by the US and the European Union (EU) to Ukraine has not yet made the expected difference in terms of pushing Russia back. The economic sanctions against Russia have also not yielded the desired results. On the contrary, the sanctions have not only severely shaken the economies of Western countries, but have also raised questions about the sustainability of unity and solidarity on the anti-Russian front.
Political economic turmoil in the US
In the meantime, we should not lose sight of the serious political and economic turmoil going on in the US. On the one hand, the Biden administration is trying to keep the anti-Russian front intact, on the other hand, it is trying to prevent Donald Trump and his supporters from regaining power. In addition, the recently erupted banking crisis is also straining the country’s economy and the reputation of the dollar.
We also need to take into account that by the end of 2023, the presidential election process will begin in the US and that the Democratic Party in particular has not taken any significant steps in terms of nominating a candidate. Add to this the fact that former President Donald Trump has yet to be held to account, and it becomes clear that in the coming period, the US may have to focus on potential political turmoil at home before global problems.
China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia
While the Russia-US rivalry is being dragged into a deadlock in this way, we are witnessing interesting moves by China in the cold war that the US has initiated with China. In the past few days, China first mediated the restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This mediation attempt, which was successful, caused a significant surprise in the world public opinion.
Then, for the first time since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a 3-day visit to Russia. In his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping discussed, among other things, the 12-point peace plan proposed by China to end the war in Ukraine. Putin said they had analysed the plan in detail and called Xi “my dear friend”. Xi, on the other hand, praised Putin’s “strong leadership”.
He said he was confident that the Russian people would re-elect Putin as President in 2024. He emphasised the importance of the close relationship between Russia and China. During their meeting in Moscow, the two leaders also signed an agreement on “deepening comprehensive partnership”.
China’s Trump cards
With these two moves, China has shown its rivals that it has important trump cards that can change the balance in the new generation cold war with the US. It will be remembered that a few years ago, China signed an economic cooperation agreement with Iran worth 400 billion dollars. It is clear that China will use this agreement, which is particularly important in terms of oil purchases from Iran, to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Iran and to consolidate its energy needs through Saudi oil. It is also possible that China may be aiming to further distance Saudi Arabia, whose relations with the US have been strained recently, from the US.
On the other hand, China’s mediation move may also be perceived as a message to Russia in a sense, as it shows that it has alternative sources to its oil purchases from Russia. It is known that almost half of Russia’s annual revenues come from oil and gas sales. Finally, it is extremely meaningful that China has been able to attract two countries that have problems with the West to its side with a peaceful move.
On the other hand, China has given the impression that it is ready to be a conciliatory actor in issues far beyond its region. After the Iran-Saudi Arabia deal, it is clear that if China can take another step towards global peace, it will earn Xi a lot of credit.
Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow
The fact that Iran and Saudi Arabia prefer China for mediation instead of, for example, Turkey is thought-provoking for us. It is interesting to note that Iran, which once agreed to Turkey’s mediation offer together with Brazil in order to overcome its nuclear problems, did not think of making a request to its neighbour this time, nor did Saudi Arabia make a similar request.
The official visit of China’s leader to Russia at a time when the Kremlin is under great international pressure is a clear show of support for both Russia and its leader Putin. However, by presenting a peace plan to stop the Russian aggression in Ukraine on the occasion of the visit, China also drew attention to the fact that its support for Russia is essentially peaceful. Indeed, in its message to the world community, China is saying that the sovereignty of all nations (i.e. Ukraine) must be respected, but that the “legitimate security concerns” of other countries (i.e. Russia) must also be respected. This is a skilful diplomatic move.
Visit message to the US
It is clear that Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow also sent a message to the United States. In this way, Xi showed that Russia is not alone against the US and the West. Indeed, the Kremlin, which is known to have to increase its trade with China, especially in the energy sector, in order to counter Western sanctions and keep its economy functioning, needed such a message. In addition, in response to the harsh messages of President Biden and administration officials and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statements such as “We should prepare for more conflict in Ukraine”, Xi emphasised the discourse of reconciliation and peace and underlined that China is not in favour of conflict. In this context, China did not neglect to emphasise that it is not in favour of direct arms supplies to Russia.
It can be said that Xi Jinping’s frequent expressions of being personal friends with Putin during the visit were the result of a conscious choice aimed at disturbing the US. It may even be thought that the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year, despite China’s opposition, may have been aimed at causing a similar disturbance in the US as the one caused in China.
Currently, China is the most powerful country in the world according to purchasing parity. If you consider it together with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in its neighbourhood, China is the world’s largest economic power.
Today, China is also at the forefront of technology. In the field of artificial intelligence, renewable energy, space technology, and the management of oceans and arctic resources, China is trying to play a dominant role. The US, perceiving such a China as a threat, is trying to continue the new generation cold war, which it started in order to prevent China’s gradual rise to prominence, without slowing down.
At a time when global alignment is becoming more evident, we need to closely follow the development of this cold war in order to protect our interests and take the right position. However, we are busy fighting with ourselves in the narrow lane of domestic politics.