STAGE IS BEING PREPARED
In the period following World War II, the ‘rules-based internaonal order’ was determined by the USA, the leading actor in the ‘First World’ community, together with its other Western allies. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (SB) was the leader of the Second World, which was at the ‘opposite pole’ at the me. The ‘Third World’ countries, which were outside these two poles and were in the process of transion from colonialism to independence, had launched the Non-Aligned Movement in order not to be squeezed between the two blocks. The flare of this Movement was launched with the Conference organised in
Bandung/Indonesia in April 1955.
Although the structure of the UN, which was established aer the war, gave the impression that the global architecture would develop on the basis of three pillars (West-East-NonAligned), the Cold War, which deepened from the early 1950s onwards, gave rise to an order consisng of bipolar blocisaon. Although the Non-Aligned Movement connued to exist during this period, it was directly affected by the geopolical/strategic compeon between the two main poles. While crises such as the Korean War, the turmoil in the Middle East including the Suez Crisis, and the Vietnam War brought the East-West blocs face to face on the ground, the Non-Aligned Movement found itself at the centre of these conflicts.
With the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of bipolarity, ideological borders were replaced by the wave of globalisaon. The concept that shaped the relaons between the two poles became cooperaon instead of compeon. Developing/undeveloped countries in the so-called ‘Global South’ have also come under the influence of this wave. The victorious Western actors of the Cold War, parcularly the USA, aimed to spread liberal policies on a global scale in the light of the specific condions of the period. In the process of globalisaon, Western internaonal/regional instuons and organisaons, which were established aer the Second World War to shape the world economy and polics, adapted themselves to the new era. The only excepon is the preservaon of the structure in which the five permanent members of the UNSC (the USA, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom) are the dominant and decisive power.
The process of globalisaon based on free trade and the establishment of open markets/sociees has not prevented the emergence of conflicts in places such as Iraq, the Balkans and Africa. On the other hand, this process has seen the establishment and expansion of networks of co-operaon between former adversaries. Even Russia, the heir of the former Eastern Bloc leader, the USSR, has tended to become as close as possible to, and even integrated into, Western instuons, including NATO and the EU. For example, in 1997 Russia signed a Founding Act on the principles of its relaons with NATO and became a member of the G8 in the same year. In the Far East, China, too, has begun to expand its economic and trade relaons on a global scale, starng with its region, in order to integrate itself into the liberal world order.
In the 2000s, it became apparent that the US, the driving force of the global economy, was pushing for an internaonal order based on unipolarity with its economic and polical policies. The G8, including Russia, launched the G20 Group in September 1999 with the aim of addressing global reacons, which can be seen as an atempt to reduce reacons to the exisng order and increase the number of stakeholders in the decision-making mechanism. As a mater of fact, the G20 process, which was iniated with the iniaves of the G8 Group, will evolve to become one of the important actors of mullateralism in the following years. It should be noted that Russia, which joined the G7 as a permanent member upon invitaon in 1997, was expelled from the G8 in 2014 due to the occupaon of Crimea, thus returning the G7 to its original form.
Ten years aer the establishment of the G20, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), which emerged in June 2009 as a new four-country global iniave, evolved into BRICS, a fivecountry organisaon, with the accession of the Republic of South Africa in 2010. Considering that Russia maintained its place as an important actor in the European security-economic architecture in the year BRICS was established, it can be said that this country is the only power represenng Europe in the BRICS organisaon. In the post-2014 period, as a result of the rupture in Western-Russian relaons, there is no country le in BRICS that can be considered European. On the other hand, there is no doubt that BRICS is among the important mulnaonal actors playing a role in the transformaon of the global order.
In the context of globalisaon, the G20, as a subset of the G8, is one of the leading actors playing a role in roong the values and rules of the liberal world. It is also possible to say that it constutes a predominant instrument for the ‘South’ to make its voice heard in the internaonal arena. Through this leverage organisaon, the G8 members have designed to spread the ‘rules-based order’ to wider geographies and ‘peaceful coexistence and development’ in a conflict-free environment. Through the G20 members and their connecons, it was aimed to change and shape the behaviour/reacons of countries in the ‘Global South’ that might tend to challenge the general rules and funconing defined. Looking at the strategies of the three great powers (the US, Russia and China) over the last decade, it is clear that the strategic compeon between them involves a struggle for power and influence that also encompasses the ‘Global South‘. For example, Russia, having overcome its internal crises and consolidated its economy, has turned towards gaining influence in the African connent, taking into account its legacy from the past. China, on the other hand, established a military base in Djibou in order to reinforce its economic es with Africa in the military arena and made a sympathy atack across the connent by donang a significant amount of Covid-19 vaccine to African countries during the pandemic.
Within the G20, the rivalry between the Western Bloc, represented by the G7, and the Eastern
(Eurasian) Bloc, shaped for the me being by the ‘borderless partnership’ between Russia and China, seems to have created a flexible space for the other members of the G20 to ulise in their foreign policies. In this context, the other eleven members are orientated towards taking part in the BRICS, for example, in a mullateral framework, and developing their economic, commercial and even military es with China in a bilateral framework.
Compared to the G20, BRICS is the product of a different geopolical/strategic environment. In the aermath of the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, Russia, in its naonal security strategy announced in 2009, set itself the goal of “becoming a world power in a mulpolar world based on acvies to promote partnership relaons on the basis of strategic stability and mutual benefit”. In other words, Russia’s role in a mulpolar world is to become a ‘power centre’. On the threshold of the 2010s, when Russia’s tendency to challenge the ‘rules-based order’ on which the global system is based increased, it is seen that China is also heading towards a period of visible rise at an even faster pace. China’s rise gained further momentum and substance with Xi Jinping’s rise to power in 2012. In this context, Russia and China have become the driving actors of BRICS.
In addion to the G20 and BRICS, the MIKTA (Australia, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey) established in 2013 and the I2U2 (USA, Israel, India and the UAE) established in 2022 should also be recalled among the organisaons aiming to shape global polics. In this context, it is noteworthy that the MIKTA Leaders’ Meeng was organised on the first day of the last G20 Summit.
When we look at the current picture, it will be instrucve to follow the changes and breakthroughs within the G20 and BRICS as mulnaonal actors in understanding the evolving balance of power and the development of the global order. In this context, it is important to examine the events and outcomes of the BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg, hosted by the Republic of South Africa on 22-24 August 2023 and the G20 Summit held in New Delhi, the capital of India, the Chair-in-Office, on 9-10 September 2024.
The first point to be noted is that all founding members of BRICS are also members of the G20. Of the six countries (Argenna, Egypt, UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Ethiopia) invited for BRICS membership at the Johannesburg Summit, two (Argenna and Saudi Arabia) are also G20 members. Looking at the G7, G20, BRICS, MICTA and I2U2 memberships, it is possible to see that there is a great deal of transivity between them. Therefore, it is an interesng picture that the stakeholders within these organisaons are trying to maintain a network of symbioc relaons, at least at the level of the declaraons they issue, while at the same me compeng for interests and power. In this context, we are confronted with a geometrical structure with many actors and many variables. In the current fluid environment, it is difficult to predict the extent of the role that this variable geometry can play in the formaon of a mulpolar world order.
At the G20 Summit, which was held under the theme “One Earth, One Family, One Future“, the commitments undertaken in twelve main areas such as development, sustainable development, the joint fight against the climate crisis and the construcon of a “green economic ecosystem”, resilience of instuons and communies, health, restructuring in global finance, the challenges of digital transformaon, support for the development of the least developed countries, and ensuring gender equality, in fact contradict neither the future goals and commitments of the UN, nor the global perspecves of the Western world in general in these areas.
“BRICS and Africa: A Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Development, Sustainable Progress and Inclusive Mullateralism” published at the end of the Johannesburg Summit, the BRICS Declaraon largely reflects the patern of the G20 Summit Declaraon. In fact, it can even be argued that its perspecve on global issues overlaps with the tone and language of the declaraon released in New Delhi.
At this point, it is also seen that the basic philosophy and spirit of both declaraons are in line with China’s “Global Development“, “Global Security“ and “Global Civilisaon“ iniaves that have been addressing the global architecture for the last three years.
STRATEGIC COMPETITION IN MULTINATIONAL ORGANISATIONS
The search for consensus by the actors shaping world polics to reinforce the commitments they have undertaken at the UN within the organisaons such as G7, G20 and BRICS should of course be welcomed. On the other hand, it is open to queson whether there is a common will to meet the objecves set out in the declaraons issued on the occasion of the summits they organised. In the end, the war in Ukraine has led to a rupture in Western-Russian relaons, while the rivalry between the US and China has progressed to encompass almost every field. The extreme crisis of trust based on the global power struggle between the driving actors of these mulnaonal formaons is the biggest obstacle to the realisaon of rhetorical goals in acon, in short, in pracce.
In this context, apart from the aforemenoned organisaons, a different picture emerges when we examine the security-foreign policy-defence strategies announced by many developed countries, parcularly the USA, Russia and China, in the last decade. The main axis that determines this picture is Realpolitik, in other words, a bloc-based approach built on the balance of power and threat percepons. The relentless compeon between the powers that want to preserve the status quo (a rules-based order) and the actors that challenge this status quo (a transformed architecture based on new rules) connues both on the theorecal/conceptual level and in its manifestaons on the ground. The deep traces of this rivalry can be seen, for example, in the strategies of the US, Russia, China and the EU.
Looking at general developments, it can be argued that in today’s world, an internaonal environment in which proteconism and mercanlism are taking root due to global compeon in the interests-opportunies-values landscape. For example, when we look at the recent past, we see an atude that priorises proteconism and thus moves away from the principle of free trade, such as the “Inflaon Reducon Act” and the “Microchip and Science Act“ enacted by Trump, who says “America First”, and the Biden administraon, which accelerates compeon with China. We are passing through a period in which the sancons imposed by countries on each other in various fields have become commonplace. Some economists do not see proteconist/mercanlist measures as the main obstacle to open and free trade, in other words, to the market economy, the structure of which has been distorted by large-scale globalisaon, and argue that the main distorng effect is the poor management of the geostrategic compeon between the US and China. In this context, they argue that the real betrayal of free trade stems from strategic compeon.
Returning to the outcome of the G20 Summit, which Pun and Xi did not atend, it can be argued that the host, India, conducted successful diplomacy by ensuring that the Summit Declaraon did not literally ‘crucify’ Russia for its ongoing war in Ukraine. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that in various parts of the Declaraon, Russia is strongly reminded of its internaonal obligaons, emphasising that “The present age should not be war”, “We call on all states to uphold the principles of internaonal law, including territorial integrity, sovereignty, internaonal humanitarian law and the mullateral system, in order to ensure peace and stability”, as well as a reference to Russia as a focal point for the immediate and unhindered implementaon of the Black Sea Grain Corridor.
Another important development is the decision to make the African Union a permanent member of the G20. This decision raises the prospect of an increased weight of the “Global South“ within the G20, and of India becoming the voice of this wider generaon, even if there is sll no consensus on its definion and scope. The same patern of thinking can be applied to the implicaons of the decision taken by BRICS at the Johannesburg Summit to include six new members. The shortcoming of these assessments is the possibility of a tendency to declare both mulnaonal organisaons (G20 and BRICS+), which have not yet reached full instuonalisaon, as almost the main actors of the global system, disregarding the differences in interests and goals among their members. These loose organisaons, which currently face formidable challenges to their strong solidarity, are likely to become important stakeholders in the global architecture, depending on their future evoluon. It would be more realisc to argue that the limits and opportunies of such a role will be shaped by the course of the current geopolical/strategic compeon. In this course, an environment in which the priories, expectaons and interests of the players of the “Global South” will be taken into consideraon should be expected to emerge.
TURKEY IN GLOBAL COMPETITION
In such a fluid and complex period driven by geopolical/strategic compeon, the importance of alliances or groupings that were formed in the past and will be shaped in the future has increased even more. This situaon is even more vital for Turkey, which is located in a very sensive geography. It is imperave to read the current and future global framework on a sound basis. Turkey may face developments that may blur its posion and direcon within the Western world or may be perceived as such. Ankara is likely to face serious challenges in areas such as economy-trade-technology-defence-security. For example, the repercussions of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (HOAEK-IMEC) project, which came to the agenda on the margins of the G20 Summit and which closely concerns Turkey’s future interests, should be briefly analysed. It is seen that this project, which includes the G7-G20-BRICS-I2U2 mix (USA, EU, India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France, Germany and Italy) together with the USA and the EU, is based on the objecve of balancing China’s Belt and Road project from the south, and therefore, the realisaon by the HOAEK stakeholders of a main axis that will ensure India-Europe connecvity instead of a line controlled by China for China-West trade.
In an environment where the US-China rivalry is predominant, it is observed that the US and the EU have tended to emphasise India against China in the Asia-Pacific. With its rapidly growing populaon and economic and commercial capacity, India should be expected to become an important power centre not only in its own region but also on a global scale. In this context, the preference based on India can be seen as natural for those shaping it. On the other hand, it is a concrete fact that India, like many other countries in the region, has mutual investments and extensive economic and commercial relaons with its large neighbour, notwithstanding the tension caused by the border dispute with China. In addion, India cannot afford to abandon its tradional relaons with Russia, including in the defence industry. In this situaon, India, with its high development potenal, seems to be skilfully exploing the current strategic environment in ways that maximise its own interests and expanding its field of acon through IMEC.
It is observed that the US and the EU have brought this mega project to the agenda at a very late stage. This project, albeit with its ups and downs, should be seen as an iniave that came to the agenda at a me when the Belt and Road project was making considerable progress. In this case, in the process of IMEC’s implementaon, China should be expected to give more impetus to the Belt and Road project, despite some economic botlenecks it is sll facing. Looking at the issue from this perspecve, it can be predicted that for the me being, there is no reason to ‘panic’ the stakeholders of the Belt and Road project.
IMEC should also be analysed in terms of its implicaons for the Central Corridor, which Turkey naturally priorises in the Caucasus-Central Asia route. It is observed that some observers are already drawing conclusions for the short-medium term at a stage when IMEC is yet to be realised. In the long term, IMEC could be a candidate alternave to the Central Corridor in the south. The approach based on Turkey’s priorisaon of the Central Corridor to ‘balance’ IMEC through a line from Iraq to the Gulf, which is not yet operaonal, is also insufficient. What Turkey needs to do is to immediately mobilise the Organisaon of Turkic States with a view to transforming the Middle Corridor into a more visible and preferred route as soon as possible, and to connue to seek funding for the Middle Corridor by engaging with Western stakeholders, albeit too late. Through these iniaves, projects that will link the Central Corridor with IMEC on a mulmodal basis (land, air, marime, energy, digital) and thus feed the Central Corridor with the southern arteries can be put on the agenda without delay.
It is now widely recognised that the search for a mulpolar order is moving to the forefront of the global agenda in parallel with the acceleraon of strategic compeon among the great powers. At the end of this process, whether the world order will evolve into mulpolarity or into a different form of global governance, which is difficult to foresee today, is an important problemac that needs to be kept under constant scruny. It should be kept in mind that looking at a few snapshots from around the world at the moment, and rushing to draw a conceptual framework for the global architecture of the future may lead the world of academia and polics into a wrong track.