If we have an issue of ‘strategic depth’

If we have an issue of ‘strategic depth’

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a master at forcing an issue, bluffing and occupying others with his own agenda.

We have not yet seen one of the opposition parties able to force the country to debate a single topic. They jump into the agendas set by the chair or members of the ruling party; sometimes they have internal troubles because of that.

I wonder what our opposition thinks about the topic of membership in the “Shanghai Five?”

Turkey – all the way since the 1950s – has been trying to become a member of the European Union. It was given the promise of “full membership” in 2005, but no date for entry. Turkey was told to harmonize its legal acquis to that of the EU.

While the core EU countries grant memberships to other candidate with a generosity based on the sense that “they will learn once they are full members in the EU,” they do not seem to be ready to accept Turkey, even if its laws were totally harmonized with those of the EU.

Turkey is hampered and left to the mercy of the Greek Cypriots.

It is not possible to avoid blowing one’s top; the ministers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (Ak Party) and Erdoğan’s discomfort is at the highest level. This discomfort has recently reached the level of “we wish Putin would accept us so that we could become a member of the Shanghai Five.”

The “Shanghai Five” is a six-nation union in which Russia and China are front and center along with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan; Uzbekistan is set to join later. Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan are at its door with “observer” status, while Turkey has “dialogue partner” status.

With regards to population, it is a union that is more populous than both the United States and the EU; with regards to economy, it is impressive with Russia’s natural resources and China’s industriousness; however, with regards to political power, it is beyond being comparable.

Because almost all of them are Turkey’s economic partners, the Shanghai Five is surely a group that our country would not feel alienated in once inside.

If Turkey works toward membership, it has member friends inside that would work on behalf of it.

Because Erdoğan said, “I am opening this to debate,” here we are debating it. There has not been any positive or negative statement coming from the opposition front, but it has been a topic in the media since an interview with TV 24 last week.

Is membership in the Shanghai Five a good idea? Of course it is good. Turkey would both suit that group, while the appearance of being together with the countries in the group would add power to Turkey; there is no doubt about that. However, if we ask the pose question with regard to the EU – “Shall we become a member of the Shanghai Five and not join the EU?” – then the color changes.

It changes because Turkey’s “strategic depth” would suffer a huge loss if the country broke off with the EU. A Turkey whose face is turned only to the East, with no connection to the West, would not exert much influence in the region. You are evaluated according to the color of the cup you are in.

The cup of the Shanghai Five is not that attractive from that point of view. Besides the economic loss, Turkey, which resembles Russia, China and other countries, would lose its feature of “being an example” to a very wide region.

Turkey should be a member of the EU, and at the same time stay close to the Shanghai Five.

I don’t know what the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will say, but this is my opinion.

Fehmi Koru is a columnist for daily Star in which this piece was published on Jan 29. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

FEHMİ KORU -fkoru@stargazete.com