We are the world!

We are the world!

If countries could sit on a therapist’s chair, some would be diagnosed with multiple-personality syndrome. Some would identify themselves with a kamikaze pilot wearing a helmet. Some would set off to rewrite history while history would continue to mock them. Some, as a former U.S. ambassador to Ankara put it, would have “Rolls Royce ambitions with Rover resources.” Some would remind one of the 1985 charity single recorded by the super-group “USA for Africa”. And some would feature all of the above in a bizarre blend.

In separate public speeches, the bigwigs in Ankara have declared, over the past five years, that Turkey has a common history and a common future with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Greece and the Balkans. Turkey, according to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was Hamas and, most recently, it is Kosovo. That is bad news for Kosovo as evinced by the current state of relations with the countries Turkey has said it has a common history and future with.

Turkey is an unsuccessful EU candidate state. But, according to very important men in Ankara, “the EU needs Turkey more than the other way around.” Meanwhile, Turkey wants to change the world order.

It thinks that the United Nations Security Council should be rethought; that the system based on veto powers by five permanent members is wrong – that, perhaps, Turkey should be one of the decision-makers, or preferably, the only one.

Turkey quietly seeks a seat in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, most probably because it is a south-east Asian nation or because it wants to be one. Not-so-privately, NATO-member Turkey is seeking a seat in the eastern NATO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Its future ambitions could always be the African National Congress and the Organization of Central American States. Turkey is at least as southeastern-Asian as it is African or Central American. The Arab League remains an exclusive ambition but, sadly, the Arabs do not think Turkey is Arab enough, although it is trying hard to be.

After Turkey signed up to MIKTA, a gathering of Mexico, Indonesia, (South) Korea, Turkey and Australia, I proposed in this column an alternative gathering, BORAT Bahrain, Oman, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Turkey), which inspired readers to propose SHARIA (Somalia-Haiti-Afghanistan-Rwanda-Iraq-Albania) and TIRAMISU (Turkey-Iran-Rwanda-Afghanistan-Mali-Iraq-Syria-Uganda).

Now, it seems, we have a difficult synonym exercise: RKBTS. Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has revealed that Turkey could join the customs-union-cum-“Common Economic Space” that brings together Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Mr Nazarbayev has said that Prime Minister Erdoğan met with him about Turkey’s intentions to join the RKB free trade area, to make it a nicer looking RKBT. Meanwhile, according to the Kazakh president, Syria also wishes to join the club, to finally make it RKBTS, or RKBST, depending on which enemy country would join the first.

This could be as interesting as a NATO member joining the SCO, particularly because Turkey already has a working customs union arrangement with the EU. This way, Turkey would bridge NATO with SCO and RKB with the EU. No doubt, if Mr Erdoğan ran Turkey during the Cold War, he would insist to make Turkey a member of NATO and the Warsaw Pact at the same time.

It is a pity; since I wrote “Directionless Turkey” in this column (Sept. 13, 2006), the Crescent and Star is still looking for a direction.

It is an even greater pity that, as Dominique Moisi, a professor at L’Institue d’etudes politiques de Paris, wrote in Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star, “History is moving in the Middle East, but not in the direction that Turkey would prefer. And, with their country’s economic growth faltering, government hardening and its diplomatic performance a source of growing disappointment, many Turks now wonder what happened. But, far from engaging in an open and positive self-examination, they are too often retreating into a strident nationalism that is all the more defensive to the extent that it reflects a growing lack of self-confidence. Turkey’s current challenge is to overcome lost illusions. And that means that Turks may need Europe more than they are willing to admit, even to themselves. But is Europe today any more ready and willing than it was yesterday to engage in serious talks with Turkey?”