IS THE TURKISH DEFENCE INDUSTRY READY FOR SHANGHAI?
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a rising star in the East. While its development has similarities with the European Union, it also has its own exclusive peculiarities. Both the People's Republic of China and Russia have experienced ideological issues and faced with border violations after World War II. After the end of Cold War however, both countries have realised that the barren rivalry between the two hurt both of them the same. With the structuring they made in 1996, the People's Republic of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan has announced themselves to the world as the Shanghai Five. The Shanghai Five emerged as a reaction to the monopole world discourse of the USA. With the membership of Uzbekistan, SCO materialized its first expansion in 2001. SCO primarily aimed to constitute a free trade zone between its members. Even though SCO does not have a substructure that is as functional as NATO in terms of security -although members collaborate in certain matters such extradition of criminals- it does have an emerging concept for security, developing as a consequence of the dysfunctional structure of the UN.
"The world is bigger than five" discourse is lately at the centre of Turkish foreign policy. This discourse is expressed to be a foreign policy sentiment which signals the abolishment of a West-centric sense of foreign policy, stressing that the East should also be taken into account. As President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has specified, Turkey has been kept waiting needlessly on the door of the European Union for half a century. NATO also failed to assure Turkey's security during the Plane Crisis, even though Turkey has been loyal to the organization for more than fifty years. Does Turkey have a national defence infrastructure that would allow it to be a member of an alternative non-Western organization?
It can be said that Turkish National Defence Industry will play an important role in opening its foreign policy towards the East. According to data from SIPRI, Turkey has purchased a total of 6.191 billion dollars’ worth of arms between the years 2009-2016. USA is the top country that sells Turkey arms, as a natural consequence of its NATO membership, with 3.149 billion dollars of this budget going to the US. Turkey has also purchased 140 million dollars’ worth of arms from China, and also made a 33 million dollars arms purchase from Russia. Turkey also purchases guns from Germany and South Korea. As it is seen, Turkey is fully integrated to the West in its arms purchases. Turkey's actions between the years 2002-2016 to improve its national defence industry have contributed greatly to its arms exports. Such that, between the years 2009-2016 Turkey has made 991 million dollars’ worth of arms sales. Turkey has sold 225 million dollar worth of guns to Saudi Arabia, and 132 million dollars’ worth of guns to the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan and Turkmenistan are among the other main countries that Turkey sells armaments to.
These numbers regarding arms imports and exports show that Turkey needs to diverse the defence industry markets it operates in. On this regard, it can be said that a great obstacle preventing Turkey to expand towards the East is the dependency of its defence industry as a result of its NATO membership. Insomuch that, even the countries that Turkey sells arms to can close up and move away from Turkey according to the strategies of the American defence industry. In the upcoming periods, whether Turkish defence industry can get freed of its dependency to the West will also determine whether Turkish foreign policy can afford becoming a member of a non-Western alternative organization.
This article was published in the Son Talimat newspaper, Dr. Yusuf ÇINAR.