Duterte Meets Putin, Lashes Out At Western “Hypocrisy”, While “Fed-up” Turkey Wants To Join Shanghai Bloc
As China’s president Xi was setting the stage for a new regional free-trade deal dubbed the Free Trade Area of Asia-Pacific at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru now that Obama’s TPP has suffered a quiet death, a new geopolitical axis was being formed.
In the first meeting between the Philippines’ outspoken president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Peru, Duterte held nothing back in his views about major powers like the United States, suggesting he is sticking to his guns on re-aligning foreign policy away from Washington, despite his warm words for incoming U.S. president, Donald Trump.
Reiterating a recurring talking point from his national addresses, Duterte lashed out at Western “bullying” and “hypocrisy” in his first meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and said when it came to alliances, the United States could not be trusted. “Historically, I have been identified with the Western world. It was good until it lasted,” he told the Russian leader. “And of late, I see a lot of these Western nations bullying small nations. And not only that, they are into so much hypocrisy,” he said, according to a transcript of Saturday’s meeting provided by his office cited by Reuters.
Setting the groundwork for closer relations with the long-term US ally, Putin congratulated Duterte on his May election win and said he had done a lot in a very short time to build trust and confidence between Russia and the Philippines. Duterte responded with similar words and then chided Western powers, particularly the United States, for intervening in conflicts for their own national interest and cajoling others to side with them.
As Reuters notes, Duterte’s overtures to Russia are similar to those he made to China, until recently a bitter rival. He is now praising Beijing and tapping it for investment in a stunning about-face that has unnerved a region wary of a Chinese hegemony taking shape in Southeast Asia.
In the clearest sign yet that a new geopolitical alliance is being formed, before leaving for Peru Duterte said if Russia and China decided to create a “new order” in the world, he would be first to join. In his talk with Putin, Duterte blasted the United States and its Western allies for taking the lead in wars he said had ultimately failed. “They seem to start a war but are afraid to go to war. That is what’s wrong with America and the other,” he said.
“They were waging war in so many places, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan and in Iraq … They insist if you are allied with them that they follow you.”
Duterte has spoken of his admiration for Chinese President Xi Jinping and also for the leadership of Putin. In an interview with Al Jazeera broadcast on Thursday, he described Putin as sincere, and joked that he had a “hillbilly” style.
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The Philippines wasn’t the only nation expressing a desire to drift away from western-influence. On Sunday Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan was quoted by Reuters as saying that Turkey did not need to join the European Union “at all costs” and could instead become part of a security bloc dominated by China, Russia and Central Asian nations.
Sensing that Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU look more remote than ever after 11 years of negotiations, after European leaders have been critical of its record on democratic freedoms, while Ankara has grown increasingly exasperated by what it sees as Western condescension, the Turkish president is increasingly resorting to scorched earth diplomacy, and increasingly more vocal threats of drifting away from the European sphere of influence. Yesterday Turkey announced it is considering the purchase of a Russian-made S-400 long-range air defense missile system as an alternative to western unwillingness to help Turkey develop an anti-missile defense shield.
The diplomatic escalation continued today when Erdogan told reporters on his plane on the way back from a visit to Pakistan and Uzbekistan that “Turkey must feel at ease. It mustn’t say ‘for me it’s the European Union at all costs’. That’s my view.”
“Why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai Five? I said this to (Russian President) Mr Putin, to (Kazakh President) Nazarbayev, to those who are in the Shanghai Five now,” he said.
“I hope that if there is a positive development there, I think if Turkey were to join the Shanghai Five, it will enable it to act with much greater ease.”
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was formed in 2001 as a regional security bloc to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan by China, Russia and four Central Asian nations — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Naturally, Turkish membership of the SCO, which had initially not included Uzbekistan and been known as the Shanghai Five, would be likely to alarm Western allies and fellow NATO members. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan speak Turkic languages, and Ankara signed up in 2013 as a “dialogue partner” saying it shared “the same destiny” as members of the bloc.
Other affiliate parties include Mongolia, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan which are SCO observers, while Belarus, like Turkey, is a dialogue partner. Dialogue partners are entitled to take part in ministerial-level and some other meetings of the SCO, but do not have voting rights.
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Last week Erdogan urged Turks to be patient until the end of the year over relations with Europe and said a referendum could be held on EU membership in 2017.
However, it appears that Erdogan himself is getting both impatient and frustrated.
Meanwhile the EU is treading a fine line in relations with Turkey: it needs Ankara’s continued help in curbing a huge flow of migrants, especially from Syria, but is alarmed by Turkey’s crackdown on opponents since a failed coup attempt in July. As a result, more than 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended since the abortive putsch, and some 36,000 arrested. Media outlets have also been shut down.
While it remains to be seen just how far both the Philippines and Turkey go in their separate paths to impose their own terms in a world where US – and western – influence is increasingly declining, it is becoming clear that the “legacy” world order is under substantial threat and that new geopolitical alliances are actively being negotiated behind closed doors with every passing day.