Caracas (ONT) – The arrival of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Venezuela means a new chapter in international relations in a world that reconfigures its maps of political, commercial and financial alliances. Turkey is willing to strengthen economic ties with the Venezuelan State and strongly assumes it in the Binational Business Forum in Caracas.
The Turkish president confirmed this with his speech, in which he supported the government of Nicolás Maduro against the US sanctions policy and said he saw a “great potential” in the future Turkish-Venezuelan trade relations, framed in an investment plan of around 4,500 million euros.
In order to bring together the related economic sectors of both countries, especially in the areas of tourism, energy, culture, agriculture, etc., Erdoğan and Maduro shake hands to implement a plan that increases the levels of exchange in a Venezuela’s momentum, which seeks to mark its own path to avoid the financial blockade and at the same time build geopolitical relations according to the interests of our nation.
The visit of the Turkish president, however, reveals a new scale of relations with Latin America and Venezuela, in which different aspects of current geopolitics intersect, as well as the approaches in which both countries seek to resize their role in the chaotic current international order. In that, we will delve into below.
Rapid history of a new geopolitical approach
From 2007 onwards, with the strengthening of the AKP ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Republic of Turkey has been increasing its geopolitical presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, representing a paradigm shift in its role in international relations today.
The young Republic, built after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, maintained a relationship marked by pragmatism towards the Western powers in the framework of the Cold War, as part of its strategic positioning during the 20th century. Its accelerated process of modernization and political reforms marked a political rhythm towards the strengthening of the nation that contrasted with a limited geopolitical impulse.
With the fall of the USSR and the emergence of American unipolarity, Turkey was definitely aligned to the Western bloc after its definitive entry into NATO, within the framework of a secularization agenda for the geopolitical projection of the Atlantic axis towards the Balkans and the Middle East. The culmination of this process of assimilation would conclude, definitely, with the incorporation of Turkey to the European Union, a process that stopped in 2007, generating contradictions and misgivings on the part of the Turkish elite.
The process of deterioration of the US hegemony and the emergence of a world of multipolar features that made the dispute over zones of influence more flexible, was accompanied by an interesting re-reading of the fundamental ideologies of the AKP on the role of Turkey in international relations, due to the little use that was given to its emerging economic role.
It was Ahmet Davutoğlu, minister of foreign relations until 2014 and prime minister until 2016, who would launch the thick lines of the “new Turkish foreign policy” in 2007. The approach is marked by the paradigm shift of Turkey as a “central country” for their shared interests in the complex strategic location they hold and for the influence they have in the Afro-Eurasian region. Thus, the notion of “border or peripheral country” of the western order that prevailed during the twentieth century, was challenged by the ruling AKP and left behind.
Another highly sensitive aspect in this rethinking is the abandonment of Turkey from the traditional Heartland (pivotal area) of the Ottoman Empire, to deploy to distant areas where to build the “strategic depth” of its new geopolitical role.
From this reconstruction of itself in the geopolitical scenario and in a radical change of strategic priorities, Turkey would begin to claim its role as an emerging power of global projection, underpinned by solid economic growth, consistent political stability and the use of its geostrategic location as an energy key between Central Asia and Europe.
The first antecedent and the beginning of the Erdoğan cycle
The first antecedent of Turkish-Latin American relations occurred with the visit of President Süleyman Demirel to Argentina, Brazil and Chile in 1995, which concluded with the implementation of the “Plan of Action for Latin America and the Caribbean” in 1998, which was frustrated in the following years.
This first approach helped to initiate diplomatic channels with several countries in the region and to approach integration organizations such as the OAS and Caricom, from which they would become observers. The expansion of business and the containment of the lobby of the Armenian diaspora, were the two central objectives of the Turkish diplomatic deployment, without behind this there was an assessment of Latin America as a space of geopolitical projection
This would begin to happen when the “new Turkish foreign policy” is put into practice in 2007, where the Latin American continent is being conceived as an area of interest for its rise as an emerging power in the framework of multipolarity.
In this framework, between 2009 and 2011, Prime Minister Erdoğan in person strengthens ties with Latin America through different strategies of parliamentary cooperation, inclusion in organizations such as the BRICS and alliances that included the expansion of trade to crystallize an increase in its visibility as a regional partner.
As a result of its new foreign policy strategy, two guiding aspects stand out: humanitarian aid and the defense industry, viewed from a logic of rapprochement and expansion of interests from the soft power. In the field of humanitarian aid, it is only surpassed by the United States as countries that spend the most money on these activities.
Due to its economic weight and predominant role in the continental integration organizations, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela were the priority countries within the “new Turkish foreign policy” to generate a framework of association and integration that would consolidate the influence of Turkey.
Proof of this was that a few years after installing the first Venezuelan consulate in Turkey, which was also the first of Latin America, in September 2010 the First Encounter of Complementarity was held in Istanbul, to open a path to cooperation mechanisms in the economic-financial field. A year later, the First Mixed Commission Venezuela-Turkey was established to strengthen the alliance.
This same rhythm of integration would be put into practice with the countries prioritized with Turkey, but with a special emphasis on Venezuela.
Pragmatism and interests: the Eurasian turn of 2016
Until 2016, Turkish-American relations remained stable before a Turkey linked to the Western bloc, consistent with the NATO mandate and participant in the war against Syria.
In July of that same year, after liquidating an attempted coup against him, Erdoğan accused the West of supporting the insurgents and specifically the United States to protect one of those involved, the cleric Fethullah Gülen.
As a reaction to that fact there was a turn, pragmatic and based on multiple axes and interests, in the foreign policy of Turkey towards Russia and Eurasia, which contributed to the reduction of its role in the war against Syria and which led to a geopolitical fracture unpublished with the United States. Pragmatically he chose to place himself on the side of the victors, before the threats of his traditional partner.
Two years later, the Eurasian turn of Turkey has caused fissures with the European Union over the issue of refugees, a tightening of relations with Russia and Iran to balance tensions in Eurasia and the Middle East and the advent of sanctions by the United States, which have caused negative impacts on the Turkish economy, using as an excuse Erdoğan’s decision not to release US pastor Andrew Brunson.
Two data give us a clear picture of the deterioration of relations between Turkey, the United States and the Western bloc in general: the purchase of the Russian anti-aircraft system s-400 and the suppression of the use of the dollar in regional trade, along with Iraq, Iran, and Russia. In essence, these and other details opened the way for Turkey to enter as a component of the so-called “Axis of Evil” when it left the US orbit and joined its own strategic international relations policy.
The new balance of power resulting from this break has created strong limitations for the United States and NATO to maintain their geostrategic projection in the Middle East and Eurasia.
This represents a substantial change that consolidates the new distribution of global power we live in and the new geopolitical blocks that propose changing the axis of international relations outside the West.
Turkish-Venezuelan relations: interdependence, counterweights and the United States
This unprecedented scenario and pressure from its former partner have also put pressure on Turkey to mobilize more resources to expand its international relations and find support points to maintain its tendency as an emerging power. Before this the BBC, reporting the three visits of President Nicolás Maduro to Turkey in 2018 and his invitation to the inauguration of Erdoğan, affirms that “the confrontation with the United States forced Turkey to look for new partners and Ankara set its sights on Venezuela -rich in oil- to diversify their commercial exchanges “.The BBC also provides data on how trade has been growing and economic integration between both countries. He affirms that “Erdoğan and Maduro signed a series of agreements in 2017. The bilateral trade between Venezuela and Turkey reached US $ 892.4 million in the first five months of 2018, according to the Turkish Statistics Institute. The exports from Turkey to Venezuela were US $ 52.2 million and imports were US $ 834.2 million in a period of 5 months. During the five-year period between 2013 and 2017, the exchange between the two countries was US $ 803.6 million”.
The antecedent of this intensification of the relations has a date of 2016, when in the month of August, after a visit of the chancellor Delcy Rodriguez, began to weave the incorporation of Turkey in the Mining Arc of the Orinoco. Two months later, President Nicolás Maduro visited Istanbul and together with President Erdoğan paved the way to deepen energy investments and cooperation. The Turkish president’s visit to Latin America in 2016, added to the expansion of relations with Venezuela, began to generate discomfort in the United States since it was interpreted as a mechanism to counteract his influence as a result of the coup attempt. One of the most qualified institutions of the American Deep State, the Atlantic Council think tank, commented in the voice of its expert Aaron Stein the following: “The visit is part of Turkey’s long-term ambition to expand its presence in Latin America, both to increase its influence globally as to seek new business partners. “
In the framework of the financial blockade against Venezuela, relations with Turkey have allowed the construction of escape routes through the sale and refining of gold, with the aim of bringing fresh currency to the country and giving material support to the Economic Recovery Plan, launched by the Government. Venezuelan. On this, Banco Torino Capital, in a recent report, affirmed that in the year of 2018, the Turkish Statistics Institute registered that Venezuela had exported 20.15 tons of gold between January and May, which totals 779 million dollars.
In this sense, the last sanctions of the United States against Venezuelan gold go through the need to break the relations between Turkey and Venezuela, neutralize the Economic Recovery Plan and prevent the South American nation from finding escape valves to the financial blockade to which it is subjected. An important factor here is the economic and strategic projection of the Orinoco Mining Arc, where the alliances between Turkey and Venezuela have been strengthened and that now represents one of the most outstanding flanks of US foreign policy.
But far from addressing the relationship between the two countries from a paternalistic or unidirectional perspective, we must affirm that they are complementary.
For Venezuela, relations with Turkey are key to bypass the financial blockade and create new integration mechanisms before the veto of the dollar system that was imposed, within the framework of its strategy of building multi-polar power blocks. In contrast, for Turkey, relations with Venezuela are essential to expand its international visibility, achieve new trade routes and counteract the pressures of the United States, finding new geostrategic supports that allow it to continue to hold the rank of intermediate power.
They represent dynamic and interdependent relationships that link different vectors of interests, from energy, commercial, to geopolitical related to the opening of influence zones and mutual projection of interests.
The consensus in which both nations intersect, each with their own traits and worldviews, is that the counterweight to US pressure is in the pragmatic assembly of geopolitical coalitions.
The visit of President Erdoğan to Venezuela, at a time of turning points of the global order and systemic chaos, shows that the construction (pragmatic) of geopolitical power blocks serves as an instrument of strategic pressure to dissuade the United States, today in its phase of worse decline, dementia and exhausting the effectiveness of sanctions.
The reinvention of Venezuelan foreign policy
The idea of the construction of power blocks as a geopolitical counterweight instrument, in regard to Latin America, has a Venezuelan invoice and the name of Hugo Chávez. Precisely, Erdoğan’s visit to Venezuela can be seen as the crossing between that new foreign policy that redimensioned the international role of Turkey, with the reinvention that the Bolivarian Revolution made to the traditional paradigm of Venezuelan foreign policy, anchored to blind support for the global order liberal and the strategic interests of the United States.
With President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan foreign policy undergoes a radical change in terms of the orientation of the country’s role in a scenario characterized by the decline of the hegemonic powers and the emergence of new geostrategic poles in Eurasia. The coup d’état against Chávez in 2002, sponsored by Washington, would make the formulation of Venezuela’s international relations an imperative. A need to protect, dissuade and contain the harassment that would come against the changes and transformations of the process [the Revolution as we call it].
Knowing how to interpret the moment and that sooner or later the United States would use its accumulated international power to harass the socialist process, from the year 2004 on, the Venezuelan strategic positioning is reoriented towards a new multipolar global order, for it begins to weave relations with Iran, Russia, China, among other countries of the Middle East and Eurasia, projecting the country not as a periphery of the world-system, but as a participant in the construction of a polyhedral and complementary international relations system.
As a result of this approach, it also deploys to build integration organizations in different phases and moments, which will result in the resuscitation of OPEC, ALBA, UNASUR, Petrocaribe, CELAC and the Mixed Commissions with Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, among others. A substantial change to the previous period, where geopolitics had the sole purpose of achieving commercial returns and not the reinvention of Venezuela’s role in international relations beyond the traditional subordination of the United States.
For the first time, foreign policy achieves a geometrical vision of its own power and an endogenous vision of its role in the world, prefiguring, in an unprecedented way, Eurasia as a vital geostrategic pole for the construction of its external border. The incursion into new correlations of forces that favor the projection of power and increase the capacity for maneuver on an international scale.
In the framework of this approach, oil would not be the end, but a means to increase the visibility of the country in the construction of cooperation agencies and regional blocs to change the classical balances of the global order, for the benefit of multipolarity. Their international relations, different from the Punto Fijo era [Venezuela’s pseudo-democracy between 1959 and 1999], start from the interests of building integration zones to create systems of checks and balances to the Western powers, both in the immediate Latin American border and for Eurasia as a new hegemonic pole, to which Venezuela must connect to influence the new multipolar order. In summary: the construction of power blocks as a Venezuelan reinvention of an independent region.
Under this idea, the Venezuelan relations with Turkey (and with the rest of Eurasia) go through the need to create a core of geopolitical expansion, strategic assurance and containment at a time of intervention threats, strong financial pressures and harassment in their area of immediate influence, where economic integration and coalition building with emerging powers is synonymous with geopolitical lines of defense. In that imperative, the visit is given. For both countries.
Looking ahead to January 10, where a new attempt to delegitimize the Venezuelan president, Maduro’s trip to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s sworn ceremony in Mexico, added to Erdoğan’s visit, generates counterweights and dissuasion to limit a scenario of intensification of geopolitical hostilities against Venezuela, commanded by its traditional enemy, the United States.