While many of this year’s UN General Assembly speeches have been lacklustre compared to last year, some heads of state always deliver when called to the rostrum to offer their verdict on the state of the world and the role their nation ought to play in shaping it. Two such men include Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.
Speaking immediately after Donald Trump on the first day of the General Assembly’s 73rd opening, President Erdogan spoke of the need for Turkey to help and usher in a more humane world order where the human rights of all are prioritised over the power politics of the five states that hold a permanent veto in the Security Council. Erdogan continued to speak of Turkey’s accomplishments in reaching a settlement to the Idlib crisis in Syria as well as the importance of fighting all forms of terrorism, including those that western powers continue to sponsor or otherwise support (PKK and FETO terrorism in particular).
Later in the week Venezeula’s President Maduro offered a nearly hour long incitement over what he called the imperialist policies of the United States in classic Bolivarian fashion.
While both Erdogan and Maduro gave speeches that have been highly praised by both their domestic constituents and large set of international admirers, what is less known is that the two men enjoy a strong political friendship and are at the helm of a rapidly expanding geopolitical partnership. After Maduro’s speech, Erdogan proclaimed that he seeks to meet Maduro in Venezuela at the first moment of mutual convenience while he also stated,
“Turkey will not leave Maduro alone”.
Erdogan’s remark about not leaving Maduro alone is a clear reference to the fact that the US has increased its rhetoric regarding illegal regime change against Maduro. As Erdogan himself survived an attempt at regime change by the US backed Islamist terror cult FETO in 2016, the Turkish President is openly sympathetic with Maduro not only in terms of what both men intend to do in respect of expanding the Turko-Venezuelan partnership but also in respect of clearly identifying with a strong and independent leader who has run afoul of Washington’s iron first. What happened in Turkey in 2016 could well happen this year or next in Venezuela. Erdogan has made it clear that for Turkey’s part, all that can be done to stop such lawlessness will be done.
As Venezuela is an oil exporting nation in desperate need of cash while Turkey is looking to diversify its energy sources, the two countries are clearly partners that could benefit much from each other. Yet beyond this, the two Presidents have a clear affinity towards one another in spite of some apparent differences.
During the run-up to Venezuela’s Presidential election in the spring of this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared on screen with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro where he conveyed his well wishes and a formal endorsement for Maduro. Erdogan said of Maduro at the time,
“I have faith you will be triumphant”.
During the semi-informal conversation Erdogan further touted the possibility of a free trade deal with Venezuela in the future while stating that Turkey-Venezuela trading ties and general cooperation will be set to increase in the near future.
The endorsement of Maduro’s ultimately victorious re-election and Erdogan’s clear statement in support of Maduro against US provocations constitute clear examples of how the outdated notions of “right and left” are becoming ever more irrelevant in the 21st century. If anything, the age of global multipolarity has witnessed the rapid development of cooperation and good ties between developing nations, poor nations and strong nations from the so-called “non-western world”, irrespective of the domestic political spectrum in each individual country, in spite of a given country’s national religion and in spite of previous historic differences.
Indeed, while the two nations appeal to different geopolitical constituents with Erdogan courting the wider Muslim world and Maduro courting the neo-socialist/anti-imperialist world, differences in rhetoric obscure a great deal of overlap in terms of pragmatic policy making. Furthermore, while Maduro remains a supporter of the Syrian government at a time when Turkey does not recognise the Presidency of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, this has ultimately done little of anything to deter the progress of the growing partnership between modern Turkey and Bolivarian Venezuela.
Taken in totality, there is perhaps no better example of the development of genuine multipolarity than in the warm relations between Turkish President Erdogan, generally considered to be on the economically progressive but culturally and foreign policy right/conservative end of the spectrum spectrum and President Maduro, a practitioner of Bolivarism, a synthesis of traditional Marxist-Leninism with Latin American and anti-colonial characteristics.
The trend which binds countries like Venezuela and Turkey together range from those of mutual economic benefit to attempts by leaders of each respective country to strengthen their geo-economic portfolio in an area where in very different ways, the US and its socio-political partners are becoming increasingly provocative in their criticisms of both Ankara and Caracas.
Erdogan whose country once seriously considered joining the European Union, has clearly pivoted Turkey to a revitalised regional role in the Middle East and the wider ‘post-Ottoman space’. In this new role, Turkey is able to protect national security interests in the region as well as becoming a wider beacon of a kind of increasingly popular Sunni Islamic Democracy within the frame work of multilateralism. While many focus on Turkey’s anti-PKK Operation Olive Branch which is currently being conducted in northern Syria and parts of northern Iraq as an example of Turkey’s increased geopolitical confidence, Turkey’s cooperative endeavour with the government of Sudan to re-build the old Ottoman port at Suakin is an example of Turkey’s wide ranging ambitions to cultivate new meaningful partnerships in the pan-Turkic world, the wider post-Ottoman space and among traditional imperial rivals including Russia and Iran. With both Russia and China increasing cooperative initiatives in Sudan, this is a further example of an area where various leading powers of the emergent multipolar world are cooperating along the “win-win” model of Chinese President Xi.
Turkey’s enthusiastic participation in China’s One Belt–One Road infrastructural and trading initiative is a further sign that while Turkey continues to think globally, there is a clear pivot in Ankara’s geopolitical trajectory towards the wider Eurasian and even Afro-Eurasian space.
Venezuela continues to extend partnerships across the globe beyond its traditional Latin American and Caribbean partners. Venezuela has strong relations with China, Russia and Iran and a growing relationship with Turkey that President Erdogan has indicated will continue to blossom.
In this sense, former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s Three Worlds Theory is more relevant today than ever before. Of course it is necessary to subtract Mao’s specific ideological conclusions when visualising a 21st century version of his Three Worlds Theory. The other difference between today’s version of a Three Worlds Theory and that of Mao is that today, China and Russia are both a superpowers which continue to develop their economic and geopolitical prospects, whilst Mao personally viewed the USSR as a superpower in a pejorative sense while seeing China as an exploited part of the third world. Likewise, while Mao named wealthy countries like those in Europe, Canada and Japan as part of the “developing second world”, today these countries are clearly in league with the United States. Of course, most of the changes to Mao’s theory reflect not a weakness in the theory, but are instead reflections of the changing status of nations and blocs of nations over time. Crucially, the overarching theme of the Three Worlds Theory which emphasis the need for countries outside the circle of traditional global power to unite against those who would exploit and provoke supposedly weaker nations irrespective of the individual characteristics of the weaker nations, is today, a far more potent force than the idea that all countries with left wing governments must be friends and by extrapolation, that all countries with right wing governments should be friends, while furthermore each bloc should be specious of the other.
Today, it is not so much the common characteristics that bind countries together as it is common goals for sustained and sustainable development that tie them together. Furthermore, when countries outside the clear orbit of the US hegemon feel a common threat, this further serves to bind new partners together.
In this sense, while Erdogan and Maduro’s ideologies are not strictly on the same side of the political spectrum, both leaders share a common interest in respect of developing economies that are less dependant on western financial models and institutions. Furthermore, both countries have faced recent provocations from the US. While clearly Venezuela faces deeper threats from Washington than increasingly reluctant NATO member Turkey, under President Erdogan, Turkey has dramatically pulled away from the US-EU axis and likewise, the US-EU axis has done a great deal to push Turkey away.
While many in both mainstream and so-called alternative media continue to view the world through a left-right prism, the facts of the real world have largely moved on from such a dichotomy. Turkey and Venezuela’s shared goals for development, enhanced geopolitical influence in the developing world and a desire to build democracies with local characteristics rather than American ones, clearly binds the two states and the two incumbent Presidents, both on the verge of fresh elections, together.
This is the new reality of multipolarity – it is a reality that requires critical thinkers to think globally rather than in terms of the narrow ideological field of “left and right”.