It may strike some as peculiar when the head of state from a militarily powerful NATO member that has broken off relations with Syria due to disagreements with Bashar al-Assad visits Bolivarian Socialist Venezuela for a prominent official visit. Certainly such a thing would never happen in respect of the current American, French or British leadership. But when one realises that the NATO member in question is Turkey and that the leader in question is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – it all begins to make sense.
Under Erdogan’s leadership first as Prime Minister and now as President under a new Constitution, Turkey has pursued a policy of win-win multilateral relations with a host of countries outside of the comfort zone of most NATO members. What’s more is that Turkey not only engages with countries in the wider post-Ottoman space, but it also does not limit its partnerships to nations that have near identical foreign policy positions to Ankara. While the historic rapprochement with former rival Russia is a clear signpost of the new golden era of win-win Turkish relations with both traditional friends and historic foes, Turkey’s positive relations with Venezuela are in many ways an even more meaningful expression of just how diverse modern Turkey’s geopolitical partnerships are.
At a time when Venezuela is under heavy US sanctions while Donald Trump has threatened the oil rich South American nation with war, Erdogan received a heroes welcome in Caracas complete with a performance of Turkish music by Venezuela’s world famous youth orchestra that is perhaps most well known for producing the glob trotting maestro Gustavo Dudamel.
As Turkey has expertise to offer, affordable goods to sell and economic assistance to grant a country that produces the energy that the growing Turkish economy requires, the pragmatic necessities of healthy Turkey-Venezuela relations are clear enough. Beyond this, both countries are cooperating ever closer in terms of security measures with Caracas closing down “schools” run by the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO) which will now be replaced by legitimate Turkish charity schools. During their meetings Erdogan also thanked Venezuela for being a consummate ally of those in the Ummah (global Islamic community) who come under attack from anti-Islamic forces. Likewise, Erdogan has promised that Turkish engineers will design and build a new mosque for Venezuela’s Muslim minority. Furthermore, while the US has placed sanctions on Venezuela’s shipments of gold, Turkey has boldly defied Washington and is now among Caracas’s largest customers of the precious metal.
Speaking beside Erdogan, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro stated,
“Turkish investors will continue to develop and strengthen trade and the progress in oil production and refineries, petrochemicals for gold production, in diamonds, coltan, iron aluminium and tourism. Turkey will play a critical role in the new multi-polar, multi-centered world”.
Turkey’s Daily Sabah reports the following regarding agreements inked between Erdogan and Maduro in recent days and months:
“The president pointed out the increasing bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Venezuela. Bilateral trade between Turkey and Venezuela had jumped to over $1 billion in 2018, a more than six fold increase over the previous year. The bilateral trade volume stood at $154 million last year.
In the period of January to October, Turkey’s exports to Venezuela totaled $91.2 million while its imports from the South American nation were recorded at $984.4 million. The exports to Venezuela increased by 106.2 percent to $37 million last year, up from $18.1 million the year before.
Furthermore, the national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) has also increased the number of flights to the region. The carrier’s operations have made a significant contribution to Turkey’s economic and trade ties with the region.
Turkey and Venezuela also inked an agreement to improve trade in May.
In a bid to solidify bilateral ties, 10 treaties were signed between the two countries, including on economic relations, mining, maritime transportation, defense industry cooperation and education”.
Speaking of the progress made in bilateral relations, Erdogan noted,
“In our view, Venezuela holds an important position in Turkey’s policy of opening up to Latin America. We are determined to further our relations with Venezuela, preserving the momentum achieved over the past two years in bilateral ties”.
In something of a rebuke of Washington’s attempts to isolate Venezuela, Erdogan further stated, “Are we going to seek permission from somewhere about who we will be friends with and with whom we will trade?” The clear implication in this statement is that no amount of blackmail or attempts at sub-diplomatic coercion will get in the way of Turkey’s multilateral win-win approach to international relations.
This is not the first time that Erdogan has defended his nation’s relationship with Venezuela nor is it the first instance of Turkey promising to be a friend in good times and bad to the heavily sanctioned country. 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).
It was after both men met at the UN this autumn that Erdogan proclaimed that he sought to meet Maduro in Venezuela at the first moment of mutual convenience while he also stated,
“Turkey will not leave Maduro alone”.
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”.
Furthermore, 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.
For those inclined to view the world through the narrow prism of a zero-sum mentality, the Turkey-Venezuela partnership has clearly rocked the boat – so much so that many refuse to acknowledge the prominent flowering of an important trans-continental friendship. The truth of the matter is that motivated by economic realities, shared security interests and a spirit of win-win fraternal cultural connectivity, the partnership between Ankara and Caracas will likely continue to flourish in the coming years irrespective of opinions from dogmatists in both NATO member states and the wider socialist world.