President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey proposes that the UN Security Council be dismantled and reformed to reflect a more “democratic” institution – with more Islamic representatives.
Erdogan wants Islam to be more representative in the council’s chambers, even though the permanent members of the UN Security Council have their own Muslim citizenry.
Russian analysts however do not agree with the president and say that his proposals will rupture the security structure that has successfully prevailed and stopped major global conflicts arising between superpowers since the end of the second world war.
Speaking to youth activists in Istanbul earlier this week, Erdogan suggested that the Security Council system must be reformed, expanded to twenty members from its present fifteen, and permanent seats eliminated, Russia’s RIA Novosti reports, citing Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.
“This system must be reformed,” Erdogan noted. “Just think: five permanent and ten non-permanent Security Council members. They will perform their duties for another two years. The Security Council includes Russia, Britain, France, the USA, and China. There are no representatives of Africa. They too should be represented in this structure. Nor are there any representatives of South America.”
“From the religious point of view, in the top five there are is no Muslim country, there are no representatives of the Buddhists. The Security Council must be representative of all 196 [sic] countries,” the president added.
Moreover, he suggested, “there should not be permanent and non-permanent members…The Security Council should be comprised of 20 countries which should constantly be rotated.”
Offering an example of his discontent with the current system, Erdogan criticized the Security Council’s ‘indecisiveness’ on Syria. “We are talking about Syria, where 500,000 people have been killed. There is the cruel figure of Assad, who has spawned state terror. In fact, he should be tried in The Hague, but the international community has not agreed to this yet.”
“How is this possible? What kind of world is this? What kind of Security Council is this?” Erdogan asked.
Analyzing Erdogan’s remarks, independent online Russian newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa suggested that what the president is effectively calling for is “the dismantling of the key institute in charge of security in the world.”
Its undoing, the paper notes, would signify the end of “an international security infrastructure designed during the Yalta Conference in 1945.” The agreement between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt at the close of World War II formed the concept of permanent membership, with a right to a veto, for the ‘great powers’ including the Soviet Union (succeeded by Russia), the United States, China, Britain and France.
“By the way,” Svobodnaya Pressa suggested, “Turkey’s president has no moral grounds on which to challenge the post-Yalta world, given that his country’s wartime leadership sympathized with Nazi Germany and only joined the anti-Hitler coalition at the last stage of the war, when its outcome was obvious.”
Moreover, “today, Turkey, to slightly rephrase the US president, is again on the ‘dark side of history’. As recently as last week, Erdogan spoke out against a negotiated solution to the Syrian issue, accusing the US, the EU, the UN, Iran and Russia of ‘dishonest actions in Syria, allowing, directly or indirectly, for Assad’s forces to kill civilians.’ At the same time, the Turkish regime has engaged in the mass killing of the Kurds, both on its own territory and in its invasions of neighboring countries, including Syria and Iraq.”
For his part, Andrei Manoilo, a professor of political science at Moscow State University, told the newspaper that Erdogan’s UN security architecture ‘reform’ initiatives are designed to divert the Turkish people’s attention from a slew of internal problems, and from Ankara’s reckless foreign policy.
“It’s no secret that a civil war is factually underway in Turkey. The authorities are suggesting that the terrorist attacks, chalked down to the Kurds in order to justify their elimination, are not Ankara’s fault, but the fault of the UN Security Council and Russia. Moscow, you see, is not allowing the body to push through a resolution authorizing the use of force to overthrow the legitimate government in Syria, which is battling Daesh.”
“Secondly,” Manoilo notes, “Erdogan is now desperately looking for allies amid the difficult position he has found himself in due to the adventurist nature of his foreign policy. The Turkish government cannot find support either from its partners in NATO, nor among the countries of the Middle East.”
The commentator suggests that the Turkish leader has become an annoyance even to the Americans, who might ‘dump’ him at any moment. “Realizing this, the Turkish leader is trying to play on pan-Islamic sentiments. It’s no coincidence that he brought up the fact that the Security Council does not have an Islamic permanent member; the population of the Islamic world is about 1.5 billion people, and its importance is constantly growing.”
“Of course, he is once again distorting the facts. Muslims are represented in the Security Council, as citizens of its permanent members. Moreover, Turkey itself is [ostensibly] a secular, multi-confessional state.”
For the moment, Manoilo notes, Erdogan’s “speeches about obviously impossible initiatives like the wholesale reform of the UN Security Council are aimed at diverting Turks’ attention, so that they stop analyzing where his government has led the country.”
Ultimately, he suggests, they are a signal of his fantasy of turning the Security Council into a legally insignificant revolving door, which would enable him to strengthen his domestic crackdown and continue his foreign adventurism.
The political scientist suggests that this is important, “because today the United States and Russia, despite their confrontation, are capable (as the case of the Syrian ceasefire, which was approved in the walls of the UN, has shown), of overcoming their differences and adopting a consolidated decision. Such a resolution could, for instance, prohibit the Turkish government from killing Kurds or shelling Syrian territory.”
Manoilo admits that there are other countries in the world, apart from Turkey, which are unsatisfied by the current composition of the Security Council. At the same time, “the format of the five permanent members,” worked out in the aftermath of the Second World War, remains “one of the key mechanisms which have allowed us to avoid a new world war.”
For his part, political scientist Pavel Svyatenkov added that while Russia does not hold to a dogmatic position regarding the composition of the UN’s key security institute, it does note that expanding the number of permanent, veto-holding members might lead to the organization’s paralysis.
As for the Turkish president’s proposals, “if we repeal the right of veto, as Erdogan suggests, it’s unclear whose [military] strength will guarantee the Security Council’s decisions…All five of the current permanent members have tremendous military power, which no one else in the world is capable of challenging…Can you imagine what kind of ‘historic’ decisions the body would make, for example, by the votes of, for example, San Marino, Belize or Malta? More importantly, who would implement them? Today, the Security Council’s decisions are binding because the body is headed by five great powers.”