NATO May Be About To Lose A Big Ally To Russia And China

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated he is thinking about joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in lieu of European Union membership.

“I mentioned my desire for Turkey to become part of the SCO with Putin … Putin said it was under consideration. I believe if Turkey became a member, its room for maneuver will broaden considerably,” he told Turkish media.

The principle members of the SCO are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The Council on Foreign Relations notes that “some experts say the organization has emerged as an anti-U.S. bulwark in Central Asia.”

The group is committed to combatting “terrorism, separatism, and extremism” and considers one of its core tenants that “all member states must uphold the core principle of non-aggression and non-interference in internal affairs.” China and Russia are explicitly concerned with separatist regions in the Northern Caucaus regions and Tibet, which undermine their territorial integrity.

“Non-interference in internal affairs” is a phrase frequently used by Russia and China to discourage the U.S. and its allies from denouncing human rights violations and other aggressive behavior. Erdogan’s response to a failed July 15 military coup drew criticism from the U.S. Erdogan’s forces have since imprisoned nearly 50,000 members of Turkish civil society in a full-scale crackdown, and fired thousands of civil servants.

“Erdogan feels much more comfortable and at home among the authoritarian regimes of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization rather than facing the scrutiny and criticism of the European family of nations,” senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Aykan Erdemir told Business Insider.

Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, elaborated to BI that Turkey’s inclusion in the SCO “would be viewed as a rejection of the Western alliance, and make it incredibly difficult to include Turkey in any type of high-level strategic dialogue, given concerns about Russian expansionism.”

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Saagar Enjeti