10:00 GMT +320 February 2019
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    BRICST: Reality or Fantasy?

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    Andrew Korybko

    President Erdogan's declaration last week that Turkey would like to join BRICS as a full-fledged member has drawn a lot of attention but also generated plenty of debate about whether it's feasible.

    The Turkish leader proposed that his Mideast country's admission to the association could turn it into "BRICST", and he also said that his idea was received very positively from each of his counterparts in the organization.

    There are legitimate arguments concerning Turkey's proposed membership in the bloc, ranging from the soft power implications of including its first Mideast and Muslim country to the practical ones of allowing this rapidly developing economy access to the group's financial resources. On the other hand, critics claim that BRICS is already overextended and under-integrated as it is, and that the benefits to its image don't outweigh the organizational challenges of expanding.

    Looking beyond this either-or choice, it's important to dwell on why Turkey would so publicly proclaim its interest in joining BRICS at this point in time, with it being likely that one of President Erdogan's motivations was to signal his displeasure with the EU and NATO, like some analysts have already remarked. After all, ties between Turkey and both organizations, as well as with the US, are at their worst-ever point in history, so it makes sense why Turkey would want to "balance" between them.

    Ankara might want to use its highly publicized interest in joining BRICS as negotiating leverage with each of these three parties in an effort to relieve some of the pressure that it's recently been put under, especially by the US concerning prospective CAATSA sanctions for its purchase of Russia's S-400 anti-missile system and other possible economic restrictions pertaining to its imprisonment of an American pastor. If that's the case, then Turkey's proposal needs to be reevaluated in light of that strategy.

    The US fears Turkey's multipolar pivot that it inadvertently accelerated through its failed coup attempt against President Erdogan in summer 2016, but it's also gone so far over the past two years in punishing Ankara for this that it'll be difficult for Washington to walk any of it back. Along the same lines, Turkey's also gone very far in executing this strategic reorientation, so it too can't exactly reverse its course. This means that while BRICST might be a negotiating ploy, it also carries with it very powerful symbolism.

    Andrew Korybko is joined by Dr. Can Erimtan, independent historian and geopolitical analyst, and Serap Balaman, Turkish political commentator.

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    BRICS summit, BRICS, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey
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