Ability to influence geopolitics and the global south

MDN Editör

The concept of strategic foresight is being able to see beyond the horizon. The difference between looking and seeing requires strategic wisdom. The general rule in strategy is that strategy cannot be produced without knowing history and geography. Unless your strategy is distilled with historical perspective and geographical knowledge, it will remain stale.

Throughout history, some countries have been at the forefront due to their geopolitical position and importance and have influenced the geopolitics of the period. Turkey is a good example of countries falling into this category. On the other hand, some countries have been able to create their geopolitical importance periodically with their military, economic and political power. When we look at it from the perspective of political history, these countries that dragged civilization, albeit periodically, have been able to make a mark in history. The conjunctural rise to prominence of Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands, the main actors of geographical discoveries, can be given as an example.


Categorically speaking, the influence of countries on global geopolitics must be compatible with the factors of time, space, and power. The subject of the postWorld War II period was the USA and the USSR. After the collapse of the USSR, the USA evolved into the sole hegemonic power. Since the beginning of the 2000s, the rise of Russia and China began. After the emergence of different actors on the stage, the ecological dominance of the US has been undermined. The US can still influence global geopolitics, but this influence is no longer dominant and monolithic. And today, the rising China has evolved into a global power as a potential rival for the US. Today, the rivalry between the two countries continues in a multi-dimensional and multi-layered structure.

In the next decade, it is likely that this relationship and competition systematics will sail towards a possible tension. The dangerous rapprochement of the naval forces of both countries in the waters approaching Taiwan reinforces this prediction. It would not be surprising to see a confrontation between the two countries’ naval forces in the near future.

On the other hand, Russia, whose global power claim was traumatized after the Ukraine incident, is still an effective power that should be taken into account despite all the negativities and strategic miscalculations. Countries like India, Japan, Brazil, and Germany are important players in geopolitical chess today. What about the others? In the evolving geopolitical environment, we must consider the relatively weaker but increasingly influential mid-level players as their rise continues…

Prominent actors in the south

Ukrainian President Zelensky’s sudden series of visits to Saudi Arabia and Japan in May caused a stir in the international arena. Is it a rational approach to interpret these visits solely as a search for support against Russia? Or has the recent increased activity of these actors been the determining factor behind the favor shown to these countries?

Questions may follow one another. Look at Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, the leading actors of the global south, which have recently been increasing their geopolitical weight. The rising actors of the south are essentially taking advantage of regionalization and the geopolitical opportunities created by the US-China tension.

Countries categorically categorized as middle-class power aspirants are becoming more independent and acting on the basis of self-interest, raising their voices daily. These actors, who have started to act as geopolitical levers in regional problems, are also using the rivalry between the US and China to their advantage. Although their potential to balance France, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the UK in the global north is not yet sufficient, they are likely to become centers of attraction soon.

Go West vs Go South (?)

Who constitutes “the global south” a recently coined terminology which has already become a household word? We can list these countries as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. The common point of these countries, which attract attention with their foreign policies and orientations, is that – unlike the representatives of the global north – they do not adopt an unconditionally favorable attitude towards the US and/or China, but act in harmony based on benefit-benefit and create new power dynamics in their 06 GEOPOLITICS regions. These countries, all of which are members of the G-20, are active both geopolitically and geo-economically.

We have to examine the increase in the specific weight of these states, which have evolved into centers of attraction and attraction in a multidimensional way. After the end of the unipolar order, the new bipolar structure that China and the US have begun to form opened up a wider and more independent room for maneuver for weak and middle-class countries.

As the US’s control and influence over these countries diminishes, they are motivated to pursue independent policies. It should be noted that China and Russia support and encourage these countries to pursue independent policies. Let us draw your attention to the fact that this support may have economic, political, and military dimensions.

Alignment – instability – overturning the table

The condition of being able to influence a country and keep it under control is to put especially sympathetic cadres in power. For this reason, during the Cold War, both the USA and the USSR prioritized the formation of sympathetic cadres in the countries they aligned themselves with. This strategy’s focus was undoubtedly the target country’s long-term control.

In countries that fell out of line – for some reason – instability would suddenly arise. Political and/or economic instability would eventually result in a change in state power. In such periods, when patriots who loved their country had no chance to live or rise, and merit was outwardly oriented, events such as terrorism, civil unrest, armed conflict with neighboring countries or low/medium intensity war would emerge. The choreography of the fiction adorned with social engineering motifs remained the same even though the countries changed. The period of controlled chaos in our country in the 70s and the 80 military coups that followed can be given as examples.

The decline in the ecological dominance of the global powers and the liquidation of the sympathetic cadres scattered and raised in the countries under their influence undoubtedly led to the dissolution of the control mechanisms over these countries. As the pressure on these countries diminished, their incentives to act independently emerged. For Turkey, looking at the 15 July incident through this lens would be appropriate. All the questions asked were answered when it was revealed who and what a group of people whose minds were mortgaged somewhere served.

Prioritizing national interests

Undoubtedly, states governed by national cadres give importance and priority to their national interests. As a matter of fact, state tradition and great state reflex require this. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that the strategies pursuing national interests, especially the concept of a blue homeland in Turkey, accelerated after 15 July and the country shifted to a nationalist line.

Let us not forget that every state under less pressure suddenly remembers its national priorities. Provided, of course, that they do not act with hollow self-confidence and Hamas. As a matter of fact, in parallel to keeping its feet firmly on the ground, it must be ensured that the economic, political, and military power elements are consolidated and act in a synchronized manner.

The dissolution that may occur in the national power elements may render the motivation to act independently obsolete. Let’s open the subject with an example, if you fall into a trap, implement policies contrary to economic science, enter an economic crisis at the end of the day, and cannot escape this crisis, your perspective of acting independently may be damaged.

As such, you will have to knock on the door of your old friends and return to the table. Of course, this comes at a price you will have to pay. In such cases, the way is paved for you to be taken over again by the administrators to be imposed / sent from abroad, and you are forced to step back and compromise on the strategies you have implemented. For example, you withdraw the research and drilling ships that you have built by spending huge amounts of money on the harbors, and you reduce military activities in the surrounding seas, just like the Ottoman Empire closed its Navy to the Golden Horn in the last period.

From global to national

Let us return to our topic. The world has significantly de-globalized in the last two decades. As a result, new geopolitical and geo-economic relations have started to take shape at the regional level. In today’s world, where the concepts of near-shoring and friend-shoring come to the fore, the actors of the global south have started to become intense centers of regional trade. India is an example of this situation.

Another striking topic is the evolution of energy markets into a regional structure. For example, Saudi Arabia… The energy card, which has benefited Saudi Arabia, and has witnessed an untraceable movement and change in recent years, has turned Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, into a regional financial center. Saudi Arabia, which reconciled with Iran with Chinese mediation, proposed to jointly ensure the security of the Persian Gulf and turned its back on the US, stands out as an actor whose orientations and preferences should be closely monitored.

Driven by new global trends, the power of states such as Saudi Arabia increases with the advantage gained from the competition and conflict between the US and China. From a rational point of view, every dominant power wants the oscillating medium-sized states to align with it and waits for the appropriate time. China’s Saudi Arabia strategy is, therefore, no coincidence. For example, India’s power and influence is a strategic reality that whets the US’s appetite to balance China. This simplicity stands out in the background of the US-led attempts to include India in some security mechanisms established in the Indo-Pacific region.

Brazil, India, and Turkey

One thing that the actors of the global south have in common is their stance on the Ukraine situation. From the very beginning, these countries have not contributed to the Western military aid to Ukraine and, moreover, have refused to take sides behind the sanctions against Russia, arguing that the war affects only Europe and not global security.

The case of Turkey, which opposes Western sanctions against Russia and maintains multi-dimensional cooperation with Russia, is noteworthy in this sense. Brazil’s policies after Lula’s coming to power, essentially Lula’s stance, reflect Brazil’s legitimate doubts about the global order. The pains of the past have led these countries to behave septic towards global powers.

One of the pillars of the growing influence of the actors of the global south is the mediation initiatives they pursue. Turkey, for example, has been the most influential and the only external power in the Ukraine war and has helped broker grain deals that have become a global problem. Turkey is the only power that can talk to the actors of the crisis, Russia and Ukraine. Brazil and India have also frequently expressed their readiness to broker a future peace between the two countries.

Hyper revisionism?

In the ongoing rivalry between China and the US, BRICS is highlighted as a center of attraction against Western dominance. However, for the countries of the global south, the implicit or explicit imperial stances of China and Russia cause skepticism and slow the rise of BRICS as an alternative to the Western bloc. The ability of Russia and China to bring into being an expanded BRICS could trigger the division of the world into two blocs, as was the case during the Cold War.

According to the common view, China is one of the two global powers in today’s polarized world, but it is not part of the global south. It would be a rather far-fetched approach to recognize China as part of the global south. Indeed, China’s economic power and extensive geopolitical ambitions make it hyper-revisionist, just like the United States. This situation is unacceptable for the countries endeavoring to strike a balance between the two superpowers.

The question of whether the BRICS states will become a more effective and visionary structure under the guidance of China, which claims to represent the global south, remains unanswered. India acts as a catalyst here. Undoubtedly, India, as an influential BRICS state, is strongly opposed to China’s domination of this structure.

Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Turkey (a NATO member), India, and South Africa have important security and/or trade relations with the US and other key Western countries. While these countries have distanced themselves from the US, they are also wary of a China-driven order.

The actors of the global south do not want to be caught in the hail while fleeing from the rain; they want to keep the two global powers, the US and China, in balance and seek to become geopolitically stronger. Indeed, if tensions between the US and China escalate dramatically and turn into a Cold War-style polarization and conflict, the power and influence of unstable states could take a hit. In this case, the divide between states would widen, and states oscillating between the US and China would probably be forced to align to one side or the other.

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