All agrees that the United Nations (UN) needs reform. The UN was established after the Second World War and based on the balance of power of that time. The US, USSR, UK, France and China became permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power. However the balance of power dramatically shifted during the Cold War era: Japan and Germany emerged as ‘economic superpowers’; UK and France became more ‘ordinary powers’; new power areas appeared, like Asia-Pacific etc. The Cold War competition curtailed the need for structural change, yet with the end of the Cold War, the new ‘actors’ demanded more rights in the UN system. The 5-big have resisted the reform calls in the 1990s. However the Iraq War clearly showed that the current UN System cannot provide dialogue and co-operation between the big economic, military and political great powers. In another word, the UN cannot properly play a balancing role. The US did occupied Iraq without receiving French, Russian and Chinese supports. The rest of the Security Council, except the UK, was also against the American occupation in Iraq.
Now, anyone accepts that we need a more representative UN. Brazil, Germany, India and Japan (Group Four) have tried to persuade the US and other permanent members for the change. According to the Group Four’s proposal, four permanent seats go to the four countries, with two other new permanent seats to go to African nations. All these states argue that the world needs a UN which shows the real balance, and a more representative UN Security Council. Many in these countries perceive the UN as a body which has just served the US. However all of them know that they have to first convince the Americans to save a seat in the Council. The Germans in particular are aware of that the Americans are skeptical about a permanent German seat in the UN. Therefore German Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder did anything possible to persuade the US President Bush in his Washington visit. Schroder argued that his country deserved a Security Council seat in part as recognition for the contributions it was making to peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans and the help it was providing to train Iraqi security forces.
“Since we are doing all these things internationally, we would very much hope that at some point in time we could also have the right to representation on the Security Council if there were the space,” Schroeder told Bush.
The US also accepts that the UN has served the American interests, however Americans too are not happy enough about quality of the ‘UN services’: Ann Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, for instance said “In its first 60 years, the United Nations has served us well. Clearly, however, it needs improving and now is the time to do it and do it collectively, acknowledging the process will be arduous and will take time."
Washington prefers a controllable UN Council. The Americans may accept Japan membership; however it seems that Washington opposes a larger UN Security Council. Washington has rejected a plan for Brazil, Germany, India and Japan to become permanent members of the council, and President Bush declared last week that “the US wants the world body to adopt broad reforms before seeking to expand the council”.
UN and Gap between Civilizations
It can be said that the US will resist and bargain will possibly last more. However a UN reform is a matter of time. Japan, Germany and some more states will receive the seats they seek. However Japan or German membership will not make the UN more representative, because all these countries can affect the global politics without the UN Security Council seat. They are at least economically powerful enough to be considered by the US and other countries. However the main gap is between the ‘civilizations’. Muslims in particular cannot reach the American or European policy-makers. One billion-Muslim world believe that the West is not sincere in its policies towards the ‘greater Middle East’, and it has not goodwill towards the Muslim countries. And most of the thorny problems are on the Muslim territories. The greater powers and the UN Security Council try to solve many formidable problems in the Middle East, Balkans, Central Asia, North Africa and other Muslim territories without real partners and representatives from the region. The result in Iraq is clear. Without any representative of the Muslims in the UN Security Council, the greater powers cannot reach long-lasting solutions, but mostly political disasters.
Global politics in the 21st century will be shaped mainly by relations between the civilizations. And the Security Council must show this balance between civilizations. To do this it needs a Muslim country on board. However, none of the key Muslim states - Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, are currently represented, nor Iran, also one of the greatest Muslim states. We should accept that none of these countries are strong enough when compared with Japan or Germany. However the Muslim world needs to be represented. Otherwise the gap between the East and West will be deepened and the world becomes more chaotic.
In this framework, it can be argued that Turkey could be an ideal candidate for the UN Security Council. Not only its religious, cultural and historical background but also its special role between the East and West make Turkey more important candidate than Germany or Japan.
Egypt, Pakistan or any other state also could be the representative of the Muslim world in the UN Council. However none of them could be representative and influential as Turkey could be. Egypt for instance, while clearly an increasingly important mediator, it is problematic as a representative of the Islamic world - it is weak, economically and politically. Turkey, on the other hand, has political and economic power: it has good relations with the Arab world, which date from the times of the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey’s Possible Contribution
As a modern democracy and economic power which links Europe and Asia and the Christian and Muslim worlds, Turkey would be an ideal permanent member of an enlarged UN Security Council as it can bridge the gap between Western countries and Islam better than the other major Muslim nations. Turkey, a secular Muslim democracy whose economy has been growing by an average 5 percent in recent years, is due to start membership talks with the European Union this year. It is the biggest economy in the Muslin world. Apart from this, it is a well-known fact that Turkey is the most pluralist and most democratic country among the Muslim countries.
Turkey has also showed its independence in foreign policy on several occasions, most recently in its refusal to allow the United States to launch attacks on Iraq from Turkish soil - forsaking US aid worth 30 billion dollars as a consequence. Yet it has been one of NATO’s most loyal allies. In Afghanistan, it has participated with very great success in stabilizing the Western world. There is no reason for the US to block Turkey’s entry to the Security Council. The US knows that Turkey will not be a ‘silent’ or ‘yes-sir’ member, and will not accept everything the US asked and if the US wants a ’silent’ member, it naturally will not want Turkey in. However the US also knows that Turkey is a real friend of the West and the East. Turkey has representation power of Muslim world, east and its region as a whole and even of the Arab world, though it is not Arab. Syrian Prime Minister Naji Otri confirms that:
“We see Turkey as representative of the Arab and Islamic world in the EU, and this gives authorization to it”(1).
In brief, Turkey has great potential to increase the UN’s representative power. Moreover Ankara is not reluctant to take such a role: According to a recent opinion poll in Turkey, some 60 percent of Turks support reform of the current Security Council structure. Most of the Turks perceive the UN structure as unrepresentative of the current balance of power. Turkish Government too welcomes the reform of the United Nations to make it more democratic and representative of the world’s changing geopolitics, and to this end welcomes the enlargement of the UN Security Council. Turkey is a part of a 22-nation group - spearheaded by Italy and including Arab league nations, plus many small African and Asian countries - which favors an increase in the number of non-permanent Security Council members and an extension of their mandate. It is a counter-offensive against the other reform proposal, that would add six new permanent members (Germany, India, Brazil, and Japan, plus two African states, probably Egypt, and South Africa) to the existing five (Britain, the United States, France, Russia and China).
International relations have been changing, and the power of Indo-Pacific countries is growing. Germany, Brazil and many other growing countries should be represented in the global governing system. However the UN system should not only reflect the balance of military or economic power. Even the superpowers should know that they cannot govern the whole world without asking the other civilizations. The Un needs representatives from the Greater Middle east too, and Turkey could be the best candidate for the Middle east seat in the Security Council.