During his recent talks in Latvia, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the U.S.'s and EU's policies toward the Middle East, saying that they pursued realpolitik, which is quite opportunistic and full of double standards, rather than a humanitarian agenda.
Leaving aside the question of whether Erdoğan was right or wrong in these remarks, it was the first time in our history that a Turkish president criticized the West in such an unequivocal and undiplomatic manner. This criticism does not mean that Turkey has started down a different path with the West - quite the contrary; it indisputably shows that Turkey is equal to Western countries. This should be acknowledged by anyone who looks at countries like Turkey from an orientalist perspective. The world is now undergoing a crisis that is more severe and more transformative than the 1929 crisis, also known as the Great Depression.
The 1929 Great Depression, with the economic and political dynamics it created, determined the entirety of the 20th century. The crisis also led to the second war on global resources - World War II - which redefined the hierarchy among nation-states and transferred hegemony from the U.K. to the U.S. In this sense, World War II, which was mostly the continuation of World War I, fixed the great systematic collapse caused by the Great Depression in favor of the U.K. and U.S., but it relegated Germany and Japan both economically and politically. The most important development that followed World War II was the neo-colonialism adopted by the U.S., which took advantage of the new path imposed on southern and Eastern countries during the Cold War period. Starting from the 1930s, developed Western countries, particularly the U.S., started to lay the foundations of a new regime of accumulation, which made the U.S. the center of technology and finance and established a global system based on the dollar. The hierarchy of this system was in the form of a pyramid, which is also seen on the back of a one-dollar bill. The U.S. was at the top of this pyramid as the dominant nation-state of the system and was followed by the U.K. and other nation-states in continental Europe, while its bottom was designated to Eastern and southern countries. In other words, the countries in the Middle East, South America, Asia and Africa only existed to ensure the welfare of the uppermost countries.
These countries could be subsumed under three major groups according to their influence in the process that led to World War II. The first group involved those that constituted the core of the system. These countries, which had reached the highest level regarding wages and technology, controlled the whole system. The second group encapsulated the countries that had reached quite a high wage and technology level, though to a slightly lesser extent than the first group. Although they achieved a certain level of economic development, they could not attain enough power to influence the global economy on their own. That is to say, while they were under the control of the uppermost countries, they could also exercise control over the undermost countries. Due to their position between the periphery and core countries, they were called the semi-periphery countries.
The third group included the countries that had the lowest wage and technology levels. These two qualities were the key factors that allowed for such countries to continuously lose value in their trade with superior countries. This group was largely dominated and influenced by the dominant countries in terms of economy. All the countries that exported raw materials and agricultural products throughout the 20th century could be put into this group. Only between 2002 and 2014, which we could call the Erdoğan period, did Turkey strive to break this strict hierarchical order, which stiffened after World War II.
Now, not only Turkey, but also all countries at the bottom of the pyramid have started to ramp up one after the other. In this sense, it is possible to say that the current crisis is quite different from the 1929 crisis and this difference will introduce us to a rapidly rising East. No one should be afraid of this reality, but rather, should support this emergent political will in the East, as it is the only way out of the crisis both for the West and all humanity. This political rising is not limited to Turkey alone, it is also being undertaken by Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina and Michelle Bachelet in Chile, as we saw in the speeches that Erdoğan, Kirchner and Rousseff delivered at the recent U.N. General Assembly. All of these leaders reject the self-enclosed autarchic economy, which isolates their countries from the world, and are in favor of an open global economy, which offers uninterrupted market entry. In this sense, they cannot be compared to Russian President Vladimir Putin or North Korean leaders that adopt different leadership traditions. They criticize the West's politics in line with their countries' interest and within the frame of humanitarian politics, which is definitely undesired by Western countries. This reality shows that these leaders have not made any breakthroughs regarding conservative and nationalist concerns that date back to the 20th century, but rather they are starting to tread a new political path.