Anatomy of ‘that’ photo from the SCO summit - NEDRET ERSANEL

Anatomy of ‘that’ photo from the SCO summit

A photograph from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit overcame all the tensions between the poles of the global instability atmosphere, and found its place on not only Türkiye’s but the world public’s agenda. 

 Everybody knows about the photo: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is addressing a social table surrounded by all member countries, including Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran’s leaders, with everybody’s eyes and ears on him. 

 The snapshot was a “visual message” strong enough to lead to the conclusion that President Erdogan was the leader in this environment, with the participants acknowledging his leadership. 


The messages contained in the appearance are not ignored in diplomacy. On the contrary, they are analyzed, and regardless of whether it is planned or natural like in this picture, the focus is on “what is said.” 


There will be more interpretations and comments to emerge on the way this picture looks. Let alone, the photograph, which has given rise to intense discussions on both conventional and social media since it was first released, spread abroad as well. Turkish foreign policy’s position between the East and the West was also discussed over this photo. 


We need to talk a little about whether “a single snapshot” is enough regarding a country’s position in the world, its preferences, and its message. 




One snapshot alone cannot explain Türkiye’s foreign policy orientations and practices. Many frames would be needed for that. Even that would not suffice. We would need to see the real “final picture” resulting from thousands of images taken throughout the present superimposed. 


This picture is not that “final picture.” But there are so many albums accumulated until this picture that it indicates a “journey.” 


One uniformly accepted cliche in Türkiye with respect to understanding international relations is the “big picture” discourse. It is a reading technique that associates simultaneous events as much as possible. 


Yet, including this method, the “real big picture” is the superposed one! It is referred to as “multiple exposure” as well. It is the method used to obtain a single picture by laying on top of one another two or more photographs. 


The “snapshot” that came fresh from the SCO, but is not the final picture, is the last of thousands of photos, and will present a significant “big picture” in Turkish foreign policy even now if it was to be “superposed.” 




It was the message given in those pictures and the “superpose” that were explained in Türkiye until now. In other words, the inability to understand that snapshot is either the hostile state of internal policy’s insignificance, or plain ignorance. Those who spit venom at this picture are not aware that they are attacking this country, not their “political rivals” – or, even worse, they don’t care. 


That picture does not eliminate Türkiye’s everyday problems within, but it does not turn a blind eye to them. In other words, you can comment under the pictures as much as you like saying, “but the dollar rate is such and such,” or “the utility bill is such and such” – and they have indeed been written many times – but it won’t solve the problem. As the name suggests, it is “superposed.” They fail to look at individual “poses,” but they can be “superposed!” They fail to pay attention to the price of the dollar, but they see the dollar as the problem!  


Furthermore, a country’s national security, and global position, shares a strategic “location” concerning your family, your children, and your own presence. 


“Are you at that location, or not?” 


This is what it will ask. 



So, what is the last “superpose” which we have as a single frame from all the pictures we accumulated and placed on top of each other until now?


The Organization of Turkic States, the SCO, the results of the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the “Asia Again” initiative, relations with BRICS, as well as Türkiye's relations individually with Russia, China, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and finally the vast Eurasia region holds new and greater space. 


According to what? According to relations with the West – not including the countless pictures of what we can often describe as “hostility” rather than “disagreement or conflict” in relations with the West/U.S./NATO/EU. 


Despite this, Ankara would rather maintain its ties with the West. Not only for current interests, but principally as well. Otherwise, considering the West’s ongoing approach, when you see the public running out of patience, nobody other than the obvious groups may oppose the following steps. 


Türkiye's foreign policy position can be explained with a very plain road direction: World economy is flowing/turning towards the East. This is part of the tensions between the U.S. and the EU today. For example, Washington wants to restrict China and Russia’s relations with Europe. It wants them to remain dependent on the U.S.


Almost 50 percent of Türkiye’s economy relations are with Europe - but none with the East! It has limited trade relations with a massive block that makes up half the world’s population and wealth, and is showing an upward trend. Very clearly, this needs to be fixed.


Then why all the fight and fear? It is because this search for “equalization” has become a political and strategic preference. Is it among Türkiye’s objectives? Some say “it must.” It is debatable. But, in reality, it is Western policies that are encouraging towards this. They don’t accept an “equal and just” relationship with Türkiye. But then, geopolitics, life’s realities and course don’t accept this!


Does this very roughly drawn picture find a response in that picture or not? While the comments made under the photo include ugly shallownesses such as, “What’s so special about this picture, they’re holding champagne in their hands, getting drunk,” where do we place those who post, “those who make a meaning out of this picture are living in a cave,” even though their side-by-side photos with the U.S. president are still fresh in memories?


You can treat that photo as a picture only. It is not important. But the blow you will feel when the final frame of the “superpose” is revealed will send a segment on this land into history’s dump.


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