Turkey is a destructive ally for NATO

Western officials resented but were not shocked when Washington-Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to block Finland and Sweden from joining NATO this month.

Within the alliance run by consensus, Turkey’s influential people have come to be seen as like stick-up artists. In 2009, he blocked the appointment of a new NATO chief from Denmark and complained that the country was tolerant of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and was too sympathetic to the Turkish-based “Kurdish terrorists.” .. It required hours of turmoil by Western leaders and a face-to-face promise from then-President Barack Obama that NATO would appoint the Turks to leadership positions to satisfy Prime Minister Erdogan.

The following year, after the collapse of Turkey-Israel relations, Prime Minister Erdogan blocked the alliance from cooperating with the Jewish state for six years. A few years later, Prime Minister Erdogan postponed NATO’s plans to strengthen Eastern European countries against Russia for several months, again citing Kurdish militants and terrorists in the countries where the alliance is active in Syria. Requested to declare. In 2019, Prime Minister Erdogan sent a gas exploration vessel supported by a fighter jet near the Greek waters, and France sent a vessel to support Greece, which is also a NATO member.

Now Turkish leaders have returned to the role of saboteurs, accusing Sweden and Finland of sympathizing with his main enemy, the Kurdish militants, and again accusing the Kurds. I’m calling.

“These countries are mostly terrorist guesthouses,” he said this month. “It is impossible for us to agree.”

Prime Minister Erdogan’s stance is a reminder of a long-standing problem for NATO, which currently has 30 members. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have given the alliance a new sense of mission, but NATO has decided to use his power to earn political points in the country by blocking consensus, at least for some time. You have to fight a willing authoritarian leader.

This is in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has become close to Prime Minister Erdogan in recent years. For Russian leaders, refusing to enter Sweden and Finland into NATO will be an important victory.

Without Turkey’s importance to the alliance, the conundrum would be simpler. The country joined NATO in 1952 after working with the West against the Soviet Union. Turkey has given the alliance an important strategic position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, straddling both the Middle East and the Black Sea. It hosts a major US air force base where US nuclear weapons are stored, and Prime Minister Erdogan blocked Russian warships heading for Ukraine.

But under Prime Minister Erdogan, Turkey is becoming an increasingly manageable issue. As Prime Minister and President, he has kept his country away from Europe, practicing authoritarian and populist Islamic political brands, especially since the failure of the 2016 coup attempt.

He purchased an advanced missile system from Russia, NATO authorities called a threat to their integrated defense system, and in 2019 he was assisting the fight against Islamic State groups with US support in northern Syria. Launched a military invasion to fight the Kurds.

When the alliance had 28 members, Ivo Daalder, NATO’s US ambassador during the Obama administration, said:

Erdogan’s opposition to Sweden and Finland’s accession even renewed the question of whether NATO could be better without Turkey.

This month’s opinion essay, co-authored by former Connecticut US Senator Joe Lieberman, argued that Erdogan’s Turkey would ignore the alliance’s standards for democratic governance in future new members. An essay published by The Wall Street Journal warned that Ankara’s policies, including coziness with Putin, would undermine NATO’s interests and that the alliance should seek ways to expel Turkey.

“Turkey is a member of NATO, but under Erdogan, he no longer agrees with the values ​​that underpin this great alliance,” said CEO of the Turkish Democracy Project, a group critical of Erdogan. Lieberman and Mark Wallace write.

Some lawmakers say the same thing. Senator Bob Menendez (DN.J.), a top Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after Turkey’s invasion of Syria in 2019, “Turkey under Erdogan’s administration should not be considered an ally, and It cannot be considered. “

However, NATO is a military alliance, with Turkey playing an important role, with the second largest military in the organization, the advanced defense industry, and its important geographical location.

Western officials say Turkey could only cause more problems as an indignation NATO outsider and could work more closely with Russia.

“Turkey has hurt its image,” said Alper Koskun, a former Turkish diplomat who is a senior researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. But he added, “It’s still an important member of the alliance.”

Again, the problem is to soften Prime Minister Erdogan and ensure his support for recognizing Sweden and Finland.

President Joe Biden, when welcoming the leaders of both countries at the White House this month, emphasized US support for the move and praised the larger NATO as a check on Russia’s power. “By inviting them to Washington, Biden took a very exposed and highly visible position,” said James Jeffrey, US Ambassador to Turkey during the Obama administration.

Most analysts believe that Erdogan will not eventually prevent Sweden and Finland from joining, but emphasized Turkey’s own security concerns before next year’s elections and domestic political affairs. I want to make a profit.

Prime Minister Erdogan is primarily interested in Sweden’s long-standing support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) seeking an independent Kurdish state on the territory within the Turkish border.

The PKK, which attacked non-military targets in Turkey and killed civilians, has been outlawed in that country and has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union, but some, including Sweden. The government sees it more sympathetically as a Turkish nationalist. Movement.

The United States also supported related fighters in Syria, YPG, or the People’s Defense Units. These fighters helped fight the Islamic State group and were attacked by Prime Minister Erdogan in the 2019 invasion.

The Turkish President wants YPG to be designated as a terrorist group as well.

Prime Minister Erdogan has accused both Finland and Sweden of containing followers of the Turkish priest, Fetofuller Gulen, who is in exile in the United States because of the 2016 coup. Turkey is demanding the delivery of about 35 people who claim to be involved in Kurdish separatists or Glenn.

Prime Minister Erdogan also opposes the arms embargo on Sweden and Finland imposed after the 2019 invasion of Syria. Sweden is already discussing the lifting of the embargo in light of the current events in Ukraine.

Some analysts say Erdogan’s government is looking at the PKK just as Washington saw al-Qaeda 20 years ago, and dismisses concerns if the West wants to trade with Turkey. It states that it cannot.

Biden administration officials have downplayed the standoffs and hope that Erdogan will compromise with Finland and Sweden. Turkish officials met with Finnish and Swedish officials in Ankara last week for several hours.

“This seems like a problem they have in Sweden and Finland, so it’s in their hands,” said Julian Smith, NATO’s US ambassador. She added that the United States will provide support as needed.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a meeting with the Foreign Minister in Washington, Finland on Friday, “I am confident that this process will be expedited and things will move forward in both countries.”

Emrepeker, London-based European director of Eurasia Group, a private consulting firm, said he did not believe that Prime Minister Erdogan was seeking concessions from Washington. He expressed his conviction that Turkey could conclude an agreement between Sweden and Finland in the mediation of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Erdogan’s main priority is to lift the arms embargo after hearing about his security concerns about Kurdish separatists, Pekel said.

Some US analysts are skeptical. Former US ambassadors to Turkey and Finland, Eric Edelman, warned that Prime Minister Erdogan may have asked Putin to show his favor.

“He must maintain this very complex relationship with Putin,” Edelman said. “This is a good way to throw a small bone into Putin-” I still help you. “

Others believe that Turkish leaders want a reward from Washington. Prime Minister Erdogan is angry that the United States has denied access to Turkey’s F-35 stealth fighter after purchasing the Russian S-400 missile system in 2017. Turkey is currently lobbying instead of buying enhanced F-16 fighters, but Congress is facing severe resistance from Menendez and others.

Prime Minister Erdogan may also be in the spotlight of the president. He had a friendly relationship with former President Donald Trump, but Biden kept his distance.

“This is the guy who needs to be on the center stage,” said Dardder. “This is the way to say:’Hey, I’m still here. You need to pay attention to my problem.”

Pekel believes that Turkey and the Nordic countries can negotiate an agreement before the NATO summit in Madrid next month. This allows you to sign the Membership Protocol.

Perhaps Biden needs to nod to Erdogan in Madrid, as Obama had to do to appoint Anders Fog Rasmussen as general secretary at the 2009 NATO summit. Say there is.

In a speech hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations last week, Congressman Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Commission, said the interests of the Swedish-Finnish membership are sufficient to justify the direct involvement of the United States. Suggested that it is big.

“We need to sit down and close the deal,” Smith said. “And as it is now, we need to be proactive about it.”

This article was originally New York Times..

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