Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tends to shoot first and ask questions a lot later, and he’s clearly making the identical mistake as soon as once more with the NATO enlargement situation, writes Henri J. Barkey.
Henri J. Barkey is the Cohen Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East research on the Council of Foreign Relations.
Vladimir Putin’s struggle on Ukraine has sufficiently alarmed Finland and Sweden for them to reverse decades-long insurance policies and apply for rapid membership of NATO. What seemed to be a no brainer for the alliance has rapidly hit a roadblock in Turkey’s mercurial president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Citing political variations with the 2 nations, which he finds overly indulgent of Turkish-Kurdish opposition teams and personalities, he declared that Helsinki and Stockholm shouldn’t even hassle sending representatives to Ankara to debate the difficulty. He wouldn’t assent to their membership.
NATO pointers require unanimous consent amongst members relating to admitting new nations into the alliance. Turkey is not any bizarre NATO member. Its location, south of Russia, management of entry to the Black Sea, borders with Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and lengthy Mediterranean coast have all contributed to its significance to the alliance.
Turkey has efficiently parlayed its strategic location right into a bargaining place that always forces its allies to again down and permit for its excesses at dwelling and overseas to be ignored by its allies, particularly Washington.
However, Erdoğan of late has discovered himself more and more at odds along with his conventional allies who’re resisting his insurance policies and calls for. Turkey’s intensifying authoritarianism underneath his one-man rule has been topic to criticism as his opponents are dispatched willy-nilly to lengthy jail phrases following sham trials.
Moreover, members of the Turkish authorities have repeatedly blamed Washington for the July 2016 failed coup try – an astonishing accusation that casts a shadow on Turkey’s most necessary relationship.
However, the occasion that the majority shook Washington was Turkey’s determination to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. Erdoğan insisted on the acquisition regardless of a number of warnings that he was endangering Turkey’s securing of the alliance’s fifth-generation fight plane, the F-35.
He merely ignored the numerous high-level American entreaties believing maybe that ultimately, Washington as standard would concede. He was in for a shock; not solely was the F-35 sale cancelled at an amazing price however the aircraft’s manufacturing hubs in Turkey have been dismantled and the US Congress imposed sanctions on Ankara.
These will not be the one points rankling the bilateral relationship. There is the US prosecution of a state-owned Turkish financial institution, Halk Bank, for evading Iran sanctions. Erdoğan has repeatedly requested that the White House dismiss the case. He doesn’t appear to know that within the US, the manager can not intrude with the judicial department not like in Turkey the place he usually micromanages authorized instances and guides prosecutors and judges.
Erdoğan will need to have additionally been exceedingly bitter on the reception given to the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in Washington simply when the Swedish and Finnish NATO purposes had develop into the discuss of the day.
Mitsotakis was not solely acquired on the White House by President Joe Biden, however he additionally addressed a joint session of the US Congress that gave him many standing ovations. Erdoğan has but to be invited to Washington by the Biden administration.
Even if he have been, he would by no means be requested to handle Congress because of the scale of anger at Ankara for not simply the problems talked about above but additionally for its aggressive behaviour within the Eastern Mediterranean, the bullying of Greece and Cyprus, interventions towards the Syrian Kurds who aligned themselves with the US within the marketing campaign towards ISIS and lots of different factors of competition.
Many in Congress and the administration imagine that it was the Syrian Kurds who lastly helped defeat ISIS.
Erdoğan’s objections can also have helped Russian chief Vladimir Putin, whose preliminary statements opposing NATO enlargement have been extraordinarily extreme. He toned down his personal protestations when Erdoğan emerged as the first roadblock. This too will injury Ankara’s stand in Washington.
On Thursday, Biden gave his full backing to Finland and Sweden of their purposes to affix NATO.
Paradoxically, the Biden administration was ever so rigorously, congressional opposition however, shifting to approve the sale of latest F-16s to Turkey. With the cancellation of the F-35 program, Turkey desperately must improve its present fleet of fight plane. Erdoğan’s outbursts on Sweden and Finland will in all probability additional jeopardize the chance of Congressional assent.
Erdoğan tends to shoot first and ask questions a lot later. After years of bitterly denouncing a number of Middle Eastern nations, starting from the UAE to Egypt and Israel, Erdoğan has lately initiated a hat-in-hand reconciliation effort with them.
In so doing, he has not directly acknowledged that his diatribes towards them didn’t obtain a lot and ultimately, discovered himself remoted.
He clearly is making the identical mistake as soon as once more with the NATO enlargement situation. Instead of elevating his objections and calls for quietly behind closed doorways, he has chosen to go public. In so doing, he’s eschewing his leverage whereas concurrently damaging Ankara’s picture at a time when Turkey wants international funding, vacationers, and far different goodwill.
Sweden and Finland will ultimately develop into NATO members. The solely query remaining to be decided is when. Turkey will discover that its calls for won’t be met.
No “terrorists,” that’s Turkish-Kurdish political refugees, will probably be forcibly repatriated nor will Swedish monetary support to Syrian Kurds come to an finish, particularly because the US is doing the identical and extra. Erdoğan will discover as soon as extra that his affect has considerably diminished if for no different motive however his personal behaviour.