Turkey

It’s up to the US, not Erdoğan

So far, there has been an incitement to discourse on the multipolar new world order. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is where this discourse became a reality to deal with.

You must have come across a few analyses on why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is stuck between the Western alliance and Russia. Actually, I think the real subject to choose here is not Erdoğan. Because he has been brutally honest about where he comes from since the beginning. Turkey supports Ukraine in joining NATO and the European Union. Turkey vocally opposed the annexation of Crimea. Turkey wants to be a member of the European Union. However, Turkey also wants to be acknowledged as an equal state, not as a “satellite state” as it used to be.


Turkey confronted Russia on multiple fronts on its own. The containment of Russia in Syria, the defeat of eastern-based putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar in Libya and finally the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region are some goals that were achieved against the wishes of many NATO giants like the United States or France.

Let us not forget: Turkey was the only NATO member country ever to shoot down a Russian warplane since the Korean War. With this instance, I refer to the destruction of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M attack aircraft, near the Syrian–Turkish border on Nov. 24, 2015, by a Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet. Back then, NATO allies decided not to act for Turkey. The Turks still remember NATO countries who hesitated to remind Russia of Article 5 of the NATO charter, which requires all members to defend an ally under attack.

Moreover, just three months before the Russian aircraft incident – even though Turkey specifically requested the opposite – the United States and Germany withdrew their Patriot anti-ballistic missile systems deployed in Turkey. Thus, Ankara insisted on purchasing Patriots on its own. However, following extensive talks and bargains, Washington refused this request as well.

The U.S.’ refusal led Turkey to turn to Russia for the S-400 missile systems. What the U.S. did in response was to remove Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program (JSF). The frustrating part of this decision was the $1.4 billion that Turkey had already contributed to the program. Furthermore, Turkey has requested to buy F-16 fighter jets in compensation for the F-35 program, but Washington still drags its feet. These obviously prove that there has been an ongoing, de facto, an unofficial embargo by the U.S. on any major arms sales to Turkey for almost a decade.

Considering all these examples, it is safe to say that Turkey’s foreign policy ambitions have been subjected to a distorted reading by Washington for a long time. As we are witnessing the ineffectiveness of NATO against the largest state-on-state attack in Europe since World War II, namely the Russian invasion of Ukraine, maybe it is high time to reconsider how Turkey contributes to NATO’s mission overall.

It is always easy to follow the lobbyist crowds in Washington D.C. but one should not forget to put together a grand strategy that will not exclude the only NATO member that has the longest coast to the Black Sea, especially at times when Russia seeks more control over it. If NATO wants to establish a counterbalance against Russia, it can no longer dismiss its long-time ally who also happens to have the second biggest army in the alliance. Turkey is rising as an independent force in regional geopolitics. The U.S. body politics well knows this fact to its core, as they turn to Turkey at every critical moment – for example, when they were preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan. Because Turkey is not only a gigantic military force but also the only NATO member with a Muslim majority population.

It is well evident that the U.S. is pursuing a strategy of retrenchment but at the same time, it is leaving a power vacuum behind in the Middle East and Balkans. If we are on the verge of an era of multipolarity, then NATO should assess Turkey as a valuable partner finding its place in the “grand puzzle.” If the U.S. chooses not to be careful with its choices, it won’t have much say about where Turkey fits in the puzzle. Because this twisted “all stick, no carrot” approach certainly does not work in NATO’s favor.

Source: Daily Sabah

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About the author

Hilal Kaplan

Hilal Kaplan

Hilal Kaplan is a political commentator, a columnist for Sabah and other news publishers. She's based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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