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POINT OF VIEW. Turkey West, divorce?

2019-08-28T16:28:53.766Z

The relationship between Washington and Ankara is deteriorating, and Turkey is turning to Russia. At the risk of calling into question its membership in the Atlantic Alliance.



The relationship between Washington and Ankara is deteriorating, and Turkey is turning to Russia. At the risk of calling into question its membership in the Atlantic Alliance.

Nothing is going right between the United States and Turkey. And the place of the latter in the Atlantic Alliance is today a real subject of debate.

The immediate dispute between Washington and Ankara concerns the acquisition by Turkey of air defense systems ( S-400) to Russia. In response, the Pentagon has just decided to stop the delivery of American fighter-bombers F-35 and the ouster of Turkey from this major program.

The issues of friction between the two countries have not failed since 1990: the Balkans, where Ankara sought to reconnect with an old influence, but also and especially the Middle East. In early 2003, Turkey opposed the use of its territory for the passage of Gi's leaving for Iraq. Syria became, from 2014, a subject of open dispute, the Westerners supporting the Kurdish armed forces against Daesh and the Syrian regime, forces deemed dangerous by Turkey.

All in a context increasingly tense with the European Union, which ended up giving up the prospect of a Turkish accession to the EU, while many governments are annoyed by the influence of Ankara on the diaspora from the country. Not to mention the growing recognition of the Armenian Genocide ...

The coup attempt of 2016 marked the beginning of the open crisis between Turkey and its allies. For Erdogan, it was pro-Western forces that were behind this maneuver ... The decision to acquire the S-400 is explained both by the frustration of Ankara vis-à-vis its allies, and by paranoia Erdogan who seeks to protect his centers of power against an air attack. These interceptors will not be able to connect to the Alliance's integrated defense system, and could help Russia learn about the strengths and weaknesses of NATO aircraft.

Russia, Turkey's favorite ally

Turkey now faces sanctions under US law. Is an exit from crisis possible? Donald Trump is very bored by this case and may try to block the application of sanctions, until a possible compromise is found. But none appears obvious.

There have already been crises between America and Turkey. The developments just mentioned would not have occurred without the connivance of two "strong men" who respect each other, one in Ankara and the other in Moscow. The interests of the two countries coincide only partially: they are essentially economic (energy) and tactical (Syria). Turkey has not divested Nato and military cooperation with the United States is still valuable.

Nevertheless: Turkey has changed. The ultra-nationalists and "Eurasian" circles, who are at the top of the list today, are wary of the West. And with 59% of favorable opinions, Russia has become the favorite ally of the Turkish population.

Does Turkey still have its place in the Atlantic Alliance? Its members are supposed to share if not the same values, at least the same interests. It would not be in the interest of Europe and the United States to initiate a break with their Turkish ally, because of the geographical position of the country, which makes it unavoidable.

Moreover, no procedure is foreseen to exclude a country from NATO. The risk is that of a bloodshed of Mr. Erdogan: a decision to withdraw NATO, or eviction of US troops ... at the risk of accelerating the process of disintegration of the Atlantic Alliance.

(*) Deputy Director of the Foundation for Strategic Research.

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