NATO-Turkey Spat: Ankara Throwing A Monkey Wrench Into European Plans

Amid growing fears from Russia’s outrage over Finland and Sweden’s bid for NATO membership, Ankara is throwing a monkey wrench into European plans. The ongoing spat between Turkey and NATO is a potent reminder that we cannot wish away Ankara’s political ambitions. Although the ongoing Turkish efforts to hinder international efforts to bring Sweden and Finland into the American security orbit are driven by national security concerns, it would be naïve to neglect the hidden agenda behind Ankara’s tough position. The Swedish support for the Kurds is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Turkish elections are heading, and the economy is in the doldrums with a 70% inflation rate. Now, it seems the right timing for Turkey to seize the opportunity to regain it is political influence.

During the past months, Ankara has been trying to mend ties with it is regional foes, including the GCC and Egypt. Yet, appearing weak is not something that Erdogan might like or accept. The ongoing European efforts to integrate Finland and Sweden into the common security organization is a good opportunity for Turkey to put it is conditions at the negotiating table.

The spat could also be viewed as a play by NATO’s second-largest military to pressure Washington to regain access to US arms as well.

Erdogan always benefits politically when he takes on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and groups linked to it, like the YPG in Syria… In fact, attacking the PKK and the YPG is a two-for-one. Erdogan is seen to take on genuine terrorists and separatists, and at the same time, he gets to take a swipe at the United States, which taps into the vast reservoir of anti-Americanism in Turkey,” Middle East scholar Steven A. Cook said.

Turkey is a member of NATO, but under Mr. Erdogan, it no longer subscribes to the values that underpin this great alliance. Article 13 of the NATO charter provides a mechanism for members to withdraw. Perhaps it is time to amend Article 13 to establish a procedure for the expulsion of a member nation,” Messrs. Lieberman and Wallace wrote.

Turkey this week listed five “concrete assurances” it was demanding from Sweden, including what it said was “termination of political support for terrorism, elimination of the source of terrorism financing, and the cessation of arms support” to the banned PKK and a Syrian Kurdish militia group affiliated with it.

A deadlock?

As mentioned earlier, it seems a good opportunity to boost Turkey’s already deteriorating reputation. It would be naïve to say that mending ties with it is regional foes means that Ankara will put it is dreams of becoming a regional superpower on hold. Ankara is grappling with a declining economy, and it would be naïve if it misses the chance to boost it is reputation on the international stage.

Now the question is: Could Ankara succeed in achieving a satisfying deal with NATO? Amid growing European anxieties, it seems that Washington might accept Ankara’s concerns. This, in return, means that such a scenario is more likely to involve curbing Western support for PYD-PKK in exchange for Ankara’s approval of Finland and Sweden’s bid for NATO membership. Though we cannot have a straightforward answer to the above-mentioned questions, what we are certain of is that Ankara’s bargaining power should not be undermined. 

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a defensive military alliance formed in 1949 by 12 countries including the US, UK and France to counter the threat of postwar Soviet Russian expansion in Europe.

Its common security guarantee is based on article 5 of the treaty, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all and commits members to defend each other in the event of armed aggression.

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