Time for NATO to show Turkey tough love – analyst

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation faces numerous challenges ahead of its 70th summit in London on Tuesday, but it will not solve its most significant one unless it starts showing Turkey tough love, analyst Simon Waldman wrote for Haaretz on Sunday.

Turkey has taken an errant course under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, defying NATO warnings to cosy up to Russia with the purchase of S-400 missile defence systems and also attacking Kurdish-led forces that spearheaded the U.S.-backed coalition against the Islamic State in north Syria.

Despite being suspended from the F-35 fighter jet programme and facing looming sanctions over its S-400 purchase, Turkey tested the Russian-built systems last week using its fleet of F-16 aircraft.

It has also threatened to veto a NATO defence plan for Poland and the Baltic unless the alliance comes out in support of its military operation in northern Syria, Reuters reported last week.

With these among a long list of disputes between Turkey and its Western allies, the country is becoming a hindrance to NATO and must be reminded of the alliance’s value, Waldman said.

Since there is little chance of modifying the alliance to allow for sanctions on Turkey, this could be done by informing Ankara that if it does not compromise, it will only be extended so-called baseline support. This would mean depriving Turkey’s military of several important benefits it currently enjoys, including equipment, training opportunities and air defence systems deployed in its territory by NATO allies.

“Turkey needs to be reminded of the benefits of its NATO membership and the consequences of losing goodwill,” Waldman said. “It is in Ankara’s interests to seek common cause with the world’s most successful military alliance - or else Turkey risks becoming just another satellite of an ever-assertive Russia.”