Turkey’s NATO-skepticism

Turkey is in a deadlock, and there is a referendum again.

NATO and Turkey are seemingly allies; just seemingly. Turkey’s recent election of Erdogan as its President has been a diametrically opposite move against democracy. Bur, on the other hand, Turkey’s favorable geopolitical position gives it a strong bargaining power. At the crossing from East to West, between Islam and Christianity, Turkey has always played an important role in the choice of political partners for the world’s forces. In addition, Turkey has almost 80 million inhabitants, just next to Germany (in the number). However, with a much higher birth rate, it is predicted that Turkey would soon overtake Germany and other surrounding economies. A significant economic growth, with a GDP over $800 billion, and a non-negligible military spending that is only behind the US and the UK, and European nations like Poland and Greece, the economy’s capabilities show its growing strength in the international arena.

It is difficult to assume that NATO will disallow Turkey as its member. So, the concern is not so much about NATO’s choice of Turkey. It may be Turkey’s choice of NATO. Some interests of Turkey could be easier resolved if Turkey is a member of NATO, while some other interests are conflicting to those of other members of NATO.

Turkey follows its national interests and one of them is to resolve a problem with Greece about Cyprus. The second problem, is that of the Kurds. Turkey doesn’t want to disconnect its good relationship with Muslim countries. But the recent accusation of Turkey being an ally to Russia with regard to Syria, becomes disconcerting towards its NATO membership. Turkey also recently felt into a huge conundrum with the latter, when it shot down a Russian warplane for crossing its airspace. This, of course, caused a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia and the resentment of Turkey’s partners in NATO.  After reconciliation, Erdogan seems to be closer to Russia, than to NATO.

It is a road that divides into two, for Turkey. Fifty years of awaiting membership of the EU, has been hard. And being a NATO member, is definitely something that is confusing, given its allies and policies towards its own democracy. NATO will facilitate good relationships with the strongest powers of the world. And the EU membership will have to wait, perhaps, because the EU is at crossroads. Turkey also needs protection from Islamic fundamentalists’ terrorist attacks. And, Turkey plays a significant role in the battle with the refugees’ influx in Europe. The third way that the road points toward, is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Joining the SCO. Turkey reveres SCO, more than considering it for membership. Foreign policy may be something that Turkey wants to establish and balance.

In essence, although “Turkey is a valued ally“, according to NATO, the former is not satisfied with its treatment in NATO. Loss of Turkey would be a great loss for NATO in several aspects. NATO would lose a significant military capability and the only Muslim country in the alliance. Also, it would lose a state positioned in a strategically important place for interventions in Syria and Iraq. It is possible that Turkey would consequently refuse cooperation regarding Muslim asylum seekers too. This scenario would rock the backbone of NATO, just as Brexit shocked the EU. On the other hand, if other countries cannot see their interest in exit from NATO as Turkey is, NATO would perhaps not be in the position to regain strategic purpose.

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