Turkish numbing of NATO does bidding to Kremlin's interests

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Turkey has blocked NATO's efforts to deter Russian aggression
23:23, 28 November 2019

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey

Turkey has blocked NATO's efforts to deter Russian aggression. November 26, Turkish authorities instructed their representative in Brussels not to sign a plan of measures to repel the potential armed aggression of Russia in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland and to strengthen the defense capabilities of these Baltic states.

Turkey expressed its willingness to sign the plan only if it included proposals to strengthen the security of its borders, and all 29 member countries recognize the Kurdish armed group "Self-Defense Forces" (YPG), which helped the US fight ISIS in Syria, a terrorist organization.

The most powerful military-political bloc in the world turned out to be paralyzed due to contradictions between member countries, and vague prospects await Euro-Atlantic security because of the position of one country.

Related: Opinion: Erdogan's ego trip buying Russian arms

Erdogan's goal

Turkish President Recep Erdogan has chosen blackmail tactics in relation to NATO in order to force America and Europe to change their attitude towards the Turkish army’s military operation in northeastern Syria against local Kurdish units. The Turks are conducting an operation under the banner of the fight against terrorism.

They want to create a 30-kilometer security buffer zone in Syria’s border area, relocate refugees from Turkish cities there and cut off communication between the Syrian Kurds and the Kurdistan Workers Party, a terrorist organization that killed 30 Turkish citizens this year.

According to the Turkish Ministry of National Defense, this week the YPG and the Kurdistan Workers Party launched a terrorist attack in the Syrian county of Rasulain, which killed 17 people.

However, NATO accuses Turkey of armed intervention against the allies in the fight against ISIS without coordination with other member countries. Americans and Europeans refuse to provide military assistance to the Turks in the war with the Kurds, accuse the Erdogan regime of violating human rights.

Related: No recognition of Crimea’s annexation by Turkey, - Erdogan

The network contains information about ethnic cleansing, which was organized by the Turkish military and armed groups loyal to them against peaceful Kurds in Syria. From mid to late October, more than 500 civilians were killed.

France, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain, and Germany imposed a ban on the supply of arms to the Turkish army, and the United States excluded Turkey from the F-35 stealth fighter supply program in July in response to the purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems. Under the threat of US sanctions, Turkey had to suspend offensive operations in Syria in late October.

The Turkish army depends on the supply of weapons from other NATO member countries and therefore hit the Achilles heel of the alliance - the decision-making mechanism by consensus. To make a decision in NATO on any issue, the consent of all 29 member countries is required.

Turkey wants to complete the ongoing military operation in Syria and by starvation get Brussels to turn a blind eye and not to interfere. Information about the readiness of the Turkish army at any time to resume hostilities is being circulated. With his demarche, Erdogan gave thought to American and European partners a week before the NATO summit in the UK, where Russia’s containment policy will be discussed.

Since 2014, NATO has increased its military presence in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland. Turks play on the fears of the Eastern European NATO members of the Russian threat.

Related: Lessons for Ukraine: How Turkey attracts foreign investments

Playing of Putin’s side

Turkey acts in the interests of Russia, blocking the defense plan for the Baltic states and driving the decision-making process into NATO into a stupor. The Kremlin has repeatedly criticized the deployment of American, British and German military and armored vehicles in Poland and the Baltic countries. Blocked by Turkey, the plan just provided for defense measures near the borders of Russia.

In recent years, the American analytical centers have assessed the defense capabilities of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, and studied options for strengthening it in order to prevent the emergence of a military-political crisis, as in eastern Ukraine.

RAND Corporation proposed the creation of intelligence centers in the Baltic states, to conduct exercises under the auspices of NATO in the field of crisis management, civil defense, to prevent the appearance of "gray zones" like Donbas, and to counter information attacks of the Russian Federation.

For several years, it was planned to allocate $ 125 million from the military budget of the United States and other NATO member countries for the purchase of night vision devices, communications equipment, man-portable air defense and anti-tank systems, drones, small arms and explosives, office equipment for the needs of border troops and national Guard of Poland and the Baltic countries, to provide them with high-quality equipment, various sensors and sensors, vehicles, to quickly monitor and respond to Russian provocations.

Analysts Stefan Flanagan, Ian Osbourne believe that these measures would complicate the occupation of the Baltic countries, making it more costly. In their opinion, Russia is capable of invading, annexing border territories under the pretext of protecting the Russian-speaking minority in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, or sponsoring the appearance of gray zones there, as in the Donbas, in order to discredit NATO as a collective security mechanism.

Related: Turkey will not stop attacking Syria until Kurds leave it, - Erdogan

At the same time, RAND employees consider such a scenario unlikely, since in the Baltic countries, in their opinion, there is no obvious “fifth column” of Russia, and half of the Russian-speaking population is ready to defend their sovereignty.

Through the efforts of Turkey, a plan to increase the defense capability of the Baltic countries may remain on paper. Russia, which seeks to strengthen its influence in Central and Eastern Europe, wins in this situation. Turkey, like a pest, deepens the split within NATO and undermines Euro-Atlantic security, while Russia doubled its military presence near the Alliance.

Russia rearmament the ground forces with Iskander tactical missile systems, including parts of the Western military district near the borders of the Baltic countries. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation worked out the transfer of large military formations to NATO borders during the West-2017 military exercises.

Way out of the crisis

The North Atlantic Alliance, which has been created to respond to regional crises that are asymmetric to threats in the context of globalization, was not ready for a knockout from one of the participants. There are several options for overcoming the current crisis. The easiest, but painful for the United States is to make concessions to Turkey and recognize the Syrian Kurds as terrorists.

This will be the final blow to the image of US President Donald Trump, recognition of his inability to influence international political processes. Trump is already reproached for surrendering his allies to Erdogan. This option will not be supported by NATO member countries.

The second option is to exclude Turkey from NATO, as suggested by US Senator Lindsay Graham, Congressman Eliot Angel, as well as Canadian politicians who have raised the question of the expediency of excluding countries from NATO that do not share common democratic values.

Related: Turkish Airlines stopped flying to Odesa until December 1

In recent years, Turkey has re-read NATO in everything: it ignores the standards in the field of armaments, purchasing from Russia S-400 anti-missile systems that can damage American stealth aircraft does not allow the US military to use the Incirlik airbase during military operations in the Middle East.

The Americans are not satisfied with Erdogan’s overly independent course, and they are working on the option of exporting their nuclear weapons from Turkey. Back in 1996, American geopolitician Samuel Huntington predicted the strengthening of political Islam in Turkey and its break with NATO.

Turkish armed forces comprise more than 600,000 soldiers and officers, 3,200 tanks and 9,500 units of armored vehicles, 2,400 units of artillery, more than a thousand military aircraft and helicopters. Turkey has a large navy (194 surface ships and 12 submarines).

No wonder the Turkish army was informally nicknamed "the muscles of the Alliance." Erdogan will carry out more active military expansion in the Middle East and will intensify rapprochement with Russia as opposed to the United States. Erdogan was already interested in the prospect of acquiring Russian Su-57 fighters instead of American F-35s.

Turkey can open its borders to the 3 million refugees who are stationed on its territory, and then the influx of illegal immigrants in 2015 will appear to the EU as flowers. America and Europe are more profitable to keep Turkey in NATO than to leave.

The third option is to leave Turkey in NATO, but completely deprive of access to military technologies and weapons, introduce unilateral economic sanctions, and deprive the votes of the North Atlantic Council. Since Turkey violates the general rules of the game, why not the USA and all interested countries not act clumsily.

Moreover, there are serious reasons for this, since Turkey is undermining Euro-Atlantic security. Severe sanctions can accelerate the economic crisis in Turkey, where inflation and business debt are already growing. As a result, dissatisfaction with the Erdogan regime will grow. Candidates from his Justice and Development Party lost the last mayoral election in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir.

Related: Turkey tests Russia's S-400 SAM system radars with US fighter jets

It is beneficial for the West that a political regime change takes place in Turkey with the support of the army, as was the case in 1960, 1971, 1980, 1997.

However, in this case, there are many risks. The military’s attempt to overthrow Erdogan in 2016 ended in complete failure. In the event of Turkey’s isolation in NATO, Erdogan may voluntarily leave the organization. Turkey is still in NATO only because of access to advanced military technology.

There is no guarantee that the worsening economic situation will lead to a coup d'etat, as the examples of Russia, Iran, and North Korea show. After 2016, Erdogan established a repressive authoritarian regime in Turkey, concentrated all power in his hands and cleared the state bodies and army from opposition supporters.

The process of confrontation between the West and Turkey inside NATO may drag on for an indefinite period of time, which will negatively affect the process of reforming the organization.

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