Şamil Tayyar, a Turkish MP from President Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, agrees with Donald Trump that NATO in its current configuration is obsolete.
But Mr. Tayyar has gone much further than that. In remarks made in the aftermath of the passage of legislation which will confer further strong-man, borderline dictatorial powers upon President Erdogan, Tayyar lambasted NATO, of which Turkey has been a member of since 1952.
He accused NATO of being no different than terrorist groups operating in Turkey, including Gulenist forces. He went on to say,
“NATO has always been in charge of the dirty and bloody deeds in the country. The 1960 military coup was staged by the British, the 1971 coup was staged by the CIA, and the 1980 coup was staged by NATO”.
The remarks, however obtuse in terms of the scope of the accusations, are demonstrative of trends in Turkey which have seen the country drift further from NATO and US influence.
Ergodan and his inner-circle have never forgiven the US for allegedly orchestrating last year’s failed coup. Likewise, Erdogan seems genuinely convinced that the US has been backing Gulenist forces in Turkey.
I was recently asked, “Will Donald Trump kick Turkey out of NATO”? My visceral reply was, “Erdogan is doing a fairly good job of kicking himself out of NATO”. There seems to be an increasing amount of veracity to this statement.
Turkey currently represents NATO’s second largest army, but with internal political turbulence and open hostility towards the US and NATO in Turkey, what can Turkey and the US hope to achieve from the continued partnership?
Although Russia has tried, at least on a political level, to transform Turkey from a producer of terrorist atrocities in Syria into a power that can help bring anti-government factions to the peace table in Astana, Donald Trump by contrast never mentioned any desire to have Turkey be an ally in the war against radical Islamic terrorism. He only ever mentioned Russia.
In this sense, one is witnessing the odd phenomenon of Turkey being forced closer to Russia for pragmatic reasons and reasons of regional power brokerage. Also Russia is one of the few countries which hasn’t yet lost patience with Turkey.
The US under Obama did little to mend fences with Turkey after the coup, other than to abruptly dismiss Erdogan’s accusations. Trump seems not to care about Turkey at all.
The US may be slowly turning to Russia for ideological reasons, as Trump sees Russia’s war against radical Islamic terrorism as morally correct and in the US interest.
If Trump is able to turn NATO from a Cold War anti-Russian relic into a meaningful anti-terrorist force, then Turkey could potentially have a greater role to play. Turkey knows more about terrorists in places like Syria and Iraq than any other NATO member state. After all, like the US, Turkey funded and aided many of these terrorists.
If there is hope that under Trump the US can ‘change sides’ so to speak in this war against terrorism, then there is hope that perhaps Turkey can too, if for no other reason than Erodgan not wanting to be yet again on the losing side of history.