Turkey and the deterioration of relations with Washington

Turkish President Erdogan, February 16, 2021 (Photo: Presidency of the Republic of Turkey)

It is paradoxical that, as a condition for the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO, Turkey demanded that their governments take into consideration the Kurdish groups who had taken refuge in their lands. These groups are considered terrorist organizations because of their alleged affiliation with the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), while Turkey itself is, in fact, a state which, according to various specialistsintelligence agencies around the world and international watchdogs, finance terrorist activities and laundering money for organized crime (Financial Action Working Group). In addition, as denounced by Turkish MPs from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the country’s government has links with the paramilitary group SADAT, which trains al-Qaeda and IS fighters and monitors their deployment. as mercenaries in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh.

In addition to its repressive policies against the Kurdish people, Turkey also persecutes opponents of the current government, such as Osman Kavala who, without evidence, was held responsible for organizing the Gezi Park protests in 2013. Reacting to this accusation unfounded, the ambassadors of the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden and Finland have all expressed concern and support for Kavala. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s outraged reaction was unprecedented; he said he could declare these ambassadors characters no free. April 25e of this year, Kavala was found guilty of “funding protests” whose purpose, according to the statements of the prosecution, was to “overthrow the government”. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. The European Parliament came out strongly against this condemnation, declaring that it considered that Turkey “had destroyed all hope” of reopening the process of its accession to the European Union. In contrast, however, NATO members, including the United States, have been cautious and said little about these events.

There have been two particularly raw points in US relations with Turkey. The first was the supposed Rebellion July 15, 2016, which Turkish authorities say was orchestrated by religious leader Fetullah Gülen with CIA backing. Gülen has lived in the United States since 1999 in self-imposed exile. His organization, disdainfully called “Fëto”, is cataloged as terrorist by the Erdogan regime. In response to the “coup”, the Turkish government undertook a massive purge of Gülenist elements in the armed forces and throughout the government structure and is currently persecuting all suspected members of the organization. But the United States offered protection and granted them asylum despite Turkey’s request for Gülen’s extradition. This increased friction between the two governments.

The second aggravation came in 2019 when Erdogan’s government acquired a Russian S-400 anti-missile system. This was not only contrary to NATO’s interests because the weapons had been purchased from the organization’s main geopolitical adversary, but also introduced weaponry incompatible with the Alliance’s collective security system and could place flight safety of US F-35 fighter jets over endangered Turkish airspace. risk because the S-400 radar could be used to spy on Russia. Washington has warned that if the purchase is consummated, economic sanctions could be imposed under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and Turkey would be barred from the F-35 aircraft manufacturing program. He also demanded that Turkey buy the American Patriot anti-missile system. In response to these measures, the Turkish government agreed to modernize its air force. Instead of buying F-35s, it would buy 40 more F-16 fighter jets to supplement its existing fleet (using the $1.4 billion it had already paid for F-35s). But members of the US Congress have expressed opposition to the sale, as has Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who during his visit to Washington pushed for the sale to be blocked while trying to convince Washington to sell the F-35s to Greece. Enraged, Erdogan yelled that Prime Minister Mitsotakis had “ceased to exist” and was no longer a political interlocutor. Earlier, Ismail Demir, head of Turkey’s defense industries presidency, threatened that if the United States barred Turkey from buying F-16 fighters, it could to buy Russian Su-35 and Su-57. Their reactions clearly show how Erdogan’s government continues to blackmail NATO by claiming that if the pursuit of its political and military interests are hindered, it is ready to forge agreements with antagonistic countries in NATO.

In accordance with the ultra-nationalist and imperialist conception generated since the 19e century by Ziya Gökalp who seeks to create a “Greater Turkey” that would encompass all the Turkish people, since October 2020, Erdogan has been working to consolidate an organization with principles and objectives similar to those of NATO, but whose membership would be composed exclusively of nations of Turkish origin. This so-called “Army of Turan”, under Turkish leadership, would include Azerbaijan and the Turkish republics of Central Asia. Apart from a group whose principles of pan-Turkish cultural affinity could easily take a chauvinistic turn, the creation of a new Turkish-led military alliance is, or should be, seen as a violation of NATO principles, if not like a kind of Trojan horse; i.e. a member of NATO who seeks to create and lead a military organization, some members of which would also be allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – the opposing military alliance commanded by Russia.

It is surprising that the United States and its Western allies have not yet decided to discuss the expulsion of Turkey from NATO or, at least, the implementation of economic sanctions like those previously imposed on the country. Iran and Russia to ease tensions caused by Turkey’s aggressive foreign policy. during the last years. Erdogan’s hypocritical game of Finland and Sweden joining NATO, based on counter-terrorism arguments, when his government is one of the main precursors and sponsors of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, its blackmailing the West with arms purchases, be it the S-400 system or the Su-35 and Su-57 fighters, in addition to its efforts to form an alternative military alliance whose leadership would rest on his shoulders, should all be clear indicators that he could at any moment turn his back on his NATO allies and start playing for an opposing team in order to satisfy his ambitions. From hypocrisy to betrayal, there is only one step.

Carlos Antaramian

Carlos Antaramián is an anthropologist based in Mexico and has written several articles related to Armenian communities in Latin America.

Carlos Antaramian

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