Key lawmaker sees 'possibility' of Turkey leaving NATO

By On October 31, 2018

Key lawmaker sees 'possibility' of Turkey leaving NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s flirtation with Russia and repeated clashes with Western powers raises a real “possibility” that he leads his country out of NATO, according to a senior House Republican.

“I don’t think they'll leave NATO,” House Foreign Affairs Committee member Ted Yoho, R-Fla., told the Washington Examiner. “I think it's a possibility they could, but I don't think they will.”

But even the possibility of Turkey leaving speaks to the slide in U.S.-Turkey relations in recent years. Erdogan’s authoritarian turn, combined with disagreements about the plan to counter the Islamic State in Syria, have put historic strains on the partnership.

Those tensions are re-shaping geopolitical strategies around the world, as leaders across the NATO alliance and even Russian Presiden t Vladimir Putin watch Ankara to see what opportunities or alarms might emanate from Erdogan’s government.

“I think Putin is hopeful that that's a possibility,” Yoho said of a Turkish exit from NATO. “He's not happy with a lot of the things were doing. So, Putin, looking at this says, 'We're going to facilitate that breakup.'”

The Kremlin’s ambitions might explain some of Russia’s outreach to Turkey in the midst of the Syria crisis. Putin is trying to sell advance anti-aircraft weapons to Erdogan. At the same time, he is partnering with Iran to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in the long-running civil war.

That troika was poised for a devastating assault on Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold. They set the stage for the invasion, which Western leaders expected would involve the use of chemical weapons, only to cut a “deconfliction zone” agreement with Turkey that has staved of f the fight, at least temporarily.

“[Idlib] is home to some three million people and one of the few remaining safe havens for internally displaced Syrians,” Erdogan wrote last month in a Wall Street Journal column on the averted clash. “A regime assault would also create serious humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond ... Our partners in the Astana process, Russia and Iran, are likewise responsible for stopping this humanitarian disaster.”

Such public glad-handing between Turkey and Russia is a sharp change from 2015, when Turkish forces shot down a Russian fighter jet that violated NATO airspace during Putin’s Syria intervention.

“Those who are calling for a no-fly zone need to realize that shooting down other countries’ fighter jets will be the result and a war between nuclear superpowers a possibility,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said at the time.

Instead, tha t incident might have greased the skids for cooperation between the two sides, by making Putin and Erdogan doubt Europe’s commitment to Turkish security.

If a hairline fracture is opening in NATO, a clean break may still be unlikely, a leading Turkey expert suggested.

“I've argued all along that Putin's game-plan is for Erdogan's Turkey to stay in NATO as a spoiler,” former Turkish parliamentarian Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner. “Any chaos serves Putin's attempts to destabilize the alliance.”

That outcome would allow Putin to gain some leverage against the transatlantic security bloc, without requiring Erdogan to take the risk of going his own way.

“Erdogan, I'm sure he's got to be thinking now, ‘if I pull out of NATO, I don't have the protection of the United States,’” Yoho told the Was hington Examiner. “But the uncertainty of the future is a card that a lot of people play to get what you want, because we don't want him to leave NATO but yet, we want him to be a better partner. And so, if he can just play that coyly â€" like I see him doing â€" I think he's going to do it for his benefit, obviously.”

Source: Google News Turkey | Netizen 24 Turkey

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