While the prevailing powers in both the USA and the EU have long yearned to gather Türkiye (formerly known as simply “Turkey”) into a western alliance encircling the old USSR in a nuclear-armed cordon sanitaire, many intelligent observers have harbored, and expressed doubt, about this “wild card” of a nation, ambivalent in its ethos but large enough to cause concern.
For one thing there is the continuous low-level conflict with Greece, a firmly-established member of NATO – along with Turkey – since 1952. Not the happiest of neighbors, there has been armed conflict between the Greeks and Turks in the 18th Century, again in 1919~1922 and finally the matter of Cyprus and control over other contiguous islands of the Mediterranean. Turkey invaded Cyprus on 20 July 1974, after a Greek military coup.
While Türkiye, a new nation-state emerging from the crumbling Ottoman Empire, has long stood against its gigantic neighbor across the Black Sea, and even invited the USA to station its liquid-fueled nuclear-capable guided missiles on its territory (inevitably leading up to the Russians, in a tit-for-tat response, stationing their nuclear R-12 IRBMs in Cuba in 1962, in a showdown that nearly precipitated a nuclear Armageddon with the USA).
Wide areas of disagreement have festered in recent times, with Türkiye complaining about having to shelter over a million persons displaced by armed conflicts in the Arab states – the American adventure in Iraq being the most notorious, followed by the vainglorious attempt to smash the Al-Assad regime in Syria. American forces often allied with the Kurds, a sorely-persecuted minority in Türkiye, further exacerbating relations with Washington.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has unfortunately not fulfilled his assigned role as an obedient servant of the west, rather preferring to see which way the wind is blowing and reset the attention of his country in that direction. He cozied up to old adversary Russia – now that the USSR represents no threat – and agreed to install its S-400 missile defense system when Washington played coy about selling theirs.
Note that the S-400 is specifically designed to knock down NATO aircraft. This purchase was none of their business, and should not have outraged NATO but it did anyway. Relations with the People’s Republic of China, at a low point when a 5,000-man-strong Turkish army fought the PLA in North Korea in 1950, improved dramatically in recent years, culminating in a state visit by President Erdogan to Beijing in 2009. This cannot have made NATO allies feel very confident, either.
Now a hot election campaign in Türkiye, one in which the reasonably-popular Erdogan did not win outright in the first round. CNN, a notorious Deep State propaganda mouthpiece, mounted a ceaseless campaign against him, along with other western media, but to Washington’s consternation he won the runoff anyway.
What is the current tone of relations between this rambunctious NATO member and the West? Listen to Türkiye’s tubby Minister of the Interior Suleyman Soylu, ranting to cheering crowds in Istanbul, on 27 May: “Call us cowards if we don’t wipe out whoever is troubling this country, including the American troops, in the next five years.”
“Does President Tayyip Erdogan deliver what I have been saying?” More cheers, as he swings his fat fist menacingly.
And more: “This is the first time we have had such an opportunity. This is the first time we caught the West [in such a weak position]. This is the fist time we caught America. We caught them with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a leader who could only emerge in this country for the first time in a century.”
More Oops from fellow NATO members.
“We are now in our most powerful time for 300 years, by the will and grace of Allah. Tomorrow will be the turning point of saving the world from their [Western powers’] oppression, and their evil deeds.”
(Meanwhile a smiling “President Biden” turns to shake hands with Someone Who Isn’t There.)
Does this sound like the way a NATO member should talk about its allies?
Best Comment on Twitter, from a “Chen Weihua”: “It’s clear that Western interest has bet against Erdogan tis time and it amounted to election interference if you watched CNN in the last few weeks.”
Meanwhile, NATO is standing there completely dumbfounded, looking like (as we used to say in the military) “…they don’t know whether to shave, shine, shit or salute”.
In response to this tirade, EU Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, in 2007 an enthusiastic proponent of EU membership for Turkey, responded innocently, also on Twitter, “Campaign pitch by the Türkiye’s Minister of the Interior. Fairly horrible. Is this the Türkiye we will now face? I sincerely hope not.”
He sounds like he was born yesterday.
“Hark! The wind is blowing from the east!