Small Wars Journal

How Strongly is NATO Ally Turkey Pivoting to Russia and Iran?

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 12:07am

How Strongly is NATO Ally Turkey Pivoting to Russia and Iran? By Scott Peterson - Christian Science Monitor

Setting aside years of increasing Turkey-US hostility, President Trump’s introductory remarks for the cameras were glowing as he met Turkey’s controversial President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan one-on-one, winding up a flurry of bilateral diplomacy on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual opening in New York.

Mr. Erdoğan is “running a very difficult part of the world,” Trump said Thursday, “and frankly, he’s getting very high marks.”

“We have a great friendship as countries. I think we’re, right now, as close we have ever been,” he added, also extolling the leaders’ personal rapport.

But seen from Turkey, the picture is far different. The scuttling of a US weapons sale this week for Erdoğan’s presidential security detail was just the latest point of friction feeding Turkey’s disillusion with the US and its NATO allies – and one more reason for its deepening embrace of two historic rivals, Russia and Iran.

Mutual US-Turkey prodding of each other has become more and more frequent, as Erdoğan dabbles with a strategic realignment away from the US and Europe.

The US withdrew the license to sell $1.2 million in arms and ammunition for the security guards after a grand jury indicted 15 of them for assaulting a handful of anti-Erdoğan protesters in Washington in May.

Clearly peeved, Erdoğan groused that the US was refusing to sell weapons to a fellow NATO ally, while giving even more lethal arms for free – 3,000 truckloads worth, he said – to “terrorists.” He meant US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria fighting the so-called Islamic State. Turkey says it fears the US-supplied weapons may one day be turned against it.

Anti-Americanism has grown in Turkey, especially since Washington – the CIA in particular – was accused by some here of orchestrating a July 2016 coup attempt against Erdoğan.

But Turkey has also taken steps that have alarmed its NATO allies, including announcing last week a downpayment to Russia to buy the sophisticated S-400 air defense system, which is incompatible with NATO weaponry and would signal a deep partnership with the power that NATO was ostensibly created to contain…

Read on.