Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?

The shooting of the Russian jet fighter by the Turkish air force was, unquestionably, a provocation. So far Russia has shown restraint and has avoided escalation by not retaliating militarily. A Russian military retaliation would have allowed the use of NATO‘s charter article five, which stipulates that if any member is attacked, all members are obligated to join in. However, the tension has not been diffused. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has publicly complained that his calls to the Kremlin have not been returned. The fact that Erdogan has been put on ice by Moscow should not come as a surprise to him or anyone else. After the attack on the Russian plane, President Vladimir Putin’s first statement was to say that Russia was “stabbed in the back” by the Erdogan administration.

Putin was indeed. Before Russia’s military involvement in Syria, the cautious Russian leader held talks, in Moscow, with both Erdogan and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. A clear understanding of Russia’s military intentions and goals were conveyed to both Erdogan and Netanyahu. By taking down the Russian jet fighter, Erdogan broke that deal and crossed Putin, and by doing so he dragged his country and potentially the entire world into a very dangerous territory. Crossing the Russian leader or lying to him is probably not a good idea. The crisis introduced by Turkey’s provocation is still not diffused and could easily become a recipe for World War III. Who are the players in it and what sorts of conflicting geopolitical agendas are they running in this dangerous imbroglio?

The Sunni axis of Turkey and the Gulf States

Unlike most Muslim countries in the region, Turkey used to be a secular state. Unfortunately for the Turks, and the geopolitical balance, this quickly changed once Erdogan’s Sunni Islamist party took power. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Emirates and Turkey became staunch allies to promote, including by force, a Sunni agenda in the region. This was done with the blessings and active help of the United States and Israel. Regime change in Syria became the top priority on the Sunni axis agenda, mainly to weaken and isolate Shiite Iran. With Bashar al-Assad gone, the supply line from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon would have been cut off. Weakening Iran, their common regional enemy, was an enticing proposition for the Gulf States as well as Israel.

There is countless evidence to establish the direct involvement of Turkey and the Gulf states in the creation of the entity with many names (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, etc.), which is ironically also called Islamic State. It is, of course, not a state and not even Muslim, but instead an eclectic jihadist mercenary army originally armed and financed by the Sunni axis to topple al-Assad. The Saudis and Turks thought they could control the jihadists, but now the 80,000-strong foreign legion that is ISIS does not need its original sponsors and has its own finances (through oil fields under its control), an impressive arsenal and a different agenda. ISIS went off script as it embraced its Caliphate project.

The axis of Russia and Iran 

Iran was the first major regional power to get involved militarily against the mercenary legions of ISIS. Iran did it once it realized that ISIS was going to take Baghdad after it took control of Mosul. The Islamic republic took military and logistical control of Iraqi Shiite militias, and it advised what was left of the Iraqi army while Washington stayed, de facto, on the sideline to ensure that the crisis would either fester or move back to Syria to topple Assad. Shortly thereafter, Hezbollah’s Shiite militias moved into Syria to shore up Assad’s army. This and the bombing against ISIS conducted by the so-called US-led alliance against the jihadists did not, however, do quite enough to degrade the well-equipped, combat-hardened mercenary force. Russia waited for the right opportunity to step in. It presented itself after Erdogan made his first big geopolitical mistake by opening wide the flow of some of his 2.2 million Syrian refugees to the European Union.

Just like in Crimea, Russia’s move in Syria took Washington by surprise. Vladimir Putin estimated that only a military superpower could tip the balance against ISIS. His evaluation of the situation in Syria was accurate. The elusive forces of ISIS, and their European networks of criminal associates, losing ground in Syria against Assad and the Russians, decided to expand their war zone into Europe. By orchestrating the Paris attacks, and blowing up the Russian civilian aircraft coming from Egypt, ISIS sent the world a clear message: we have the capacity to strike any target, anywhere at anytime. This move, especially the November 13 attacks in Paris, was a game changer in the global narrative. It was primarily a wake-up call for France’s President François Hollande. An agreement between Russia and France was quickly reached to establish a military collaboration in Syria.

Cracks in NATO: new role for the EU under the impulse of France and Germany

While the Hollande administration’s immediate reaction was to panic and decree an unnecessary state of emergency, France has, since then, made some substantial adjustment to its foreign policy. Mr. Hollande started a diplomatic mission “tout azimut” to remedy the communication breakdown between Washington and Moscow. At the same time, France’s government has convinced Germany to leave the sideline in the Syrian dossier and bring military assistance to the newly formed Russian-French military collaboration. This was a new element, which might partially explain Erdogan’s second mistake of shooting the Russian jet. Some interesting conversations are likely in the works within NATO, with France playing the role of referee. So far, Turkey’s crisis engineering strategy has not worked in favor of the Erdogan administration. Bottom line, if France and Germany would say through their top military brass at NATO: if Turkey stays, we go, it is quite easy to forecast what Washington would have to do.



3 Responses to Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?

  1. Supreme Allied Condista November 30, 2015 at 6:12 am

    The President’s demand that Turkey close the Turkish / Syria border to ISIS movements is a reasonable first move but for victory needs following through with something more aggressive – such as an invasion force to take Raqqa.

    NATO membership imposes treaty obligations on Turkey and specifically on its political and military leadership.

    Therefore there is a leadership duty by NATO Secretary General and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe to remind Turkey’s leaders of their treaty obligations which they will be held to by the rest of NATO and not allowed to vary from with impunity.

    NATO sanctions against Turkey’s leaders who are held to be in violation of NATO treaty obligations could include official NATO reprimands broadcast on satellite TV in the Turkish language.

    The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Philip M. Breedlove would therefore have a duty when appropriate to provide leadership and advice to the NATO North Atlantic Council with regard to Turkey.

    The NATO Secretary General on behalf of the North Atlantic Council should make it clear to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey that NATO cannot write Turkey a blank cheque, that President Erdogan should not misjudge the extent of his authority, that he should not in error imagine he might be able to mislead Turkey to violate NATO treaty obligations in a consequence-free way.

    With regard to the “training of moderate Syrian rebels” by the US and others. The train and equip program of the Kurds and allies has made considerable progress and met with success on the battlefield versus ISIS.

    The training of other so-called “moderates” has indeed failed as has been widely reported.

    The problem is that the US, UK and others still have a half-baked strategy undermined by their peculiar view of immoderate Saudi Arabia and other Gulf kingdoms, namely that since those immoderate regimes sell oil and buy weapons from the US, UK and others, such business somehow makes those immoderate regimes “moderate” and suitable to co-ordinate “moderate rebels”!

    That is why my quite different strategy proposes regime-change of immoderate regimes like Saudi Arabia and never trusting immoderate regimes and their proxy terrorist groups as so-called “moderates” when they are no such thing.

    So, yes, I have proposed a battle-plan whereby a mostly Turkish force, the Turkish 3rd Corps, a NATO rapid deployable corps, supplemented with up to 10,000 US forces and up to 10,000 European NATO forces invades north Syria to take the ISIS capital of Raqqa.

    That however would be a NATO battle-plan and invasion forces would be under the command of the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe and so President Erdogan should not imagine that such an invasion would be “his show” or that he personally was indispensable to such an invasion because Turkey can always get a new president!

  2. gragor November 30, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Any NATO/Turkey/US incursion into Syria is totally illegal and a war crime. Russia has permission to operate there from the duly elected government of Bashar al-Assad, the NATO alliance does not.

  3. Nick Diaz December 1, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Although religion does play a role in the Syrian war, and the Middle East in general, the underlying current of the US/Saudi/Turkey/Qatar alliance is political. Saudi Arabia had no problem with Shiite Iran when the pro western Shah was in power, religion was used during the US invasion of Iraq, to create a sunni-shite conflict, and it’s being used today in Syria by the US/Israeli/Saudi/Qatari/Turkish/NATO alliance, in an attempt to overthrow the Asad regime. Like Iraq and Libya, Syria has been supporting national liberation movements in Africa and the Middle East since the seventies, this goes counter to the US agenda for the region. The ME plays a pivotal role in the US geopolitical strategy. If Syria is destroyed and turned into a failed state like Iraq and Libya, defeating Hizbollah will become easier for Israel, and eliminating any support for progressive movements in the region.

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