Russo-Ukrainian War 5/13/22

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum (image via NATO)

Turkey announced it could not support Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids, citing concerns over their links to the PKK, a Kurdish political and militant group designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and Israel.

On the one hand, Turkey could be garnering Russian sympathy, knowing full well it must support Finnish and Swedish accession when the time comes. But if Erdogan is resolute in his decision, drastic measures could be taken by NATO to convince or punish him.

Appeasing Turkey, NATO could restart Western armament deals scrapped following Turkey’s purchase of S-400 Russian air defenses. The purchase, which drew harsh criticism from NATO allies, moved Turkey closer to Russia. Despite Turkey’s supplying of TB2 drones to Ukraine, the country’s ties to Russia still remain rather lukewarm. The Biden administration could take the opportunity to repeal Trump-era steel tariffs on Turkey, paving the way for closer relationships between Washington and Ankara. Of course, Sweden and Finland could also tackle the issue directly, having a close dialogue with Turkey and, upon reaching a consensus, taking action to limit the PKK’s activities in their respective countries.

However, Turkey could come out of this crisis with serious complications if NATO instead seeks reprisals. Though no protocol exists to kick a member nation out of NATO, there are many who would gladly trade Turkey for Finland, as Finland can more easily contribute to resupplying the Baltic states, a region NATO strategists have deemed an inevitable short-term loss in the event of a war with Russia.

Of course, finding a way to kick Turkey out of NATO would be a drastic, last-resort option. A moratorium on future Western shipments, undermining Turkey’s incursions in Syria, or even sanctions could bleed Ankara into ratifying Finland and Sweden. Reprisals should not be the immediate course of action, but the U.S. should be ready with a diverse skillset of actions to take should limited appeasement be ineffective.

Ultimately, Erdogan must realize that there is no future for Russia and its allies regardless of whether his quasi-authoritarian rule continues. Lukashenko, Orbán, and even several of Russia’s oligarchs see Putin’s end near. Turkey has an important role to play in NATO in regard to regional security, particularly as an intermediary between NATO and the Middle East. Still, it must realize that NATO’s Russian policies are non-negotiable. In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western Europe has managed to throw off the yoke of Russian energy, and the U.S., U.K., and Eastern Europe have very clearly stated their intense diplomatic and military support for Ukraine. Turkey must choose decisively between liberalism and authoritarianism, knowing full well that regardless of Erdogan’s rule at home, the latter has no future in Europe.

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