The Case Against Turkey’s NATO Membership

It’s time to dump Turkey from NATO, and immediately suspend its accession process to the European Union (EU). There, I said it.

Some of us have been expressing deep concerns about the regress of the country of Ataturk for years, while others, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and his European Parliamentary colleague Daniel Hannan MEP, have been agitating for an immediate inclusion of Turkey into the EU. It simply cannot happen.

This morning’s downing of a Russian jet underscores the problems with Turkey’s NATO membership and EU accession. It is perhaps not the worst example of how Turkey is not fit to be in a formal military alliance with the United Kingdom and the United States, but it underscores the point that the country is simply not ready – not even as ready as it was pre-2000. The country has regressed in three key areas as far as Europe and the United States should be concerned: on security matters, on human rights matters, and as a hub for mass migration into Europe.

It seems quite clear that Turkish President Erdogan really wanted to shoot down a Russian aircraft, and that the Turkish pilots were under orders to do so if they could find even the slightest pretext. So why would Erdogan want to do that?

President Putin said bitterly that Erdogan and his colleagues were “accomplices of terrorists”. That’s hard to deny: Erdogan is so eager to see Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad overthrown that he left the Turkish-Syrian border open for four years so that recruits and supplies could reach the Syrian rebel groups, notably including Islamic State (IS).

Erdogan is utterly determined that Assad must go, and he doesn’t really care if Assad’s successors are Islamist extremists. But he also wants to ensure that there is no new Kurdish state on Turkey’s southern border.

That is a problem for him, because that state already exists in embryo. It is called Rojava, a territory that the Syrian Kurds have carved out in the far north of the country along the Turkish border, mainly by fighting Islamic State. Indeed, the Syrian Kurds are the US-led coalition’s only effective ally on the ground against IS.

When Erdogan committed the Turkish air force to the Syrian war in July, he explained it to the United States as a decision to fight against Islamic State, but in fact Turkey has made only a token handful of strikes against IS. Almost all Erdogan’s bombs have actually fallen on the Turkish Kurds of the PKK (who had been observing a ceasefire with the Turkish government for the past four years), and above all on the Syrian Kurds

Erdogan has two goals: to ensure the destruction of Assad’s regime, and to prevent the creation of a new Kurdish state in Syria. He was making some progress on both objectives — and then along came the Russians in September and saved the Syrian army from defeat, at least for the moment.

Worse yet, Putin’s strategy turns out to quite pragmatic, and even rather attractive to the United States despite all the ritual anti-Russian propaganda emitted by Washington. Putin wants a ceasefire in Syria that will leave everybody where they are now — except Islamic State, which they can all then concentrate on destroying.

This strategy is now making some headway in the Vienna ceasefire talks, but it is utterly abhorrent to Erdogan because it would leave Assad in power in Damascus, and give the Syrian Kurds time to consolidate their new state. How can he derail this Russian-led project?

Well, he could shoot down a Russian plane, and try to get a confrontation going between Russia and NATO. I’m not interested in my country going to war with Russia because the Turks can’t keep it in their pants. And I’m certainly not interested in going to war on their behalf when they have been integral to the funding of terrorists groups like ISIS, and indeed massively useful to Al Qaeda affiliates like Al Nusra Front.

President Erdogan has dragged a previously secular state into an almost all-out war with its Kurdish population, and has presided over a shift in Turkish policy towards Israel, which Mr. Erdogan accused of “crimes against humanity” in 2008. Unsurprising, perhaps, given the country’s noteworthy aggrandisement of the Muslim Brotherhood, and assistance with the Gaza flotillas.

Arresting journalists, blocking social media platforms, and even cracking down on basic liberties like the freedom of assembly, Turkey is slipping into being an Islamist, de factodictatorship with curious electoral practices.

The human rights situation in Turkey is deteriorating so fast that even the European Union, in a recent, conveniently post-election assessment reported: “over the past year, significant shortcomings affected the independence of the judiciary as well as freedom of assembly and freedom expression.” EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn cited “increased pressure and intimidation of journalists and media outlets”.

It should be, by now, clear that Turkey is not and has no intention on playing a blocking role in the mass migration from the Middle East into Europe, despite EU promises of around €6bn in inducements for the country.

Turkey should be downgraded to a “major, non-NATO ally”, and its EU accession rejected outright.



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