Jan 29 2018

NATO leaders must step in to save Erdoğan from himself – analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is “addicted to authoritarianism”, and the U.S. and French presidents Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron must step in to save the NATO “family”, Turkey specialist Soner Çağaptay wrote for the Washington Post on Jan. 26.

Besides Erdoğan’s authoritarianism at home, Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northwest Syria is a contentious issue for the NATO allies. The YPG, seen by Turkey as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist organisation, are one of the United States’ closest allies in Syria against extremist jihadist groups such as the Islamic State.

Erdoğan’s authoritarian and “self-destructive impulses” have put Turkey on a trajectory towards a deeper crisis, and potentially civil conflict between his supporters and members of a radicalised opposition, warns Çağaptay.

This could lead to an escalation of violence and street-fighting that could paralyse the country. This, says Çağaptay, would be in the interest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who harbours the overarching goal of weakening NATO. A weakened Turkey, with an authoritarian president attempting to govern a drastically polarised population, would serve that aim.

Trump and Macron should make use of their “good personal chemistry” with Erdoğan to bring him back into the NATO fold and foil the Kremlin's plan, suggests Çağaptay, offering him concessions on support for the YPG and support against Russia and Iran, two of Turkey’s fiercest local rivals, in exchange for the restoration of democracy in Turkey.