Turkey has been on a charm offensive ahead of NATO summit

Turkey has been on a charm offensive ahead of the planned NATO summit in Brussels on June 14. Accordingly, it tries to act as if there is no daylight between Ankara and the alliance, Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for the Middle East and North Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Ahval’s Nervana Mahmoud in the new episode of Turkish Trends podcast series.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will have a number of bilateral meetings during the NATO summit, including with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden to discuss crisis-ridden bilateral relations.

Turkey’s geographical location is one of the most sensitive and significant for NATO, Cook said. Ankara considers itself a great global power rather than merely an asset for the alliance’s southern flank.

One of the most significant issues between the United States and Turkey is Ankara’s acquisition of Russian-made S-400 air defence missile systems, which Moscow delivered in 2019. Top Turkish officials described the purchase as a feature of Turkey’s sovereignty at the time.

The purchase triggered sanctions against Turkey according to U.S. laws, and the country will have to dispose of the systems for sanctions to be lifted. Ankara opposes the idea of sending the weapons system away. Nevertheless, according to recent reports on the media, it might be open to the idea of controlling the system together with American personnel.

However, on Thursday, U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price said that the United States has “never offered any indication” that it may be “willing to accept Turkey’s possession of the S-400 system”.

NATO has no mechanism to kick Turkey out, Cook said, but there are ways to isolate the country.

Both the S-400 issue and Erdoğan’s aggressive activities in the eastern Mediterranean will continue to be a headache, and Erdoğan’s government will continue to make other NATO member states unhappy, Cook said.

“Turkey presents a geopolitical dilemma for NATO,” the analyst said. Also, Erdoğan does not want to withdraw from NATO. He wants to pursue his own agenda while remaining inside the alliance, which it sometimes undermines.

Cook also said he expected human rights and democratic issues to be raised by Biden during the bilateral meeting, as these issues are important for his administration.