Turkey remains key member of alliance - NATO chief

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Turkey remained a key part of the alliance despite its purchase of Russian missile systems, but that the negative impact needed to be minimised, according to multiple reports. 

“Turkey is an important NATO member,” Stoltenberg said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, according to Bloomberg. 

He said no NATO members had raised the issue of kicking Turkey out of the alliance. But Stoltenberg acknowledged the disagreement over the S-400s and Ankara’s expulsion from the programme to help build and operate F-35 fighter jets, which U.S. officials announced on Wednesday.  

“It’s bad for all of us,” Stoltenberg said during an interview with Courtney Kube, security correspondent for NBC, according to the Aspen Times. “As long as that issue is not solved, we need to minimise the negative consequences.”

One step is that Turkey’s S-400s will not be integrated into NATO’s air defence system, as it is not interoperable with NATO weaponry, according to Vox reporter Alex Ward. 

Asked about Turkey’s continuing membership, Stoltenberg pointed to Ankara’s contributions to NATO missions in Syria, Kosovo and Afghanistan and ongoing talks with Italy, France and the United States about possible missile purchases. “Turkey as a NATO member is more than the S-400,” he said. 

U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense David J. Trachtenberg said on Wednesday it was for NATO to decide about Turkey's membership status, not the United States. NATO has never expelled a member and no country has ever left the alliance. 

“There is no provision to expel an ally from NATO,” Douglas Lute, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, told Bloomberg. “The S-400 issue is serious, but will not result in Turkey’s leaving the alliance.”