NATO should work to outlast Turkey’s Erdoğan - WSJ

The United States should move cautiously in responding to Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missiles to ensure the two NATO countries’ alliance outlasts President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his provocative behaviour, columnist Walter Russell Mead wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

Turkey’s decision to import the S-400 missiles and drill for natural gas off Cyprus has driven a wedge between Turkey and its Western allies, the article said. 

Turkey received the first batch of S-400 systems on Friday, despite repeated warnings from U.S. officials that it risked being ejected from the programme to make and operate F-35 stealth fighter jets and falling foul of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). 

The European Union on Monday also slapped Turkey with sanctions over what it calls illegal oil and gas drilling off Cyprus.

Even mild sanctions could shake the Turkish economy and spook investors, sending the lira and stock market into free fall, Mead wrote. 

Mead said Erdoğan’s decision to purchase the Russian missiles was a reaction to a feeling the United States had turned its back on Turkey by refusing to sell it Patriot missiles and arming Syrian Kurdish groups the Turkish government regards as terrorists. 

Turkey’s spat with the West presents an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to divide the NATO alliance, Mead said, although Russia is still helping Syrian government forces close in on Turkish-backed rebels in Syria’s Idlib province.

The Wall Street Journal also said Erdoğan was turning to China to boost its economy, a move that has come at the cost of back-pedalling on Beijing’s persecution of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim group that speaks a Turkic language in western China.

Despite all the latest developments, Turkey and the West do best when they work together, Mead said, and the United States should remember that Turkey is bigger than Erdoğan and focus on the long term.