U.S. and Europe should not rush to expel Turkey from NATO - analysis

The United States and its European allies should watch recent changes in Turkish politics and wait a while before deciding on whether to expel Turkey from NATO, analyst Gerald F. Hyman said in the National Interest magazine on Tuesday.

The relations between Ankara and Washington have been tense over the last month, as the United States plans Turkey’s complete ejection from the F-35 programme and imposing possible sanctions, if Turkey goes ahead with the plans to buy Russian S-400 systems.

According to Hyman, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, there are also other issues that strengthen Washington’s frustration with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. These include Turkey’s alignment with Russia and Iran in Syria, its simultaneous hostility to Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners while ignoring Turkey-based financing mechanisms to the Islamic State (ISIS), Erdoğan’s welcoming of regional anti-Western Islamists, and his siding with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

But Erdoğan and his ruling party’s defeat in March 31 local polls in Turkey’s most populous provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara, could signal a change in the country’s political scene, according to Hyman.

Erdoğan’s move away from the alliance has been painful, according to Hyman, as Turkey has been a loyal and reliable member of NATO until recently, has the alliance’s second largest army, and occupies a key geo-strategic position on the northeastern Mediterranean.

“But the eviction of Turkey from the Western alliance should come, if at all, after a long and serious review and the conclusion that there are no other options,” Hyman said.

Too much can be read into the elections, according to Hyman. “Erdoğan was right to note that the elite in Ankara and Istanbul did not accurately represent the conservative, religious identity of much of Turkey’s population. But just as improper assumptions were made about the secular identity of Turkey’s population before Erdoğan, too much can be made of its move away,” he said.

Therefore, long term interests of the United States and its European allies point that a wait-and-watch strategy would be better than a hasty expulsion of Turkey, which could draw Turkey closer to U.S. adversaries, according to the analyst.

It is also important that the United State’s frustration with Erdoğan should not extent to Turkey, Hyman said.

“The recent elections have provided a welcome, if unexpected, opportunity to pause and perhaps find a way to help reverse course within Turkey and between our two countries before the downward spiral of relations congeals into enmity, antipathy and animosity,” he added.