Viability of U.S.-Turkey relationship about to be tested - analyst

A series of “stress tests” on the U.S.–Turkey relationship in the coming months will show how far Turkey is willing to move away from its traditional ally and how much of the present tensions are bluster, Nicholas Danforth, senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Centre, said.

“Ultimately, all of Washington’s leverage with Turkey hinges on the assumption that key decisions in Ankara are being made by rational actors with a pragmatic appreciation of their economic and military dependence on the West,” Danforth said, adding that it is still unknown whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is willing to make a radical break with the West.

“For better or, quite possibly, worse the coming months will shed light on the question of whether, underneath the inflammatory rhetoric Ankara’s commitment to maintaining a functional relationship remains,” he said.

If a Turkish offensive against the Syrian enclave of Afrin goes badly, Danforth said, Turkish commentators are likely to blame the United State for arming the majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), while some prominent Western figures are likely to openly support the YPG.

The announcement that the United States was planning to train 30,000 fighters in YPG-held territory had also led Erdoğan to raise the tenor of his rhetoric, he said.

“In addition to suggesting a Turkish attack against Kurdish forces was imminent, Erdoğan warned that if U.S. forces continued to stand alongside Kurdish fighters, Turkey might be forced to ‘bury them together as well’,” Danforth said.