Er­do­gan’s slap to the face of Nato means the al­liance must drop him

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - Mark Al­mond

Ap­par­ently, if you trans­late Nato’s Ar­ti­cle 5 into Turk­ish, it reads that an at­tack by one mem­ber is an at­tack by all mem­bers. That, at least, was the im­pres­sion given by Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan yes­ter­day, when he de­nounced his al­lies for fail­ing to live up to their obli­ga­tions un­der the North At­lantic treaty.

Pres­i­dent Er­doğan made it plain he doesn’t just ex­pect the US and oth­ers to be neu­tral, or sim­ply not to con­demn Turkey’s in­va­sion of Syria, he wants them ac­tively to join in.

In an ad­dress to his party’s cen­tral com­mit­tee, the pres­i­dent in­sisted there would be no re­treat (“Turks know only suc­cess or death!”) to chants of sup­port.

He pep­pered his speech with charges that West­ern coun­tries had spon­sored the Is­lamic and Kur­dish ter­ror­ists. France was even ac­cused of pro­vid­ing the ce­ment for a net­work of ter­ror­ist tun­nels un­der the Turk­ish bor­der. In short, he said, Nato is at the heart of Turkey’s prob­lems in­stead of be­ing an ally against ter­ror­ism.

This slap in the face means it is time for Nato to come to terms with an un­com­fort­able real­ity. Not only is Er­doğan not the politi­cian the West thought he was when they wel­comed him as a re­former in 2002, but the na­tion he leads is not mov­ing west­wards either.

Even young ur­ban Turks who voted for the pres­i­dent’s op­po­nents in lo­cal elec­tions a few months ago are ral­ly­ing to his ag­gres­sive na­tion­al­ism.

Mean­while, the state’s re­li­gious direc­torate en­sures that the mosques’ loud­speak­ers boom out the verses of vic­tory.

The Syr­ian bor­der war is a symp­tom of the deep fis­sure that has opened be­tween the West’s once re­li­able bas­tion in the re­gion and the rest of Nato. No doubt, Turks have of­ten felt un­der­val­ued by their al­lies. But that re­sent­ment never be­fore un­der­cut the sense that their coun­try’s se­cu­rity was served by in­te­gra­tion into the al­liance. All that has changed.

What the rest of the West needs to de­cide is whether our col­lec­tive se­cu­rity is served by an al­liance which in­cludes a rogue state whose ac­tions dis­credit Nato’s claims to de­fend ba­sic hu­man rights and now seem to be fly­ing in the face of its com­mit­ment to op­er­ate as a de­fen­sive al­liance.

Turkey has gone from bad boy at the back of the class to, in ef­fect, a dis­rup­tive in­fil­tra­tor. Buy­ing Rus­sian anti-air­craft mis­siles dam­ages Nato’s mil­i­tary co­he­sion. Cosy­ing up to Rus­sia and Iran con­tin­ues to un­der­mine the al­liance’s po­lit­i­cal co­her­ence.

Mr Er­doğan’s dis­mis­sive ap­proach to Turkey’s old al­lies is desta­bil­is­ing not only the West but his own coun­try. His new part­ners are happy to use Turkey to weaken the West, but they have no af­fec­tion for it.

While the pres­i­dent has led the way into self-iso­la­tion, many in both the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and the coun­try at large have joined him in turn­ing their backs on Nato.

The West needs to ac­knowl­edge that fact and find a way of re­mov­ing Turkey from the al­liance.

Mark Al­mond is di­rec­tor of the Cri­sis Re­search In­sti­tute, Ox­ford

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