This war in Ukraine is the perfect opportunity for a strategic turnaround for the Turkish president. After Vladimir Putin has become “infrequent”, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will take a more Atlantic course: That is at least what former Turkish diplomats and analysts will believe.
“Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is an excellent politician, he is quite capable of it”Geopolitical scientist Yörük Işık believes, while former Turkish Ambassador Selim Kuneralp recalls that “flip-flops are no stranger to him anyway”. Even the author Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize in Literature, evokes this perspective: “For Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the war in Ukraine is a great opportunity to prove to NATO and the West that he is a loyal ally. Although he does not say it out loud enough in the Turkish newspapers for fear of losing some of his Islamist support, anti-Western voters.
But for an Atlanticist strategic turnaround, the Turkish president must rhetorically, structurally and militarily re-anchor his country in NATO: the Alliance is the heart of the Atlanticist reactor. First problem: it would run counter to the majority of public opinion that won over to his case.
The memory of the Cold War
These Turkish personalities base their hopes on the fact that history repeats itself and that a re-bipolarization, a new Cold War, takes place. “Turkey will be forced to go back, especially to the years immediately after the war, and seek support from the United States.USA and Europe », judge Selim Kuneralp. Sinan Ülgen himself, who is associated with the think tank Edam, believes that his country will again be courted due to. “Turkey’s geostrategic significance for the United States and the West, significance that will increase, as in the years of the Cold War”.
After all, is the enemy not the same today as it was in 1952, when Turkey joined NATO? “Russia is enemy number one again as in the Cold War era, even more aggressive and unpredictable than Stalin’s Soviet Union”confirms Selim Kuneralp.
With one significant nuance, Gareth Jenkins, associate researcher at the Silk Road Studies Program, recalls: “During the Cold War, the alliance between Turkey and the United StatesThe United States was based on the fear of communism, and it was the Turkish and American military that were the backbone of it. ” In other words, communism posed an internal danger and a daily political concern common to both armies. This is no longer the case: the communist “danger” disappeared and the influence of the Turkish military collapsed in 2007.
Confidence was broken in 2003
Moreover, the Turkish-American understanding, the basis of Turkey’s commitment to NATO, has been in poor shape for quite some time. Despite widespread belief, it was not the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles in 2019 that gave the decisive blow to US-Turkey relations. According to Gareth Jenkins, we have to go back to 2003, “when the parliament in Ankara refused Washington permission to pass through Turkey to project its forces into Iraq, as the US Army intercepted and detained several members of the Turkish special forces in Süleymaniye [en Irak du nord, ndlr]».
The injury therefore took place at the beginning of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s term of office. Nothing gets better the following decade because “The United States and Turkey are involved in what almost constitutes a civil war in northern Syria”Washington had allied itself there with Kurdish fighters for independence from the PYD and the PKK, which has been in armed conflict with Ankara since the 1980s. Subsequently, the Turkish authorities systematically developed anti-American rhetoric, accusing Washington of being behind July 15th. , 2016 putsch trial.
It was three years later that Vladimir Putin convinced Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to buy and install Russian S-400s on his territory. A masterpiece: “Every device in the Turkish arsenal must be” calibrated “on the detection radar of the S-400 batteries and also the F-35s if they had been delivered. The S-400 system is therefore above all a tool for obtaining strategic information.explains Marc Pierini, associate researcher at Carnegie.
Yörük Işık summarizes: “So Putin is dominating the Americans, sabotaging US-Turkey relations, weakening NATO, all the while preventing the deployment of F-35s on Russia’s southern flank.”
Take effect, “anticipates US sanctions, Vladimir Putin on managed to deprive Turkey, ie also NATO, of 120 latest generation F-35 stealth aircraft, which would be very useful today in the Black Sea. ”adds Marc Pierini, according to which “Turkey is now largely a prisoner of Russian military strategy”. In addition, Ankara is not participating in the land military deployment that NATO is currently conducting, from Estonia to Romania, with the aim of reassuring the countries in the region. Not a trace of a single Turkish flag.
🆕 UPDATE 🆕
In response, #NATO has reinforced its defensive presence in the eastern Alliance with more troops, aircraft and ships.
Here is the overview ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/nrAVDOGtJj
– Oana Lungescu (@NATOpress) March 22, 2022
Therefore, regardless of the apparent reconciliation movements of Turkey (rapprochement with Israel, Greece, Armenia, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia; condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine; vote in the UN condemning the aggression and calling for Russia to withdraw troops, closing the Strait of Russian ships), Turkey’s position vis – à – vis NATO is frozen.
The outstretched hand ofErdogan
But assures Yörük Işık, “If NATO decided to intervene in Ukraine, Turkey would assume its responsibilities. She would participate in the operations, it is not even a hypothesis, it is 100% safe. The problem is that according to some interpretations, the presence of the Russian S-400s on Turkish soil endangers the defense architecture of the Alliance, while in the corridors of the latter one wants to be sure that Turkey does not. leans too much to the Russian side.
“To ensure that Turkey does not act too positively towards Russia, the United States could make concessions to Ankara – for example, by approving the sale of forty new F-16s. But Washington will not do more, considering Gareth Jenkins. There is no way it will lift the CAATSA sanctions in connection with the purchase of the Russian S-400s unless Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gets rid of them – which he will not do because it would be a political humiliation for a month with presidential and parliamentary elections in June 2023. “
This is what sheds light on the information that US officials recently suggested to Ankara in a very informal way to transfer its S-400 anti-aircraft gun system to Ukraine while helping the neighbor to the Black Sea bombarded by Russia. Transfer impossible today because it would encounter many technical and political obstacles. But on Washington’s side, any Turkish desire for a strategic turnaround risks being measured by this measure.
So on the Turkish side, we are concerned that the Atlanticist allies are not seizing the opportunity that presents itself: “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan really wants to make this shift, explains Yörük Işık, but he must face a strong pro-Russian movement in the Turkish state. If the Alliance does not respond to this outstretched hand, it will be over. “