Challenges that are not easy to be handled

Friday, 2019-12-06 16:19:46
 Font Size:     |        Print

NDO - Over the recent past, Turkey has many controversial actions in a number of international issues, which have caused cracks in the relationship between Turkey and other members of NATO. Though Turkey has insisted that its interests are inseparable from NATO and attempted to heal its relations with the allies, the country is facing numerous challenges that need to be resolved.

The rift in relations between Turkey and NATO allies, especially with the US, stems from the issue of the Kurds in Syria. Ankara opposed the US for backing Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria as well as considering the YPG an effective partner in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). Because Turkey listed the YPG as an terrorist organisation and considered it a threat to the national security, as the YPG has ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who is demanding for separatism in Turkey. Despite allies' opposition, Turkey launched a military operation against the Kurdish force in northern Syria after the US withdrew from the country. European allies urged Turkey to refrain from taking action against the Kurds in northern Syria, fearing that Ankara's military campaign could destroy the fruits of the US-led coalition fight against the IS. French President E. Macron has recently criticised that Turkey might cooperate with the IS when conducting a military campaign against the Kurdish force.

Despite concerns from allies, Turkey has used many “cards” to “bargain” on the issue of the Kurds in Syria. Turkey and the European Union (EU) have reached an agreement whereby Ankara plays a “blocking” role to prevent the influx of migrants from Syria from flooding into Europe. However, Turkey threatens to let the migrants flee into Europe if EU countries do not support Ankara's plan to establish a “safe zone” in northern Syria. In fact, Turkey wants to take control of Syria's border area, pushing the Kurdish force out of its border area.

Recently, Turkish President T. Erdogan also announced that he would oppose NATO's plan to protect the Baltic countries if NATO does not support Ankara's view of the Kurdish force as a terrorist group.

While blaming the US for not fully implementing a ceasefire agreement in northern Syria reached between Washington and Ankara, Turkey turned to cooperate with Russia with an agreement in Sochi. Ankara said that the US did not keep up its commitment to ensure a full withdrawal of the Kurdish force in Syria from the Turkish border area. Meanwhile, with the Sochi deal, Turkey and Russia conducted joint patrols in northern Syria after the withdrawal of the Kurdish force. Ankara continued to join Russia and Iran to promote Astana dialogue mechanism, and find solutions to the Syrian crisis.

The closer proximity to Russia caused Turkey to be strongly criticised by the US and other NATO allies when buying Russia's S-400 air defence missile systems. The military bloc said that the S-400 system was incompatible with NATO systems and posed a threat to the alliance. Disagreement between the two sides led the US to remove Turkey from NATO's development cooperation programme on the US-made F-35 fighters. Turkey tried to allay NATO concerns by saying it would not integrate the Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems into NATO's air defence and security systems, but said it would deploy the S-400 from the spring of 2020. That has not stopped allies afraid. The United States has soundly demanded that Turkey abandon Russia's S-400 missile system to resolve the deadlock in relations with Washington.

Apart from the aforementioned disagreements, Turkey continued to deport dozens of suspected IS members. This is part of the overall plan of the Turkish authorities to deport and repatriate thousands of foreigners, mainly from Europe, who have fought for the IS. Ankara criticised European countries for being hesitant to accept their citizens who had joined the IS. NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg is working to resolve the dispute with Turkey. However, with the benefits related to the geopolitical position of Turkey, it is difficult for Ankara to change the policy before the demands of its allies. Despite insisting on attaching importance to relations with NATO allies, Turkey must continue to be vigilant in every “move” on the “Syrian chess board” as well as deal with regional and international issues in order to protect its national interests.