NATO and the European Union will be forced to take a harder and assertive stance in their dealings with Turkey in 2020, said Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels and former EU ambassador to Turkey on Wednesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has launched an offensive into northeast Syria against Kurdish forces allied with the West, threatened to send millions of Syrian refugees to Europe if the EU objects to Ankara’s plan to resettle them in a safe zone inside Syria begun installing Russian S-400 air defence missiles in defiance of NATO partners and shipped arms to Libya in breach of a U.N. embargo, among other moves.
“In this context, NATO and the EU have a similar political imperative, which is to continue defending their policies and interests irrespective of the Turkish leadership’s current assertive moves,” Pierini said.
The Turkish president’s methodology, which is replacing international collaboration with unilateral moves and confrontational statements, unavoidably constitutes considerable challenges for Greece, Cyprus, Israel, the EU, the United States, and NATO as a whole, the analyst said.
The defection of heavyweights and former allies from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over the past year, and the ongoing economic crisis, have weakened the domestic position of Erdoğan, Pierini said, prompting the Turkish president to resort increasingly to military and rhetorical muscle-flexing.
“The leadership’s populist narrative and unexpected initiatives is at odds with Turkey’s previous foreign policy choices, looks inconsistent from a NATO and European standpoint, and is filled with blatant contradictions. But in today’s Turkey, it probably sounds acceptable to a substantial segment of the domestic audience,” he said.
Western leaders should force the Turkish president to hold off escalating his confrontations to the point of crisis as Erdoğan’s dream of crowning two decades of Islamist AKP rule by refounding the Turkish Republic as the new founder of the country on the centennial year of its creation in 2023 draws near, according to the analyst.