Turkey’s consistent hard-power approach to a range of regional issues and interests in the past decade, while displaying assertiveness in the global arena, carries long-term risks for the country, U.S.-Turkish relations expert Nick Danforth said.
“[Turkish politicians and pro-government analysts] have emphasized Turkey’s desire for greater independence in the world and less reliance on its erstwhile Western allies,’’ Danforth, a senior fellow for the German Marshall Fund, said on Wednesday in an article for non-partisan U.S. think tank, Center for Global Policy.
Tensions have been soaring in U.S.-Turkish relations as Ankara has refused to stand down on matters of conflicting interest between the once close allies. Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defence systems, and perceived defiance in the face of Washington’s objections, triggered the Washington to remove Turkey from its F-35 stealth fighter programme and U.S. Congress is currently preparing sanctions should the systems activate in April.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s forceful doctrine was also seen in neighbouring Syria, where it attacked U.S.-backed Kurdish militias with Donald Trump’s consent in October, although the Pentagon suspended an intelligence-sharing project with Ankara in retaliation.
“By enduring [U.S. responses to Turkish actions] and other consequences, the thinking goes, Turkey will eventually prove to Washington that it is not susceptible to U.S. pressure, thereby securing long term benefits in the form of a more egalitarian relationship,” Danforth wrote.
In exchange for curbing its confrontational foreign policies, Danforth said, the United States should take advantage of current multi-faceted tensions between Russia and Turkey to provide increased support to Ankara in handling its crises.
Turkey and Russia agreed in 2018 to establish a demilitarised zone in Idlib to prevent an offensive by the Moscow-backed Syrian government. But the Syrian government forces last month intensified their assault on the province and Turkey has reinforced its presence in the region over the last few weeks.
“The situation in Idlib should serve as a reminder that if Ankara, as it insists, wants to pursue a truly independent foreign policy, it can do so more effectively if it does not gratuitously alienate Washington,” he said.