President Recep Tayyip Erdogan found himself at odds with some allies recently when he ordered a military incursion into Syria targeting Syrian Kurdish militias along the border. His French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron cited Ankara’s failure to consult with other members as a reason for considering NATO “brain dead.”
This week, the two leaders will have the opportunity to discuss their differences in person when NATO convenes for a low-key meeting to celebrate its 70th anniversary. Before departing to London on Tuesday for the two-day event, Erdogan said NATO needs to change with the times, and reiterated his demand for “unconditional” support for Turkey’s military action in Syria. The Kurdish militias there are considered terrorists by Ankara.
Erdogan said unless his condition is met, Turkey will continue to obstruct NATO’s deployment plans in the Baltic and Poland. Ankara’s consent is necessary to pour more of NATO’s resources into the Eastern European allies – ostensibly to protect them against a hypothetical attack by Russia. Moscow denies having any intention of attacking either of the allies.
The Turkish president also defended the good ties his country has with Russia, saying it does not contradict being a member of NATO. Among other things, Turkey bought advanced Russian air defense systems despite vocal objections from Washington, has received the first deliveries of Russian gas through a freshly-built underwater pipeline, and is closely involved with Moscow in Syria.