Turkey expert argues rapprochement with the US is impossible under Erdogan
In his latest for the international security publication Defense One, Senior Fellow on Turkey at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Associate Professor of Security Studies Sinan Ciddi rejects Turkey’s Ambassador Murat Mercan’s claims that “gradual rapprochement between Turkey and the Unites States” is inevitable.
Ciddi stresses that Erdogan, who may continue as Turkey’s President after a critical election this May, has effectively ensured that rapprochement cannot happen while he is in office by fostering a pervasive anti-Western and anti-American rhetoric among the ranks of the government and the electorate.
Ciddi cites examples of Cabinet-level ministers disparaging the United States or even rejecting US military aid following the earthquake due to a conspiracy theory that the aid was part of an effort to invade Turkey.
Ciddi then highlights the main issues that would prevent rapprochement with the US, pointing to choices made by Erdogan that make the country a less than favorable ally for the West. Ciddi writes that the Erdogan government’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, despite warnings that it threatened NATO’s interoperability and encouragements to purchase an American equivalent, further fractured US-Turkey relations.
Turkey and the US are also at odds regarding the situation of Syrian Kurds, regarded by Turkey as terrorists yet considered allies by the US in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria. In addition to threatening regional stability, Turkey has also undermined NATO interests by blocking enlargement of the alliance through the accession of Finland and Sweden.
Ciddi concludes his argument by indicating that the biggest obstacle to rapprochement is Erdogan himself. Once praised for building a “model country,” Erdogan has in the past years “eroded the fundamentals of rule of law, common decency, and democratic governance inside Turkey.” This disregard for democratic values is what disqualifies Turkey from being a true ally to the West. Ciddi advises that while diplomatic ties may be strengthened should the election result in an opposition victory, the “United States should not settle for a bad ally” if Erdogan does indeed continue to hold the presidency.