“Why not chuck Turkey out of NATO?” asks columnist
The FT’s chief foreign affairs columnist points out how President Erdogan “immediately created fresh doubts” after pulling his veto back on Sweden and Finland’s membership bids by saying the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT) will not ratify the agreement unless Stockholm agrees to extradite 73 people to Turkey.
Erdoğan is an infuriating but indispensable ally https://t.co/Ptg53ngiDK— Financial Times (@FT) July 4, 2022
“Surrendering anyone to the mercies of Erdogan’s justice system is a tough ask for any democracy,” Rachman says. To illustrate his point, he gives the example of Selahattin Demirtas – former presidential candidate and co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who has been incarcerated since 2016. Rachman points out that Demirtas is still behind bars despite the European Court of Human Rights ruling for his immediate release. He also emphasizes that Demirtas is not alone. Among the tens of thousands of unjustly imprisoned prisoners of thought is Osman Kavala, a businessperson, and philanthropist who was jailed for life in April for allegedly plotting a coup.
According to Rachman, Erdogan’s behavior at home is in direct contrast with what NATO stands for. “The alliance says it is based on the defense of democracy and human rights. But imprisoning political opponents on trumped-up charges is the kind of thing that Vladimir Putin does,” he says.
But despite these problematic points, “the expulsion of Turkey, even if it were legally possible, would be a strategic disaster,” says Rachman. Ankara’s ejection from the bloc could push it to side with Russia. That would be a nightmare scenario for Ukraine and NATO, according to Rachman. “If Turkey became a de facto ally of Russia, Ukraine would effectively become a landlocked country and Russia would be at the gates of the Mediterranean.”
The columnist also predicts that Turkey leaving NATO would alter the security balance in the Middle East. “Given the overwhelming importance for NATO of countering Russia,” Rachman argues, “it is more vital than ever to keep Turkey on side.”
Rachman underlines that Erdogan is perfectly aware of the leverage he has over the alliance thanks to the war in Ukraine. “The weakness of the Turkish economy gives the other NATO members some counter-leverage over Erdogan” reminds Rachman. With Erdogan unwilling to opt for an IMF bailout and the Turkish Lira in freefall, “Turkey is likely to need foreign assistance to avoid economic disaster” Rachman says. This is where other allies might step in according to the columnist. “Turkey might have to take a more reasonable attitude on NATO membership for Finland and Sweden. And if that sounds like haggling in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul – so be it," he says.