Turkey’s pivotal role as NATO member cannot be overlooked - analysis

NATO must recognise Turkey’s importance and growing economic, political and military alternatives and thus utilise a different approach with Ankara if it wishes to bring it back into the fold, an analysis published in independent think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said.

Turkey’s key role as a member of NATO cannot be overlooked, despite how difficult strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can be, wrote Peter Roberts, RUSI Director of Military Sciences, in an article he co-authored with intern Seth Newkirk.

Turkey began to take delivery of the Russian S-400 missile systems last month, in a move that resulted in the Pentagon suspending Ankara’s participation in the F-35 programme and possibly facing sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which bars U.S. allies from buying weapons from Moscow. 

The United States and its NATO allies see the S-400 as incompatible with NATO systems and posing a security threat to the F-35 stealth fighter.

This latest source of tension between NATO and Turkey is another in a long line of disputes between the parties, the analysts wrote, adding however that Turkey’s role in NATO often goes unrecognised and underappreciated. 

Turkey has the largest population of any NATO member after the United States and Germany and the largest military in Europe, it recalled. 

The country plays a pivotal role in NATO’s mission in restraining Russia, the EU’s interest in controlling migration into Europe, and serves as a key in U.S. aspirations to contain China, Roberts and Newkirk wrote. 

Pointing out that NATO allies have often failed to acknowledge the significance of Turkey’s position within the alliance and its region, the article said the West cannot attempt to ‘’beat Turkey about the head until it submits.’’

Turkey is now equipped with more power as it can turn to the likes of Russia and China, which calls for the West to take on a different approach to bring Turkey back into the fold. 

Turkey’s procurement of Russia’s S 400 missile defence system, in addition to cooperation in neighbouring Syria have resulted in Ankara and Moscow effectively being branded as official allies. 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade disputes with China call for an increased partnership with countries such as Turkey more than ever, the article said, adding that this is in the interests of all NATO member states.