Turkey may pull out of NATO if unacceptable U.S. demands and threats continue, dealing the alliance a possibly fatal blow, an analyst has warned.
"Turkey’s military is second only to the U.S. in troop strength. Pulling out of NATO would be a significant body blow to the alliance," Stephen Lendman wrote in a Sunday article for the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), a Canadian-based nonprofit.
"If unacceptable U.S. demands and threats continue, it [withdrawal] may be inevitable," Lendman said.
He made the comments at a time when the strategic future of Turkish-U.S. relations is facing a number of trials.
In December 2017, Turkey agreed to buy Russian S-400 air defense systems after its 2013 initiatives to purchase U.S.-made Patriot missiles fell on deaf ears.
During the height of the expanding Syrian civil war that threatened Turkey's southern borders, Washington was aware of Turkey's need for an air defense system, yet proposed an exorbitant price for its Patriots.
In an interview this April with Defense and Aerospace Report, Stephen Flanagan, senior political scientist at RAND Corporation, a policy think tank, said the U.S. had "concerns" about Turkey at the time.
In 2013, the U.S. assumed that Turkey would be unable to secure its defense needs through other vendors, Russia in particular, since the two countries were at odds with each other over the Syrian war until 2016.
Turkey later shopped for European alternatives, especially Italian, but in 2017 when Russian offered its state-of-the art S-400s at a reasonable price and with a fair contract, the Turkish government signed the deal.
Since then, although Turkish officials have repeatedly stressed their commitment to NATO’s mission and said Turkey is not choosing Russia over NATO, Washington has pursued a policy of issuing threats.
That policy reached a new low this week when the U.S. State Department gave Turkey a July 31 deadline to suspend the S-400 deal, or else face consequences.
Rebuffing the deadline, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the S-400 issue is a "done deal" and "backtracking is out of the question," while Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "No one can force Turkey to choose between NATO and Russia."
- 'Long-term strategy needed in relations with Turkey'
Flanagan said he believes the U.S. should "leave a door open" in its relations with Turkey and develop a long-term strategy.
He explained: “If you look back to the last elections and including the recent local elections in Turkey, in June of 2016 … almost 47% of the Turkish population voted against the government's policies … And those main opposition parties, the CHP [Republican People’s Party] and the Iyi Party, the ‘Good’ Party, ran on a platform of improving relations with the United States, NATO and the European Union."
"So I think it’s important that we have a long-term strategy for dealing with Turkey, that I think we will see change," said Flanagan, expressing hope that the political landscape in Turkey will change in future elections.
"Turkey remains a very divided country … I think Turkey is not on an inevitable trajectory towards becoming aligned or developing a so-called Eurasian option or becoming really non-aligned," he added.
On Turkey's commitment to NATO, Flanagan said Turkey is contributing its fair share to NATO in Afghanistan and elsewhere.