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Turkey is back from the cold with NATO and F-16 moves, but thorny issues remain – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Turkey is back from the cold with NATO and F-16 moves, but thorny issues remain – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

 


  • Relations between Turkey and the West are strained to say the least.
  • But with Turkey's decision to admit Sweden into NATO at the end of January, a decision that required unanimous approval of all 31 members of the alliance, it is as if a switch has been flipped.
  • Turkey appears to have a unique position that allows it to push boundaries and cross boundaries with its NATO allies.

Turkey spent almost two years, alongside Hungary, preventing Sweden from joining NATO.

He purchased powerful Russian weapons systems and its outspoken President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly castigates the leaders of Western allied countries. Relations between Turkey and the West are strained to say the least.

But with the decision to admit Sweden into NATO at the end of January, a decision that required unanimous approval of all 31 members of the alliance, it was as if a switch had been flipped.

A few hours after Ankara's decision, the The United States approved a sale of F-16 fighter jets for $23 billion in Turkey, which had been delayed since 2021. The State Department's Victoria Nuland said Turkey would immediately begin receiving modernization kits for its F-16s and that Washington would be “delighted” to welcome back the Turkey in the F-35 program for NATO's most important needs. advanced combat aircraft, as soon as the allies solved the problem question of purchases of Russian weapons systems by Turkey.

It is worth noting that Hungary has not yet approved Sweden's NATO candidacy and remains the only alliance member standing in the way of the Nordic country's membership.

“No country in the Western orbit has taken so many problematic steps only to be welcomed with open arms,” wrote David Lepeska, a columnist on Turkish affairs and the Eastern Mediterranean, for a UAE media outlet. The National.

Turkey appears to have a unique position that allows it to push boundaries and cross boundaries with its NATO allies. And he's also being welcomed with open arms after just one change in position, despite calls for stricter accountability from some U.S. lawmakers.

“My approval of the Turkish request to purchase F-16 aircraft was contingent on Turkish approval of Sweden's membership in NATO. But make no mistake: this is not a decision that I took it lightly,” said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman. Committee, said in a statement.

General view of the General Assembly of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) during the debate on the bill approving the ratification of the Protocol of Accession of Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO ) in Ankara, Turkey on January 23, 2024. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Methane Acta | Anadolu | Getty Images

General view of the General Assembly of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) during the debate on the bill approving the ratification of the Protocol of Accession of Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO ) in Ankara, Turkey on January 23, 2024. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Senator Chris Van Hollen said he welcomed Turkey's ratificationbut added: “I continue to be seriously concerned about President Erdogan's ongoing attacks against our Syrian Kurdish allies, his aggressive actions in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the role he has played in supporting Azerbaijan's military attacks against Nagorno-Karabakh. closely monitor the situation in Turkey in the coming weeks and months, actions speak louder than words.”

Crucial strategic ally

The more a country is needed by its allies and partners on a strategic or economic level, the more it can get away with it, geopolitical analysts point out.

Turkey has NATO's second-largest army after the United States, its Incirlik air base is a key takeoff point for Western sorties into the Middle East, such as warplane flights over of Syria and Iraq during the anti-IS campaign, and it even houses around fifty soldiers. American nuclear warheads.

“Historically, Trkiye has been a crucial member of NATO given its geostrategic position straddling Europe and Asia and controlling access to the Black Sea,” Hakan Akbas, the group's senior adviser, told CNBC Albright Stonebridge.

The country controls the Bosphorus Strait, a crucial sea route for global food and agricultural trade and military logistics. It has also been “a critical partner in various military operations and missions operating alongside the United States,” most recently in Afghanistan, Akbas said.

But Turkey's strategic value to NATO goes beyond its military role. “It constitutes a key player in regional security, bordering Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and a transit country for energy pipelines essential to global markets,” Akbas added. “This position gives Ankara considerable leverage in its relations with other NATO members, allowing it more latitude than smaller or less strategically located members might enjoy.”

The Turkish government's friendship toward Russia makes many NATO members uncomfortable; but it simultaneously allows it to do things like negotiate the Black Sea grain deal and the Ukraine-Russia prisoner swaps.

Washington's decision to move quickly on the sale of F-16s to Turkey “can be seen as a gesture of goodwill from the United States and recognition of Trkiye's critical role within the alliance” , Akbas said, “keeping it closer to the alliance.” Russia balancing its security needs with broader concerns about regional stability. »

“This underlines the robust and yet adaptive nature of NATO-Trkiye relations,” he added, “in which strategic imperatives often lead to possible compromises and concessions from all parties involved.”

Persistent tensions

Turkey and its NATO allies, particularly the United States, still clash in a number of sensitive areas.

Ankara purchases Russian S-400 missile defense system constitutes a risk for the security of NATO's defense systems, Washington says so to the point that the purchase in 2019 Turkey was excluded from NATO's F-35 program, which would have led to it participating in the manufacturing and acquisition of these advanced stealth aircraft.

At the same time, Ankara openly condemns American support for Kurdish militias in Syria, which it considers to be part of a Kurdish terrorist group threatening Turkey. Its military campaigns against these groups in Syria have even led to sporadic indirect conflicts with US forces in the region.

Turkey's Erdogan also expressed vocal support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and provides a safe haven for some of its leaders designated as terrorists by the United States. Meanwhile, Turkey's unilateral actions regarding maritime disputes with fellow NATO members Greece and Cyprus have also drawn criticism from the alliance.

“Any of these issues could quickly escalate, depending on domestic political or economic developments in Trkiye, changes in the regional security landscape, or changes in U.S. and NATO policies,” Akbas said .

“The dynamic nature of geopolitics in the regions means that while some disputes may be temporarily resolved or calmed, they may re-emerge as significant challenges to alliance cohesion and cooperation.”

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