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Do not exclude Turkey from European defense efforts because of Erdoan

Do not exclude Turkey from European defense efforts because of Erdoan
Do not exclude Turkey from European defense efforts because of Erdoan

 


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The writer is director of the Turkey Program at the Middle East Institute and author of Erdoans War: A Strongmans Struggle at Home and in Syria.

NATO leaders will meet in Washington in July at a critical time for European defense. Russia's invasion of Ukraine confirmed that Europe cannot defend itself without America. This is worrying, especially since Donald Trump, whose commitment to European security is questionable to say the least, could return to the White House. Even if the next president is a Europhile, the war in Ukraine and US efforts to pivot to the Indo-Pacific present Europe with its most dangerous situation in decades.

To be autonomous in defense matters, Europe must start entertaining uncomfortable ideas. This includes integrating Turkey into plans to strengthen European military capabilities. For many European leaders, however, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoan tops the list of unsavory partners, and for good reason. His autocratic rule, his unpredictability and his tirades against the West often anger them. The long hesitations of Turkish strongmen regarding the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO were only the latest headache for Western leaders. Add to this Erdo's warm relations with Russia's Vladimir Putin and Turkey's troubled history with Greece and Cyprus, and it is clear why Ankara is seen not as an indispensable ally but as a security disruptor European.

It is not surprising that Turkey has been excluded from efforts to strengthen Europe's defense capacity, including permanent structured cooperation. Created by the EU in 2017 amid concerns over Trump's commitment to European security, Pesco aims to deepen cooperation between member states but is open to the involvement of third countries. However, the EU has long rejected Turkey's participation in this project. political reasons. One of the outspoken opponents of Turkey's integration is French President Emmanuel Macron, who calls for stronger European defense and a more globally assertive EU, but sees Erdoan's foreign policy as a obstacle.

Macron may not want to hear it, but the EU does not have the military capabilities to match its aspirations. The defense of Europe against a revisionist Russia must involve non-NATO countries. The sad truth is that excluding Turkey from efforts to strengthen European defense because of Erdoan is shortsighted.

Turkey already plays an essential role in the defense of Europe. It participates in NATO operations and numerous EU missions. Furthermore, strengthening the continent's capacity to defend itself is a generational project and Erdoan will not rule Turkey forever, no matter how hard he tries. March's municipal elections, which dealt a seismic blow to the ruling party, underscore Erdoan's weakening grip on power. Post-Erdoan Turkey may only partially change its foreign policy, but it will have more to offer in a European defense against Russia. Here are three reasons why.

First, despite Erdo's close ties to Putin, a revisionist Russia poses a serious threat to Turkish national security. Second, Turkey's defense industry received a boost under Erdoan, but its future will be even better thanks to democratic governance, meritocracy and financial stability. From munitions to short- and medium-range air defense systems, Turkey's defense industry can pay dividends for long-term European security and help Europe fill the gaps left by the United States. Finally, Turkey can help Europe address its labor shortage. Under Erdoan, the Turkish army, like all other institutions, has been politicized and staffed by loyalists. But it remains NATO's second-largest army and its professionalism will be restored once autocratic politics disappears.

Rebuilding European defense is a monumental task. When Europe implements its military action, it will have to integrate Turkey into its plans. This will not only strengthen the defense of a post-American Europe, but also anchor post-Erdoan Turkey in the European security architecture.

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