The Skeptics

Is America's Alliance with Turkey Worth It?

There also is evidence of greater bilateral cooperation on other issues. The two governments (along with U.S. arch-adversary Iran) signed an oil and gas drilling agreement in August 2017. The measure followed a 2016 deal to build a Black Sea gas pipeline that bypassed Ukraine. Such steps are hardly consistent with Washington’s strategy of imposing unilateral and multilateral sanctions on Russia for the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. Indeed, Ankara increasingly opposes the entire U.S.-EU sanctions strategy against Moscow.

It is not that Turkey is necessarily wrong on these issues. In particular, a strong case can be made that Western policy toward Russia is both ineffectual and provocative, and that Ankara’s more conciliatory approach is far better. Whatever the substantive merits of Turkey’s policy, though, it clearly is not what the United States expects from a loyal ally. That country is now behaving as a highly independent power, if not an outright adversary. It requires an extraordinary act of tolerance—or self-delusion—to ignore the unpleasant implications.

Rogue external conduct, combined with the Erdogan regime’s mounting domestic repression, makes it nearly impossible to justify maintaining the U.S. security relationship with Ankara, either bilaterally or within NATO. As a first step toward adopting a new, more realistic stance, Washington should insist that NATO at least suspend, if not expel, Turkey. Under Erdogan, that country cannot be regarded any longer as either a legitimate member of a democratic alliance or as a reliable security partner.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of ten books, the contributing editor of ten books, and the author of more than 700 articles on international affairs.

Image: A Turkish tank maneuvers during a military exercise near the Turkish-Iraqi border in Silopi, Turkey September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas​

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