By Kyriacos Jacovides*
The latest developments in the Middle East after the terrorist actions of Hamas and the reaction of Israel have proven once again that Turkey does not want and does not belong to the Western alliance. Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to align himself with the extremist Islamists of Hamas and Iran clearly shows where the country is heading.
In fact, Turkey has never been a reliable partner and ally. The history of the last 100 years and more proves this since, in many critical historical periods, this country not only did not ally itself with its Western partners and allies but was opposed to them.
In World War I it fought against the West, while in World War II it remained defiantly neutral, even facilitating the advance of Nazi Germany towards the then-Soviet Union after the conquest of Greece. It also allowed the passage of German warships through the Bosphorus Straits and “declared” war on Germany in February 1945, when the Allies reached the outskirts of Berlin.
When the United States decided to attack Iraq in 2003, it asked Turkey to use the American bases in the country but also to allow ground troops to pass through Turkish territory and invade northern Iraq. Washington even offered Ankara billions of dollars in financial aid, much-needed cash, the cancellation of various debts and the donation of military equipment. Washington’s request was turned down, resulting in valuable time being lost, military plans being changed and much more money being required to move the US armed forces from elsewhere.
In the war against the Islamic State, Turkey essentially sided with the ISIS terrorists, which it financed. As satellite images and videos released at the time revealed, hundreds of trucks were coming and going every day from the south of the country to areas controlled by the Islamic State and carrying oil back to Turkey. It was even estimated that Turkey was paying ISIS terrorists a million dollars a day to buy the oil.
But Turkey did not stop at buying oil from the Islamist terrorists and financing them. It was also revealed to be supplying ISIS with military equipment when, as the Turkish newspaper Cumhurriyet reported in May and June 2015, the Turkish gendarmerie stopped a convoy of trucks for inspection. According to the gendarmerie report, the trucks belonged to the MIT, the Turkish Intelligence Services, and were carrying explosives. Cumhurriyet published photos of the trucks and a video documentary on its website, which proved that weapons and jihadists were being transported to an Islamic State camp in Syria. The official Turkish state was arming ISIS terrorists.
Recently, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkey is playing a double game: It sold some drones to Ukraine but distanced itself from the sanctions imposed by its Western “allies” against Russia and Russian oligarchs. It refused to close its airspace to Russian aircraft and at the same time turned itself into a safe haven for Russian oligarchs, against whom sanctions were imposed by the US and the EU.
Even on the issue of Sweden’s NATO membership, Turkey asked for absurd trade-offs that had nothing to do with the North Atlantic Alliance, such as issues related to its EU accession path.
With the current crisis in the Middle East, Erdogan’s Turkey has aligned itself with Iran and Muslim extremists. His daily inflammatory statements and those of other Turkish officials have created such a cold war climate that, combined with violent protests, have forced the US to close its consulate in Adana, while Israel has ordered all its diplomats to leave the country.
So, this is Turkey. It turns out that over time it has been confronting its allies and constantly creating problems for them. Some high-ranking officials’ argument that Turkey has the largest army in NATO after the US means nothing. It has been proving this continuously for more than 100 years with its behavior. It has never fought a war with the Allies. It has always been on the opposite side. This erratic Turkish policy has been further exacerbated in the last 20 years with the rise to power of Tayyip Erdogan, who seeks to become the political leader of the Islamic world.
It is time to change the view prevailing in NATO’s highest levels that because of its geostrategic position, and the fact that it has the second largest army in the alliance, Turkey is indispensable for the West and its security. It is a view that Ankara fully exploits, and as a result, it often pursues a policy that runs counter to that of its allies, as it is doing now with the crisis in the Middle East, but also for the past year and a half on the issue of sanctions against Russia and the purchase of the S400 missiles.
The Americans, who are the dominant and driving force in NATO, have already started to form scenarios regarding the security and future of the alliance without Turkey. The development of the port of Alexandroupolis for military purposes and the doubling of the Suda base are indicative of Washington’s intentions. US foreign policy is likened to an aircraft carrier: to turn around it needs a lot of space and time. And once it starts to change course, it doesn’t stop. Time will tell. Cyprus and Greece should take advantage of the new facts. They must and they can.
* Kyriacos Jacovides is a Journalist and Political Scientist.