Ever since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan managed to nip an attempted coup against his government in the bud last month, he has been revving up his authoritarianism and throwing just about anyone who rubs him the wrong way into prison (including nearly half of his top military brass).
Last week, he took his despotism to a whole new level by issuing arrest warrants for 42 Turkish journalists who dared to cover the story of the failed putsch. (He already had at least 30 reporters and editors behind bars for having peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression, according to Reporters Without Borders.)
And now, Erdoğan is making barefaced accusations that the United States — its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bosom buddy — was behind the July 15 coup.
Meanwhile, the pro-Erdoğan Muslim media is pressuring Ankara to pull out of NATO, which it claims is anti-Islamic, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been hinting that unless Turkey returns to democratic practices and respect for human rights, Ankara could be ousted from the 28-member military alliance which it helped found in 1949.
But for all the piss and vinegar that may be brewing in Turkish-Western relations, Erdoğan doesn’t seem all that perturbed by the prospect of being thrown out of the occidental club.
And he is banking on the United States to continue to turn a blind eye to his shenanigans based on the fact that he still holds the trump card of the Incirlik Airbase next to Syria, which he has threatened to close down if the West doesn’t butt out of what he considers to be Turkey’s internal affairs.
Simply put, Erdoğan is convinced that the West needs him, both as a member of NATO and as a means of curbing the flow of migrants from Iraq and Syria.
But will Turkey’s exit from NATO really pose any great loss for the Atlantic Alliance?
To begin with, NATO was a Cold War construct that really has very little significance in a post-Soviet world.
Although its main objectives were militaristic, NATO’s founding fundamentals were based on Western traditions and democratic pluralism
Ever since he first came to power with his Development and Justice Party (AKP) in 2002, Erdoğan has gone out of his way to provoke the West with his progressively repressive and undemocratic policies, while openly courting fundamentalist Islamic practices.
His paranoid rantings and persecutions, along with the blatant lining of his pockets and those of his cohorts with cash pilfered from the national coffers have won him a dubious reputation as an unscrupulous plunderer.
Erdoğan is not exactly the kind of guy you want to have in your club, let alone watching your back.
It is true that Erdoğan has joined the anti-Islamic State coalition, but he has repeatedly been accused of sponsoring cross-border assaults into Syria and he is patently courting both Islam and Moscow.
NATO is a predominantly European organization, and Turkey under Erdoğan is now much more Eastern than Western.
It’s time to annul Ankara’s membership in an alliance that it mocks.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected].