Turkey’s failed coup last month made headlines around the world, and now the aftermath is being felt. According to many experts, the coup attempt showed instability within Turkey, and it could have major international complications. Some pundits and politicians are questioning if Turkey should stay a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), while Turkey officials and some Americans are fighting back.
Turkey, the U.S., and NATO
Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and has provided valuable resources over the course of its membership. After the failed coup in July, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the event violated NATO’s standards of democracy and argued that Turkey no longer coincides with America’s values or goals in the Middle East. He was immediately hit with arguments from the opposition. According to James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, forcing Turkey to leave NATO would leave the U.S. “very disadvantaged vis-à-vis Russia and weakened with regard to Iran.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also issued a statement following Kerry’s remarks noting that Turkey’s membership in NATO is solid.
From the Turkish side, much of the blame for the revolt goes to the United States, at least in the eyes of Turkish president Recept Tayyip Erdogan. According to him, the reclusive and U.S. harbored cleric Fethullah Gulen is responsible for the attempted coup. Gulen is the leader of the Gulenist movement, a group of people seeking a moderate blend of Islam using the current market, commerce structure, and technology. Gulen and Erdogan were allies until corruption investigations took place in Turkey in 2013, for which Erdogan blamed Gulen.
Following the coup attempt, Erdogan removed tens of thousands of accused Gulenists from positions in the military, police, media, civil service, and academia, a move that received mixed to negative reaction around the world. It’s the latest in a shaky relationship between the U.S. and Turkey. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Turkey this week in an effort to repair the damage, but the success of his mission depends largely on whether or not President Obama decides to extradite Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania in a self-appointed exile. Turkey has officially sought extradition, but a result is not yet known.
However, despite all of the recent turmoil, many people agree that Turkey is still a valuable part of NATO. Turkey’s capital of Ankara is vital to U.S. efforts in the Middle East and Central Asia, making the shaky relationship one that could possibly be worth mending. Turkey is also an asset to NATO, largely because of its strategic geographical location. Because it neighbors Syria, Turkey has become a key location for transportation for soldiers and supplies to Afghanistan and as a staging area for fighting ISIS. Turkey has also absorbed the majority of refugees from Syria.
Turkey isn’t even close to considering leaving NATO, and one of the main reasons is money. Because Turkey is one of the most dependent emerging markets on foreign investments, leaving NATO would hurt investor sentiment even further, according to experts.
“Turkey needs NATO; it provides military training, defense capacity, and intelligence ties,” said Nihat Ali Ozcan, a former Turkish military officer.
Turkey and the EU
Turkey’s coup attempt also puts its relationship with the EU at risk. For the past year, Turkey has been in the EU’s good graces for its effort in controlling the influx of refugees from Syria, the largest number of refugees since World War II. However, the EU views the coup and the aftermath as authoritarian control by the government, which goes against the organization’s values.
The issue could come to a head in October, when the EU will decide whether to give Turkish citizens the visa-free travel it agreed to under the refugee deal signed this March. Under the statue, Turkish citizens could travel throughout the EU without a visa. If the EU doesn’t allow visa liberalization, Turkey has already said it would stop stemming the flow of refugees, which could lead to waves of migrants coming into Greece and other EU countries.
There’s also the issue that Erdogan is apparently trying to repair his relationship with Vladimir Putin, which was damaged in 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian military plane. Erdogan’s embrace of Putin is unsettling to Western allies, especially those who were already skeptical of Turkey’s commitment to democratic values.
Turkey’s recent actions are definitely shaky, especially in regard to its own economy and its relationship with a number of countries and organizations. However, Turkey has much to offer in terms of location and resources, which might outweigh its government’s recent actions, at least in the eyes of some international allies.