Alliance in the East

The European Union and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), have found themselves in yet another sticky situation with respect to the ongoing Middle Eastern turmoil. Turkey’s recent coup, although the previous regime still holds office, has created a political and military hole. Since their admittance into NATO in 1952, Turkey has worked hand in hand with the EU to integrate themselves into the Euro-Atlantic community. In payment for the acceptance of NATO, Turkey assumes responsibilities that protect the interests of the organization. Performing as a base of operations for NATO affiliates such as Britain and the United States, it is a keystone in operations held in the northeastern hemisphere and provides constant surveillance on countries such as China and Russia. They are the key strategic point for western countries who hold stock in Turkey’s neighbors. However, flying that closely to the sun may result in getting burned.

Russia has started down the path to diplomatic rapprochement with Turkey, after centuries of hatred for one another with the addition of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, looking to find a possible ally closer to the Middle Eastern conflicts that seem to be ongoing. Recently the Putin-Russian agenda has been propping up Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, while Ankara seems to favor support of their enemies. Relations hit an all-time low last November when Turkey shot a Russian fighter jet down while attempting to enter their airspace, leading to Russian sanctions and perpetuating the distance between the two. However, even before the military “takeover” last month, president Erdogan made the executive decision to reopen a more hospitable relationship between the countries in an attempt to end the ongoing cold war. The coup seems to have created a vacuum which Russia wants to fill as quickly as possible. President Erdogan and Putin met less than a week ago to speak about a normalized relationship between the two countries.

What are the motives and incentives behind a Russian-Turkish alliance? Well, for starters, the management of Russian anger over the shot down jet in November is a small price to for the abrasiveness that driving such a large wedge between the EU, NATO and Turkey will create. The resemblance of the two rulers is hard to overlook, tyrannical despot’s masquerading as democratic leaders, only Russia holds no common agenda with true democratic leadership. This may be the fine line in what separates Turkey from Russia, a strong hand holding them back from making a mistake, NATO.

Post-coup, Turkish leaders were able to purge their opposition by averting blame and a part in the revolt. The political and social opposition was holding the true agenda of Turkish leaders in stasis and who now only have NATO to answer to, but for how long? Recent talk of Turkey being admitted into the European Union has slowed the diplomatic process with Russia. However, no date has been set for this initiation and many smaller EU countries have publicly stated their choice to veto the ascension of Turkey. With the promise of alliance from a union full of countries who do not support the alliance, Turkey may find favor in a more welcoming relationship with Russia, an old enemy. After the failed coup and repeated terror attacks on the Turkish people, Erdogan needs all the friends he can get. Befriending Russia seems counterintuitive with respect to those goals, as the United States and the rest of NATO hold such a shaky relationship with them.

So, as the United States watches their allies decide between a NATO or Russian alliance, one can only cringe as relations between the two eastern countries become more favorable towards Russia. One can only imagine that if Turkey does side with Russia, that NATO will remove all aid and possibly even place sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. This would be considered, by some, an “alliance of misfits” rejected by the West and mistreated by their previous allies. Both are fearful of regime change from within and strive to hold, by force, the current administration. Should the United States intervene? Should NATO make a power move to block the building of a relationship that could cause trouble in the East? The West must decide their next move with appropriate measure and quickly.