As Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to mend fences with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the rift between Ankara and Washington seemed to widen a little more.
Turkey’s Justice Minister fired verbal a warning shot to the United States: hand over cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey claims was behind a July coup attempt, or risk sacrificing America’s relationship with its NATO ally.
Gulen has been living in self-exile in the U.S. since 1999. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau says extraditing Gulen is a “legal, technical process…governed by a 1981 extradition treaty.”
Turkey and Russia have been on opposite ends of the war in Syria, magnified in November when a Russian warplane that strayed into Turkish airspace was shot down. Now, foreign policy experts are trying to read the tea leaves from the Erdogan-Putin get together.
Turkey Is No Longer a Reliable Ally
Steven A. Cook & Michael J. Koplow – The Wall Street Journal
The two countries are at odds over Syria and the urgency of removing Syrian President Bashar Assad; over support for Syrian Kurds who, in contrast to the Turks, have proved to be reliable U.S. partners in the fight against Islamic State; over the territorial sovereignty of Iraq; and over continuing sanctions on Iran….
No issue demonstrates the divergence better than the drama over Incirlik air base. This facility, a little more than 200 miles from Raqqa in Iraq and twice that from Mosul, is important to the coalition against Islamic State. But the Turks forced the U.S. into a yearlong negotiation to use the base to strike the would-be caliphate.
When Ankara finally joined the coalition, it still prioritized its war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Kurdish nationalism.
Turkey and the West Are Headed for a Breakup
William Armstrong – War on the Rocks
The botched coup attempt of July 15 and the reaction in the aftermath have exposed a widening emotional chasm between Ankara and its Western allies. A conviction is strengthening among many in Turkey that the United States was behind the violent attempt to overthrow the Turkish government….
For many in Turkey – and not just supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — the response to the putsch by Western government officials has felt tepid….
After years of President Erdogan’s anti-democratic crackdown and relentless slamming of the West, the lack of empathy among Europeans and Americans is understandable. But it also misses the point. Many Turks sense a failure in the West to recognize how much worse things could have been if the military had taken over.
A plate decorated with a photo of Putin, Erdogan shaking hands seen during a bilateral meeting between two leaders pic.twitter.com/asSbEhre0f— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) August 9, 2016
What Putin Wants but Doesn’t Get from Erdogan
Leonid Bershidsky – Bloomberg View
The resurgent friendship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a strange thing: Putin knows what he wants from Erdogan, and he’s gone his half of the way, but he’s not getting it yet despite Erdogan’s exaggerated show of friendlines….
For all of Erdogan’s anti-Western rhetoric, fueled by U.S. reluctance to extradite his enemy Fethullah Gulen and the European Union’s refusal to budge on granting Turks visa-free travel, Erdogan’s interests are not aligned with Putin’s in Syria. He still wishes the rebels success against Assad — and against Syrian Kurds, whom Fatah Al-Sham is fighting. Gripes against the West may unite Putin and Erdogan as two bitter, ambitious and authoritarian rulers, but they are not enough of a platform on which to build a new alliance in the Syrian war that would effectively destroy Turkey’s affiliation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Beyond the Turkish Coup
George Friedman – Geopolitical Futures
Turkey now has three options. The first is to try to manage its interests by itself. The second, is to attempt to ally with Russia for joint management of the region,. The third is to return to its prior alliance with the United States.
It’s always attractive to be self-reliant. However, Turkey has only just started the process of institutional reconstruction….
An alliance with Russia makes sense. The oideal strategy is that the two weaker powers collaborate to block the stronger power….
The problem with an alliance with the United States is the imbalance of power leaves Turkey vilnerable to shifts in American policy.
How to Play Nice with an Angry Erdogan
Stephen Kinzer – The New York Times
Never has a NATO member strayed so far from the fold. This pushes the United States toward a painful choice. It can disavow Mr. Erdogan, break with Turkey and even try to expel it from NATO. That would be the moral course toward a tyranny-in-the-making. It would also bring coherence back to NATO policy in Syria, where today one ally, the United States, supports factions that another ally, Turkey, attacks and bombs.
The alternative is to swallow hard, recognize Turkey’s unique geopolitical importance and accept Mr. Erdogan as he is. This is the messier and less noble option, but the likelier one because it best suits American interests.