The United States is Losing Turkey
The United States is in the middle of committing an immense foreign policy blunder, arguably the biggest since the invasion of Iraq. A blunder that reshapes the Middle East in its entirety and could significantly weaken NATO and gulf allies of the United States.
Ever since the failed Turkish coup attempt on July 17th, relations between the United States and Turkey have gradually deteriorated. Firstly, the United States disapproved of Erdogan’s methods in order to crack down on the coup plotters and prevent a coup attempt from ever happening again. This relates to the general mistrust between Erdogan and the United States. Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than any other nation. Erdogan has also engaged in anti-democratic practices, including a referendum which allows Erdogan to theoretically stay in power until 2029. Since politicians in the US like to base foreign policy off morals (a terrible idea) in order to please voters who don’t know better, this results in worsened ties between the US and Turkey. But why does this matter?
Despite its democratic shortcomings, Turkey is one of the most important allies of the United States. It’s military is stronger than any other Middle Eastern military, and is the fourth strongest military in NATO. Turkey has been a US ally since the start of the Cold War, when it served as a bulwark against Soviet aggression in the Middle East. Turkey has control over the Bosphorus, the waterway which connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean (which in turn connects to the Atlantic Ocean). This is important because important Russian ports, such as Sevastopol, are situated on the Black Sea, and Russia’s baltic ports are both A) frozen over during the Russian winter, and B) can be blocked off by NATO members such as Germany, Denmark, and Estonia. Thus, without the Bosphorus, Russia’s access to the Atlantic is essentially cut off.
However. Turkey seems to be instead swinging in the direction of Russia and Iran. Although Russia/Iran and Turkey supported different sides during the Syrian civil war, they recently held a summit in Sochi to discuss plans for post-war Syria. With Bashar Al-Assad and Turkey sharing a common enemy in the Kurds, it is possible that we see Turkey and Syria reconciling, followed by military action against Kurdish militant groups such as the YPG, Peshmerga, and the PKK. Additionally, Russia and Turkey have agreed to deepen bilateral ties, including proposals to raise bilateral trade between Russia and Turkey to 100 billion dollars, and Turkey is currently attempting to purchase several S-400 missile units from Russia.
While Erdogan won’t be leading chants of “death to America” any time soon, Turkey’s slide towards Russia is extremely worrying. The loss of Turkey would severely compromise the position of the US and her allies in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. No matter the internal political situation of Turkey, Turkey is far too valuable of an ally to let go due to moral concerns. The US must retain Turkey as an ally, or it may soon lose the entire Middle East.