News | Jan. 4, 2023

Turkey’s Future in NATO: Asset or Liability?

By Paul J. David-Justus National Institute for Public Policy

In September 2020, Greece and Turkey narrowly avoided war as a result of a dispute regarding offshore energy exploration rights in the Aegean Sea. This near-miss propelled Athens to pursue a military modernization program over the fear of a possible future escalation with Ankara—an ally ostensibly committed to Greece’s defense.[1]

The incident was not an isolated one, however. It followed the Trump administration’s leveling of sanctions against Turkey for its acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system in contravention of U.S. concerns, as well as its assault on U.S.-backed Kurdish militias in Syria.[2] It also comes against the backdrop of a deepening internal crackdown by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in recent years, featuring mass arrests, the erosion of the rule of law, and marked increases in the power of the Presidency. Further, Turkey has threated to veto Sweden and Finland’s applications for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership amid Russia’s unjust, irredentist invasion of Ukraine, delaying the addition of two strategically valuable members to the Alliance in a bid to gain political concessions.

Cumulatively, these developments have raised questions about Turkey’s future in NATO, with some officials and commentators doubting the value of its continued participation in the bloc.[3] Yet, such a move would be an unprecedented decision for the Alliance—and a potentially catastrophic one. This raises serious questions about the integrity and true purpose of NATO.

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