Alliances in northern Syria: How Erdogan unwittingly turns enemies into friends

A fatal misjudgment. This was followed by a tweet from the US President and Erdogan flew his own currency around the ears. 

US punitive tariffs: Turkish lira falls and falls – and pulls the euro with them

The people in Turkey are unsettled. “Many shops can no longer open because they import their products and these have become so expensive due to the high euro exchange rate that the countries either do not make a profit or have to raise prices so that people can no longer afford the things”, says Kemal H. from Istanbul in an interview with t-online.de. “I can’t understand that. Erdogan certainly didn’t do everything right. But the sanctions hit the population, we’re allies.”

Victim of international forces

Precisely this alliance, the partnership in NATO, is increasingly cracking. Erdogan manages to hold the West responsible for the grievances in the Turkish economy. Not a word about your own wrong decisions, for example the low interest rate policy. Not a word about investors being scared away by an increasingly autocratic country. And not a word about the lack of security for companies due to the wars in Syria and against the Kurds in their own country.

Instead, it’s the West’s fault. The Europeans and the US should want to keep Turkey small because its citizens are Muslim. The EU consists of “Nazis” who protect terrorists or fight with them in Syria. Erdogan likes to sell Turkey as a victim of international forces and as the president who declares war on these powers. So he won elections and introduced a new political system. 

Turkey’s NATO membership has so far hardly been questioned, although there are a number of disagreements with Ankara:

Syria: Turkey is fighting the Kurds with whom the USA and parts of NATO are working together against IS. Instead, Turkey supports Islamist groups. Cyprus conflict: Turkey still has 35,000 soldiers stationed in Northern Cyprus, which is not recognized as a state by the international community. Putsch 2016: After the coup, Western nationals, presumably innocent, were repeatedly in Turkish prison . Erdogan thinks that the coup was not condemned sharply enough by the West. Presidential system: According to many Western countries, Erdogan is establishing an autocratic system. They criticize the increasing attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Turkey. Russia: Erdogan’s rapprochement with Russia views NATO with suspicion. The purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system from Ankara was an affront for the military alliance.

In addition to all these content-related conflict points, there is an increasingly heated rhetoric that has shaped Erdogan’s speeches in particular in recent years.

But NATO is reluctant to criticize Ankara; Erdogan’s cross-cuts are left uncommented. Why? On the one hand, because of Turkey’s geostrategic importance for the military alliance. Turkey is the gateway to the Middle East and the air bases in Incirlik and Konya are important for NATO air operations in Syria. 

(Source: t-online / Nour Alnader)

With the Bosporus, Turkey also controls access from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. This is an important strategic advantage over Russia as the Russian Black Sea Fleet is stationed in Crimea.  

Not militarily decisive, but important: Erdogan also has a key trump card in his hand vis-à-vis Europe – the refugees. With the refugee deal, the EU has made itself somewhat dependent on Ankara. For domestic political reasons, no European NATO member wants to risk the Turkish president opening the borders for onward travel. The Turkish government knows that too.

The current silence from Europe is therefore self-protection. Nevertheless, NATO is facing a major ordeal. While the US president threatens his allies with sanctions and occasionally implements them, his Turkish counterpart insults them as “Nazis” and regularly puts citizens of NATO countries in jail. 

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Damage from empty threats

This cockfight is damaging not only to the Turkish population, but above all to NATO. Vladimir Putin is aware of the strategic importance of Turkey and is slowly trying to detach Ankara from the military alliance by luring Erdogan with military agreements, with gas pipelines or with closer cooperation in Syria. And even if Turkey is certainly still a long way from leaving NATO, this strategy is gradually showing success.

In the dispute with Trump, Erdogan already threatened to look for new allies. NATO is aware that Turkey is currently not leaving NATO voluntarily and would therefore forego any influence on the strongest military alliance in the world. But empty threats can also cause damage. Due to the permanent dispute with Turkey, NATO does not seem cohesive and that makes it at least politically vulnerable.

Should a state of defense arise, every member country must be able to rely on the fact that it will receive support from the alliance – if not, NATO membership would be obsolete. But this self-image is getting ruptured: Europe would have to support the Turkish president militarily, who insults them as “Nazis”. In an emergency, Turkish soldiers would also have to come to the aid of the USA, which has just contributed to the crash of the lira with sanctions.

Lira crisis: Erdogan’s power base gets cracks Dispute between Trump and Erdogan: USA rejects responsibility for crisis in Turkey Conflict continues: Turkish court rejects the release of US pastor

If the conflicts between Ankara and NATO continue and the rhetoric remains so heated, there will soon be no social acceptance within the member states for such defense cases. For NATO this means the need to mediate between the allies even more strongly. Without compromise, the defense capabilities of the Alliance are at risk.

Sources used: Own research Should Germany help Turkey or not? / SpiegelOnlineHow to quit NATO / Deutsche WelleWhat the Turkey dispute means for NATO, the EU and Germany / MerkurNato troop strength is not worrying Russia / Worldwide sources show less sources

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The United Nations Security Council was unable to come to an agreement on Thursday to call for a ceasefire in Syria. The Swedish UN ambassador announced further consultations after the meeting in New York. He hopes that the panel will vote on Friday on the draft resolution that his country and Kuwait presented. Initially, a vote was expected for Thursday.

The reason for the delay are apparently objections from Russia, which has the right to veto in the Security Council. Russian UN ambassador Vasily Nebensia said there was “no agreement” among the 15 council members. Nebensia lamented the “disaster rhetoric” of other council members, which had nothing to do with the true situation on the ground in Syria.

In his address to the council, Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari drew a parallel between the embattled rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta and the northern Syrian metropolis of Aleppo, which had been recaptured by government troops at the end of 2016 after destructive fighting. “Yes, Eastern Ghouta will be a new Aleppo,” said Jaafari. In today’s Aleppo, “thousands of people live perfectly normal lives,” he added.

The draft resolution provides for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. The Swedish-Kuwaiti submission is also intended to enable the delivery of relief supplies and the evacuation of the injured. It also calls for an immediate halt to all sieges, including the one in Eastern Ghouta.

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The initiative to vote followed a statement by UN Secretary General António Guterres, who had called for a halt to “war activities” in Eastern Ghouta. Guterres said that the life of the 400,000 civilians in the region had become “hell on earth”.

Sources used: AFP

US President Donald Trump wants to terminate the INF disarmament treaty with Russia. Vladimir Putin therefore warns of a new arms race – and dangers for Europe.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the United States of a new arms race. The US government would create an “extremely dangerous situation” if it withdraws from the INF disarmament treaty as announced and refuses to extend the New START agreement, Putin said in Moscow on Wednesday. “The only thing we have left is an arms race.”

Putin said the US would put Europe’s security at risk with its plans. “I don’t understand why it is necessary to put Europe in such a dangerous state.”

US President Donald Trump announced at the weekend that he would withdraw from the INF disarmament agreement with Russia. The US has long been accusing Russia of violating the treaty by developing a cruise missile called the 9M729. However, the US has no evidence of a breach of contract on the part of Russia, stressed the Russian head of state.

Many NATO partners are critical of Trump’s announcements. In the summer, the Allies had actually agreed to stand up for the preservation of the “groundbreaking arms control treaty”. The alleged breach of contract by Russia should be dealt with and ended through dialogue.

Agreement obliges to abolish medium-range missiles

The INF Agreement signed in 1987 obliges the USA and the successor states of the Soviet Union to abolish all land-based, nuclear-armed medium-range missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

Discussion about disarmament: Putin wants to meet with Trump Accusations against Russia: Trump wants to end nuclear weapons agreement After Trump’s announcement: Putin threatens countermeasures

The New START treaty between Russia and the USA mentioned by Putin expires in 2021 and would then have to be extended. This agreement provides for a reduction in the number of deployable nuclear warheads by a good third to 1,550 each and a limitation of the delivery systems to 800 each.

Sources used: AFP, dpa

A new nuclear arms race threatens: Trump and Putin are arguing over medium-range missiles. If Trump pulls out of the INF agreement, the Kremlin has announced a reaction. 

The Kremlin warns of countermeasures in the event of a US withdrawal from one of the most important disarmament agreements. “In this case, Russia must look to restore the balance in this area,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow. Should the US actually pull out of the so-called INF Treaty, Washington would develop exactly the systems that were banned by the agreement. “Therefore, Russia must take measures to guarantee its own security,” he told the Tass agency.

US President Donald Trump had previously announced an exit from the contract. The 1987 agreement prohibits the construction and possession of land-based, nuclear-armed missiles or cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The US accuses Russia of breaching its treaty.

Russia denies allegations

Trump is making the world much more dangerous with the exit, said Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin’s confidante. Peskov stressed that Russia would stick to the agreements exactly. The US itself has been systematically violating the agreement for years, for example with the development of missile-armed drones.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that Moscow was still ready for a dialogue with Washington. So far, however, there has been no public statement on the exit, which will require several months of preparation.

Sigmar Gabriel before a parliamentary group meeting of the SPD: The former foreign minister is concerned about Trump’s announcement that he is withdrawing from the disarmament agreement with Russia. (Source: imago images)

Ex-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) also spoke up and called for a new disarmament initiative. “If we don’t succeed in stopping the atomic spiral again, we will be the scene of atomic madness again in Central Europe and here in Germany,” Gabriel told the newspapers of the editorial network Germany.

The INF Treaty obliges the USA and the successor states of the Soviet Union to abolish all land-based, nuclear-armed medium-range missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The New START treaty concluded between Moscow and the USA, which is to apply until 2021, provides for a reduction in the number of operational nuclear warheads by a good third to 1,550 each and a limitation of the delivery systems to 800 each.