By Ahval

Turkey should be “drummed out” of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), wrote David Welsh, chair of global security at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, in Canadian Newspaper the Globe and Daily Mail.

NATO is more than a military alliance, argued Welsh, and its successes have been underpinned by member states’ shared commitment to principles such as democracy, the rule of law and respect for individual rights.  

Turkey, however, no longer shares these values. The most recent report by Freedom House, an organisation that monitors freedom and democracy, classes Turkey as, “not free”, citing the Turkish government’s, “growing contempt for political rights and civil liberties in recent years” and “serious abuses in areas including minority rights, free expression, associational rights, corruption, and the rule of law.”

This alone should be sufficient to disqualify Turkey from NATO membership, said Welsh. But other aspects of Turkey’s recent behaviour also give cause for alarm. These include half-hearted efforts to control the flow of jihadists and oil to and from Islamic State (ISIS) and military interventions in Syria ― most recently the 2018 invasion and subsequent occupation of Afrin district. Such actions, said Welsh, rather than contributing to peace in Syria, have inflamed the conflict.

A further example of Turkey’s drift from NATO Welsh provides is the Turkish decision to purchase the advanced S-400 air defence system from Russia, despite NATO objections. This, “not only benefits NATO’s chief strategic competitor but threatens to undermine the interoperability on which NATO’s military effectiveness depends”.

However, Welsh pointed out there are no mechanisms in the North Atlantic Treaty to expel member states. In addition, Turkey currently hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees and may threaten to flood Europe with migrants in the event of any serious crises with NATO.

Given this, it is unlikely that Turkey’s fellow NATO member states will be either able or willing to the pressure Turkey out of the organisation. “But they should at least,” Welsh concluded, “make clear that Turkey is now a member only by forbearance, not by desert.”