Turkey’s acceptance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in October 1951 was a boon for the organization. Though its human rights record was far from stellar, it was staunchly anti-Communist, maintained a formidable army, was amenable to the placement of NATO assets in the country, including nuclear-tipped Jupiter ballistic missiles and was strategically located, flanking the Soviet Union on the south and acting as a bridge between Europe and Asia.
Though Turkey was technically a Muslim country, it leaders, following the doctrines espoused by Kamal Ataturk, zealously guarded the secular nature of the state. Religious influence was kept to a minimum and this was especially true for government officials and parliamentarians. Indeed, there was a significant Jewish population in Turkey and Turkey was the first Muslim majority nation to recognize Israel, extending recognition in March 1949.
During the Korean War, Turkey sent a sizable contingent to fight alongside the United States-led United Nations coalition, and its troops acquitted themselves well in combat. Turkey’s strained relations with its neighbor Greece and its human rights record proved to be problematic issues for NATO but were overlooked in light of the benefits conveyed to NATO by Turkish membership.
With the ascension of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as prime minister in 2003, the equation began to change. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, began systematically changing the character of secular Turkey, incrementally at first so as not to upset the Turkish Army, but at an accelerated pace in recent years. Now president, Erdoğan has consolidated his power and has neutered his foes in the press, the judiciary, the political opposition, and the army.
The Turkey of today is vastly different than the Turkey that existed prior to the ascension of Erdoğan. The nation is currently led by a neo-Ottoman, heavy-handed, authoritarian Islamist who shares nothing in common with his NATO partners, and who works at cross-purposes with NATO to frustrate its objectives. Rather than being an asset, Turkey has become a hindrance to NATO. The time has come for NATO to part ways with Erdoğan. Here’s why.
Each of these transgressions, standing alone, is cause for concern. Collectively however, they are damning. Sovereign nations of course, are free to pursue their own national interests. Erdogan has chosen a virulently anti-Western path that veers sharply from NATO’s. He has demonstrated that he is nothing but an unhinged, conspiracy-prone and deeply anti-Semitic thug. It’s time now for NATO to politely show Erdogan the door and expel Turkey from the alliance.