In order to understand why Turkey has been moving away from the US (a country which had been its ally for 67 years) and has now entered into a strategic partnership with Russia, it is necessary to study certain historical facts.
In 1952, Turkey joined the US and its allies as a member of NATO in opposition to the Soviet Union. However, in recent years, it almost seems like it is Russia who has been our longstanding ally, and the US a threat.
Taking a close look at the establishment of NATO will help to clarify why this is the case.
WHY WAS NATO CREATED?
The first step towards the establishment of NATO was the signing of the 1948 Brussels Pact by Western European countries – Great Britain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands – in response to the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, and the decision to create a common defense system. This decision established the Western Union Defence Organization. However, due to the weakness of the Western European military forces in the face of the Eastern bloc, it was necessary to secure the support of the United States.
As a result of this process, NATO was established on April 4, 1949 in Washington, D.C. including 12 Western countries (the United States, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal and the Netherlands).
NATO became the first military alliance between the United States and Europe after the war. With the establishment of NATO, the anti-Soviet camp emerged and the Western bloc was officially established.
As a result of events like the Korean War, the intensification of national liberation movements in the Middle East and the emergence of the Soviet threat to Turkey, NATO expanded its influence to include the Middle East. Turkey and Greece joined NATO in 1952, Germany in 1955 and Spain in 1982.
ENDLESS CRISES IN TURKISH-AMERICAN RELATIONS
Contemporary problems with our long-term ally against Russia (the former Soviet Union) were caused by the accumulation of various crises in US / Turkish that have occurred regularly over a long period of time.
These issues in Turkish-American relations, especially over the last 60 years, had always resulted in agreement thanks to the efforts of the authorities of the two countries.
However, America’s blatant support for the Kurdish YPG (Kurdish PKK)/YPG self-defense groups has seemingly been the last straw, breaking Turkey’s patience.
Despite Turkey’s warnings, the US has continued to provide logistical and military support to PKK/YPG, justifying their actions by claiming it was related to the fight against ISIS. Moreover, America has done everything in its power to try to create an independent state in the immediate vicinity of Turkey.
IN THE TRUMP ERA, TENSIONS HAVE PEAKED
The US, having ignored all of Turkey’s warnings and concerns with regard to PKK, imposed sanctions against Ankara any and all elevations in tension.
Difficulties in Turkish-American relations have been exacerbated by Donald Trump’s rise to power.
The American president’s anti-Turkish tweets, which were written in a style completely inappropriate for a head of state, were enough to antagonize both the leadership and the people of Turkey.
The Turkish population has already ceased to react to the constant threats of sanctions from the American side.
THE UNITED STATES HAS LEGITIMIZED A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION
President Trump has recently begun to threaten Turkey with increasing frequency on Twitter. Recently, Trump sent President Erdoğan a letter written by a leader of a terrorist organization, Mazlum Kobani, even adding his own threats and insults to it, which was the last straw.
However, this was seemingly not enough for Trump. After the signing of the Sochi Memorandum, Trump issued a statement in which he thanked Mazlum Kobani, calling him “general”– this is a person who has been involved in the deaths of hundreds of people and is wanted internationally.
Turkey’s ostensible ally not only legitimized a terrorist organization and contributed to strengthening its position in the world, it’s leader had the audacity to suggest that many lives were saved as a result of his negotiations. Trump said he had met with General Mazlum, calling him an “amazing man” that was very grateful for everything that America had done. Trump added that he couldn’t have been more grateful, and that they had saved the lives of many Kurds. According to Trump, the war probably wouldn’t have lasted long, and it wouldn’t have led to any positive outcome.
THE CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA TURNED TURKEY AND RUSSIA INTO STRATEGIC PARTNERS
Due to the growing complexity of relations with the US, Turkey has been growing closer with Russia in recent years. Alongside actively developing bilateral cooperation in trade, natural gas and tourism, other steps such as cooperation in the construction of the Akkuyu station and Ankara’s purchase of Russian complexes S-400 (despite protests from the US and the EU) have brought relations between Turkey and Russia to a new level.
In addition to trade and defense cooperation, the civil war in Syria turned Turkey and Russia into “strategic partners”.
THE ASTANA PROCESS
Turkey, Russia and Iran have organized the so-called Astana process to ensure the territorial integrity of Syria and end the civil war in the country.
The three countries, leaving the US out of the process, became the guarantors of negotiations on the Syrian settlement.
This process has significantly strengthened Turkish-Russian relations.
OPERATION SOURCE OF PEACE
Turkey’s launch of Operation Source of Peace, despite protests from the US and NATO, and its termination after talks with Russia in Sochi on October 22, made the countries strategic partners.
THE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP HAS HAD AN IMPACT ON POLITICAL RHETORIC
Turkey’s distance from the US and rapprochement with Russia as a strategic partner is reflected in the rhetoric of both US and Russian officials.
For example, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in speaking about the agreement reached by Russia and Turkey in northern Syria, stressed that if the Kurdish forces do not leave the area of operation Source of Peace, they will be targeted by the Turkish armed forces.
THE US DECEIVED THE KURDS AND PUSHED THEM INTO WAR WITH THE TURKS
Peskov also said: “The US has been the closest ally of Kurdish forces in recent years. But in the end, the US abandoned the Kurds, and in some ways, deceived them. They left the Kurds at the border, pushing them to fight the Turks.”
THE REMAINING KURDISH FORMATIONS WILL FALL UNDER FIRE FROM THE TURKISH ARMY
Peskov warned that if Kurdish forces do not withdraw from the border, the Syrian border guards and the Russian military police, who are to be stationed in these territories, will be forced to withdraw. “In such a case, the remaining Kurdish forces will fall under fire from the Turkish army,” Peskov said.
WITH ‘ALLIES’ LIKE THESE…
The head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, took things further, stating that Turkey could have committed a war crime in Syria.
Responding to allegations that Washington’s withdrawal of its troops from Syria endangers the PKK’s Syrian unit – the Kurdish YPG self-defense detachments, Esper said: “The US, in order to protect the Kurds, will definitely not fight against its longstanding ally in NATO.
Meanwhile, Esper pointed out that the Free Syrian Army (FSA), supported by Turkey, is partially responsible for committing war crimes against YPG.
Esper, in an interview on CNN, said: “I saw the reports. It’s just terrible, and if it’s true, and I’m inclined to think it’s true, it’s about war crimes.”
The head of the Pentagon said the issue will be studied: “Those involved in these crimes must be held accountable, and we see that in many situations Turkey is responsible, he added.
Earlier, Esper stated that “full responsibility for probable war crimes” in Syria lies with President Erdoğan.
JEFFREY: TURKEY RECEIVED ALMOST NOTHING
According to the Voice of America, the NDP response to the Sochi meeting between Turkey and Russia, came from the US Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey: “Turkey has received almost nothing from this. It received less from Russia than from the United States. YPG wasn’t finally taken out of the game”.
“TURKEY HAS BEEN UNREASONABLE.”
Discussing the Turkish operation in Syria, Jeffrey said: “Despite regular warnings and offers of benefits made by the US administration, unfortunately, Turkey has been unreasonable.”
When asked if the Turkish operation in Syria was inevitable, Jeffrey answered: “This was indeed an opportunity. It was not inevitable.”
TURKEY RECEIVED LESS FROM RUSSIA THAN FROM THE US
Commenting on the agreement reached in Sochi between Presidents Putin and Erdogan, the US’ Special Representative for Syria said: “Russia, having copied our agreement with Turkey, has prepared an agreement very similar in many respects to ours. But Turkey has benefited almost nothing from it. It has received less from Russia than from the United States. But in the process, it brought instability to the north-east of Syria, endangered the fight against ISIS, and tragically involved the Russians and the regime in this process.”
“SOCHI MADE THE YPG RETREAT, BUT DIDN’T TAKE THEM OUT OF THE GAME.”
James Jeffrey, evaluating the Sochi agreements and Turkey’s goals in Syria, said: “The YPG retreated but did not lose in the full sense of the word and were not taken out of the game. That is, one of Turkey’s goals was not achieved.”