Turkish military operation in northern Syria causes divisions within NATO[/rtl]
[rtl]Release date:: 2019/10/17 0:00 • [rtl]155 [/rtl][rtl]read [/rtl]times[/rtl]
Turkey's offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria has caused new divisions in NATO as the crisis increases pressure on the alliance preparing for a decisive summit in December.
The Turkish attack on Kurdish fighters who played a major role in the fight against ISIS, faced widespread international criticism, and prompted a number of NATO countries to stop the conclusion of new arms deals to Turkey.
US President Donald Trump allowed sanctions on Turkish leaders and reimposed tariffs on Turkish steel imports because of the offensive, which began last week after Washington announced the withdrawal of its troops from northern Syria.
The current crisis adds to Turkey's growing isolation within the alliance because it comes amid Western anxiety over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's style of government, and after Ankara went on to buy S-400 missile systems from Russia despite strong protests from Washington and NATO.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly expressed "grave concern" about the military operation and the threat it could pose to the fight against ISIS, and said NATO defense ministers would be keen to discuss the issue during their meeting in Brussels next week.
US Defense Secretary Mark Asper said he would use the meeting to pressure allies to take "collective, individual diplomatic and economic measures" to punish Turkey for its "blatant" actions.
But calls by some quarters to suspend Turkey's membership or even expel it from NATO will not work, experts say, because there is no such mechanism in the alliance.
George Benitez, an expert at the Atlantic Council: "NATO is constrained by what it can do officially to punish Turkey because all NATO decisions must be taken unanimously, and therefore Turkey can block any decisions that criticize or punish."
Even if it is feasible in practice, it is doubtful that NATO allies in general want to take Turkey out, given its vital strategic location on the edge of the Middle East, on the border with Iran and on the other side of the Black Sea on which Russia is located, and given Erdogan's recent orientation. Towards the orbit of Russia.
Benitez added: "But other allies can still punish Turkey by blocking information individually about Ankara, and choose to meet together informally without Turkey's presence."
Benitez said that unofficial measures of this kind were taken secretly against Portugal in NATO in the wake of the coup in 1974, while the United States imposed a three-year arms embargo on Turkey after its intervention in Cyprus the same year.
European countries, including Germany, France, Britain and the Netherlands, announced they would suspend new arms sales to Turkey in response to the Syrian operation.
But there are already doubts about the practical impact of this. Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn pointed out that "Erdogan does not expect Europe to provide him with weapons."
Some observers have suggested that if Europe is serious about exerting pressure on Erdogan, the most effective tactic is to tell citizens not to spend holidays in Turkey and hit the country's vital tourism industry.
But with Erdogan moving away from the West and his rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, NATO countries want to balance their willingness to take a stand on Syria with Turkey's long-term value for the alliance.
"It is better for Turkey to be a nominal ally rather than a potential adversary working with Russia," said Elisabeth Brau, a researcher at the Rossi Center in London.
She added that NATO, as a military alliance with a specific task of defending the territory of its members, and does not have a political mission such as the European Union, it can take a more pragmatic and solid stance from crises such as the current crisis.
She said: "Throughout its history, NATO has been forced to endure the behavior of various countries, and remains so far a successful military forum."
But amid NATO's internal divisions - not least of which Trump has repeatedly criticized the allies for not sticking to their defense spending commitments - the latest crisis sets the stage for a dramatic summit in London in December. is over