NEW YORK – Given the escalating Anti-American hostility demonstrated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as the growing concern for the safety of America’s nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey, the New York Times indicated in its editorial on October 14, that “the Trump administration should give serious consideration to removing the United States nuclear weapons in Turkey.”
The NYT stated “Turkey has been a vital ally of the United States since World War II. It fields NATO’s second-largest army, after America’s, and anchors the alliance’s eastern flank. It hosts military bases that are central to American operations in the Middle East, including Incirlik, where some 50 tactical nuclear weapons are stationed, and serves as a bridge between the Muslim world and the West.”
But despite being a “vital ally” to the US in the region, the NYT editorial suggested that in recent years, however, “the relationship between Turkey and the United States has deteriorated dramatically.” All because Turkey’s president has continuously violated basic civil liberties and other democratic norms and have decided to buy “a Russian air defense system and are now holding Americans hostage.”
The newspaper states that Erdogan, the undisputed leader of a strong Islamic political party in this country, “has long used America as a whipping boy to divert attention from his political problems.”
On the other hand, the editorial continues, US President Donald Trump has a “disturbing fondness for authoritarian leaders” like Turkey’s Erdogan, “whom he praised as a friend who gets ‘high marks’ for “running a very difficult part of the world,” a statement that makes it even more difficult for the US diplomacy to change paths.
The NYT suggests that removing Turkey from NATO is difficult simply because NATO has no such provision, and besides, in all reality the United States wants Turkey to stay “because having an influential ally in the Mideast and access to the region is critical for the US interests.” But at the same time, it states that Mr. Erdogan’s anti-Western behavior is displaying profound “mistrust about his commitment to an alliance” added that “so NATO experts are debating Turkey’s future and the wisdom of keeping the tactical nuclear weapons at Incirlik.”
On the subject of the US nuclear stockpile in Turkey, according to the NYT editorial concerns, experts have long worried about the security of the aforementioned weapons. During the coup attempt in the summer of 2016, the Turkish government locked down the base for more than 24 hours, and cut-off electricity. The Incirlik base is located near Syria, where warring extremist forces operate and attack constantly. Lately, Mr. Erdogan’s drift toward Russia together with his Anti-american behavior “have heightened anxiety.”
To clarify, the nuclear weapons were positioned decades ago in Turkey as proof of America’s commitment to the country’s security and role in the region. But their existence is symbolic, because no one expects them to be used, and no planes at Incirlik can deliver them. “The security commitment is better demonstrated in other ways. When the United States withdrew nuclear weapons from Greece, also a NATO ally, in 2001, it sold Greece F-16 fighter jets. If it becomes necessary to defend Turkey, America can use conventional weapons” stated NYT.
But the NYT editorial also rings the bell of concern by stating that “it’d be smart to move the weapons before Turkish-American relations collapse. A withdrawal would probably best be done quickly and covertly after the American-led coalition captures Raqqa, Syria, from the Islamic State.”
NATO is a consensus organization, and Turkey could make a lot of damage by upsetting its decision-making. It could also withdraw from the alliance altogether. “But Turkey has prospered as a NATO member. That means it is likely to be the big loser if it forsakes the West for, say, closer ties with Russia. Mr. Erdogan needs to face up to the reality that the problem, like the provocations, are not NATO’s but his. He still has time to mend his ways”, indicated the NYT editorial.