Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush and Barack Obama and the author of Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World, one of the most important books of our time, wrote an article in the New York Times last week:
“Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system against repeated American warnings must have costs … And Ankara must also be held to account for its actions in Libya, the eastern Mediterranean and Syria that contravene the interests of other NATO allies and complicate efforts to achieve peace.”
He continued: “The United States needs to take the lead in NATO, an ‘alliance of democracies,’ to devise consequences for member states – such as Turkey, Hungary and, increasingly, Poland – that move toward (or have fully embraced) authoritarianism. There is no provision in the NATO Charter for removing a member state, but creative diplomacy is possible, including suspension or other punitive steps.”
The idea of suspending Turkey’s membership in NATO, presumably until it comes to its senses, is one of the most thought-provoking solutions I have seen so far for the Erdogan problem.
His prestige will be eroded in the eyes of both the people and the armed forces of his country. It will create problems for him in weapons markets.
Gates, in a clear reference to Greece and Cyprus, also writes: "Actions by member states contrary to the interests of other allies ought not be ignored.”
The Trump administration has already imposed sanctions on Turkey. However, these sanctions were related to the U.S. government's opposition to the purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia. They had nothing to do with Greece and Cyprus.
Gates connects both cases. And this is very important.
Do not consider his opinion to be irrelevant just because he does not currently hold a government position.
He has served as Secretary of Defense in two successive administrations, one Republican and one Democratic, and is one of the key members of the country's national security establishment. His opinion, also as a consequence of the book I mentioned above, is of paramount importance.
I have argued in the past that Turkey should be expelled from NATO. In principle, NATO is an "alliance of democracies." (Unfortunately, they also turned a blind eye to the junta of the colonels, but that was another era – the time of the Cold War.)
However, I believe, given all the above, that the most realistic goal would be to ‘suspend’ Turkey’s membership.
That is, to do the opposite of what Konstantinos Karamanlis did.
He pulled Greece out of the military wing of NATO – after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 – to assuage the anger of the people.
But returning was not easy at all. And Turkey had to agree!