He didn’t mention threats against Greece but the United States’ former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, belligerence and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to meddle in upcoming elections are reason enough to end its membership in NATO.
While there is no provision in the defense alliance’s founding charter for expulsion or suspension of a member, Bolton – also one of former President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisors – said there’s another method to eject Turkey to get around the problem. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he said that, “The international-law principle of rebus sic stantibus -“as things now stand” -provides more than ample basis to do so.”
He said that NATO’s governing body, the North Atlantic Council, would have plenary authority to take the necessary measures to protect its institutional security after Turkey’s purchase of the Russian system undermined it.
Erdogan was able to get US President Joe Biden, who Greek-Americans believed had been a friend – to kowtow and ask the US Congress to sell Turkey more F-16 fighter jets that could be used against Greece in a conflict.
“Erdoğan’s performance has consistently been divisive and dangerous. His belligerent regional policies have been similarly perilous, from subverting key elements of Turkey’s post-Ottoman secular constitution to repeatedly compromising its financial system and economic stability. Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but it isn’t acting like an ally,” he wrote.
Erdogan, said Bolton, also aspires to a new Ottoman Empire influence in the region and, with his popularity slipping over record inflation and an authoritarian rule, is facing a serious risk to winning re-election this spring.
Erdogan, he said, has made Turkey again “the sick man of Europe,” and that if he meddles in the elections by having his government prosecute contenders and further shut down independent media that it’s further evidence the country doesn’t belong in NATO.
The obstacles include the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg calling Turkey a “valuable ally” and refusing to intervene over repeated violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets.
‘Yet there’s a chance he can be stopped, if the West takes bold action to help ensure his domestic opposition gets a fair shake in upcoming Presidential elections. To do so, the alliance ought to put Ankara’s membership on the chopping block,” said Bolton of the opportunity.
He added that, “Considering expulsion now will allow for the alliance to debate the pros and cons of its membership and emphasize – both to Turkish voters and NATO members – the high stakes of the coming election.”
He said the West should insist on international monitoring of the elections and that NATO “can make clear that Turkey’s failure to conduct free and fair elections would be the final trigger in deciding whether to revoke its NATO membership,” none of that likely.
He said that Trump should have taken a stand and sanctioned Erdogan but the then-US President was an admirer of his near dictatorial style and openly gushed about loving it.
Turkey wants US F-35’s as well but was barred after buying the Russian systems but that wasn’t until after Trump lost the election in 2020 and Bolton said that, “Trump’s delays in approving sanctions sent mixed signals, further encouraging … Erdoğan’s intransigence.”
Bolton also pointed out Turkey having troops in northern Syria where they could run into American-led coalition forces against ISIS and how Erdogan blackmailed the European Union with the threat of unleashing more refugees and migrants – mostly on Greece – to get what he wants.
Erdogan got Biden’s support for further F-16 sales by threatening to veto membership in NATO for Sweden and Finland, and the US President admitted it was quid pro quo, not trying to hide it.
“Turkish and outside observers agree that … Erdoğan will be defeated in the election if the process is free and fair and the opposition stays sufficiently united to wage an effective campaign. It will be much harder for him to subvert the vote if NATO brings international attention to his efforts with the threat of expulsion,” he added of the difficulty.
“If Erdoğan manages to steal the Presidential and legislative elections, NATO can no longer afford to ignore the damage he has inflicted on the alliance and its members,” he said.
He finished with writing that, “Seriously considering Turkey’s expulsion or the suspension of its membership is obviously a grave business. But things will only get worse if the alliance fails to confront … Erdoğan’s poisonous behavior.”