NATO’s Prodigal Son Is Not Returning

Prodigal Son- Wayward son returns home to the warm embrace of his father (not entirely, but, that’s the extreme short version)

In this article the wayward son is Turkey, who it is claimed is not returning to the warm embrace of NATO. The author misuses the parable, tying it to Ottoman history rather than it’s biblical origin as a moral teaching. (a lesson, especially one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story)

Though I’m less inclined to think NATO ever warmly embraced Turkey. NATO simply tried to hide the knife needed to stab Turkey in the back when NATO felt it expedient to do so. But Turkey always knew the knife was handy.

A few excerpts of interest below;

The prodigal son fallacy is based on an old idea of Ottoman-Turkish geopolitics

Erdogan’s close relationship with Putin and corresponding strains with the West are, therefore, an anomaly in the wider sweep of history. Eventually, the laws of geopolitics will reassert themselves, and the age-old alliance structure will snap back into place. This belief has become intrinsic to the journalistic and analytical communities, which as a result expect this snapback after every major news event.

But the prodigal son analogy is out of touch with the political reality of our times

Today, Turkey’s goal is not to balance against Russia. It’s to be distinct, and ultimately independent, from its Western allies. From this starting point, Erdogan’s calculations make more sense and Turkey’s return appears much less likely.

Turnings the Tables on Sweden

First, many accounts have suggested, implicitly or explicitly, that Turkey is holding up the process for fabricated reasons at Putin’s behest. (NO, no, no)

If this was accurate than Finland wouldn’t have been given the green light

Why? There is a real rationale for Erdogan’s stance on Sweden, but it’s about turning the tables on the West, rather than advancing the specific security agenda Turkish diplomats have touted. Sweden certainly has a politically active Kurdish diaspora, many of whom support the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. (PKK)

Turkey’s bigger problem is that the leftist-Kurdish diaspora is amply represented across Europe and becoming prominent in the politics of countries like Germany and the Netherlands. There is a serious chance, for example, that the outgoing Dutch prime minister might be replaced by Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz, who has roots in the Kurdish province of Dersim.

Erdogan’s policy, however, makes sense on a different level. For decades, the West, and especially Europe, has played the role of standard-setter in Turkey, approving or condemning events in the country according to its broadly liberal-democratic principles. The talk was of “carrots and sticks,” an analogy that comes from taming donkeys. The European Union’s annual report, in which it evaluates the country, was almost universally referred to as a “report card.” 

Erdogan yielded to the NATO allies in Vilnius because neither the carrot nor the stick really belonged to him.

Sweden’s acceptance into NATO requires a parliamentary vote- So it boiled down to a PR move at the summit

Whatever NATO was, is, and will be, it is an extension of American power. Like other institutions set up after World War II, its member states are nominally equal and hence have rights like veto powers. At the end of the day, however, the United States leads the alliance and determines its direction

Pragmatic Ideologue, Ideological Pragmatist

Finally, commentators hoping for Turkey’s return have often tried to understand Erdogan on a binary between “ideological” and “rational/pragmatic.” For them, ideology implies Iranian-style revolution, while rationality or pragmatism implies cooperation with the West, if not a full prodigal son-type return. But this is deeply misleading. Countries can be very rational about pursuing goals that others might view as ideological, or even radical. If one reasons from the tenets of Turkish nationalism as they exist today, the greatest threat to Turkey’s sovereignty isn’t Russia, it’s the West. In order to diffuse that threat, Turkey needs to develop the capabilities to stand on its own, broaden its global footprint and soothe American concerns over an unruly ally — until, one day, it can stand on its own two feet

In terms of his worldview, Erdogan is existentially and ferociously opposed to Western geopolitical dominance. He has been since his youth and this forms the very heart of the regime he has set up. That is why he wants to gradually find alternatives to Turkey’s dependencies on Western markets and technology. Erdogan has all but given up courting European money and is making frequent trips to the Gulf, putting up bigger and bigger chunks of the country for sale. In terms of defense, Turkey is weary of stealthy sanctions from its own treaty allies. Ankara claims to be tracking the “local and national ratio” of its defense industry, which it says is now above 80 percent. Wherever Turkish firms can, they will still partner with Western companies, but only if they get know-how in return. In the long run, it is Turkey’s policy to be entirely self-sufficient in its defense needs. “Bad neighbors have made us into homeowners,” Erdogan likes to say. His policy isn’t to build up long-term trust in the West — it’s gradual decoupling so that future generations of Turkish leaders don’t need Western trust.

So stealing the election in Turkey- The West tried, that was clear enough. Their coup attempt in 2016 failed as well.

Biden started off welcoming Erdogan and praising him for lifting his veto on Sweden the day before. Erdogan skipped the NATO stuff, and the first thing he said was, “Thank you for calling me upon my re-election to my position, and thank you for your congratulatory messages on behalf of the nation and myself.” After this dig at Biden over his New York Times remarks, Erdogan then said that their meeting “on the margins of NATO” was only a beginning, implying that he expected to get much more attention from now on. 

“Of course for me, this process is a 5-year process,” Erdogan then said, flashing a smile, “With you, there are now preparations for elections. And on these elections, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you the best of luck.” The smile was now a huge, full-faced grin. “Thank you very much,” Biden said, “I look forward to being with you in the next five years.” 

Will Biden be there for the next 5 years? If he isn’t will the dynamics change? I’m less then certain of that. Though I know all attempts to take down Turkey these recent years have occurred under Democrat leadership.

4 replies on “NATO’s Prodigal Son Is Not Returning”

Yes, in Biden’s regard 5 years seems like an eternity, when he is struggling with the next 5 minutes. Erdogan’s best wishes for 5 years seems like pointed irony to say the least.
( Penny, what do you think of the Obama chef Martha’s Vineyard paddleboard story ? This will not be forgotten if Michele runs for office as many are suggesting )

Hey Mark
I believe there is more to this than meets the eye, for sure. And my main thought is – Dead men tell no tales..
The Obama’s came out of Chicago political scene- So possibly dirtier than usual?
My feeling is someone headed off a potential scandal

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