Turkey Insubordination Against NATO and America Withdrawal from the Union
As I have previously argued and reported on the history of NATO and how recently President Trump has been vocal about his considerations regarding removing the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, I also believe emphasizing each political candidate’s support for NATO will be the most talked-about topic in the presidential candidacy race. Trump believes that the United States’ is overspending and paying for “Europe’s defense” and has made wild accusations toward other NATO members and questioned their commitment to the organization. Meanwhile, another threat looms over NATO and U.S. national security; Turkey. With its recent hardline approach to NATO and coziness towards Russia, Turkish President Erdogan is seemingly aligning itself with the top security threat of NATO.
Tweets like, ”The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable. What is countries have been increasing their contribution since I took office, they must do much more. Germany is at 1%, the US is at 4%, and the NATO benefits…..” have rocked the European NATO members to the point where they’ve openly questioned the United States’ commitment to the Alliance. Going against his military advisors and the rest of Congress, it can be assumed Trump believes removing the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is in our best interest as a nation. Basing his stance on NATO as purely a failure of other NATO members to reach their two percent increase of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spending on defense goal, Trump believes NATO is taking advantage of the United States’ support.
However, bipartisan critics of Trump’s open threat to NATO have pointed out the flaws of his remarks. For Trump’s benefit, the collective spending NATO requires to maintain the use of its air defense and command and control systems is largely paid for by the United States. This is largely for the benefit of the United States, as it is in our best foreign policy interests to supply the manpower and weaponry used to deter Russian aggression in the region. The two percent goal was signed as a nonbinding goal to increase all signatory states defense spending. And as the graph shows below, almost all states did increase their spending from 2014 to 2018. Thus, while Trump is correct in pressuring NATO members to continue to increase defense spending, his premise as to why the United States should pull out from NATO is based on cherry-picked information to frame NATO as a useless money-sapping organization.
The United States Congress’ response to this consideration has been in the form of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate is expected to submit and pass this bill by 2020 with President Trump’s signature. 'The NDAA ensures that America not only is a reliable partner in NATO but that NATO remains the cornerstone for peace and prosperity throughout the world”. This measure is meant to reassure the United States’ allies in Europe of its commitment to NATO and the vitality of its alliance to the United States’ security. With debates over the less than desired defense spending by other NATO members, the earlier American removal from the Iran Nuclear deal, Turkey’s United States’ greenlight invasion of Kurdish land, Turkish threats to block NATO support of Eastern Europe, and its recent acquisition of Russian S400 missile defense system, this bill is meant to restabilize the Alliance by securing the United States’ support for it.
In response to the threat of United States sanctions and a possible U.S. Senate resolution that will recognize the Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to shut down its Incirlik air base and Kurecik radar base if necessary. This base is strategic to NATO has it hosts U.S. nuclear warheads in the deterrence of Russian aggression in the area. Besides President Trump’s reservations regarding NATO and the threat, United States’ foreign interests suffer if removed from NATO, currently Turkey is posing a more serious threat than President Trump.
In a seemingly counter-beneficial move for NATO and Turkey relationship, the Turkish military tested its Russian-bought S400 missile defense system. Not only does this go against NATO norms and sanctions against Russia, the missile system is incompatible with NATO hardware. This is another step toward the Turkish seemingly apparent interest to develop a close relationship with Russia. Almost as if to completely declare itself aligned with Russia, Ankara continues to threaten NATO security by vetoing military defense plans in Poland and the Baltic states if NATO does not back Turkish operations against the Kurds (Kurdish People’s Protection Units) in Syria. For Erdogan, there is no distinction between the Kurdish military that supported NATO troops in the fight against ISIS and the Kurdish Workers Party that has been waging a separatist war against Turkey since the 1980s.
As stated in my introduction, I believe with this recent development in the eroding NATO support by all signatory members, United States’ support for the Alliance will be the most debated U.S. foreign policy topic in the presidential race. Due to the nature of NATO and its key importance in U.S. global security, NATO will be discussed and debated over by both parties. Particularly on the Democratic party candidates, calling out Trump for his openness to removing the United States from NATO, they will try to distinguish themselves as the US-NATO relationship saviors.
Top Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden will definitely give his support for remaining in NATO. With his vice president experience, he understands the importance of U.S. national security in the Baltic region. Being born during the height of the Cold War where NATO stood against the Warsaw Pact and witnessed the rise of the Russian Federation out of the collapse of the Soviet Union, he recognizes the importance of deterring Russia from gaining control of the former soviet states, particularly in the Baltic region. If not for recognizing the importance of NATO, he will support NATO out of spite against Trump.
The same could be said for the rest of the Democratic presidential candidates. If not for personal reservations towards maintaining a strong relationship with NATO, the presidential candidates will give support to further distance themselves from Trump. Bernie Sanders might reduce the military spending to benefit healthcare and social security, but he will maintain the US-NATO relationship. Elizabeth Warren will also reduce military spending but maintain her support. Pete Buttigieg will give his full support for NATO and might increase NATO spending due to his military experience. As a Navy reserve officer who deployed to Afghanistan to identify and disrupt terrorist financing and served as his commander’s armed driver, he saw what a NATO-led attack did to fight global terror.
Donald Trump on the other hand, dominates the Republican presidential candidate races. With his isolationist ideology and interpretation of America first, he has considered removing the United States from NATO. Until recently, he reluctantly gave his support to NATO under the condition that NATO signatory states continue to increase defense spending. As previously reported, Trump does not believe NATO is useful for the United States. He blames spending and failure of commitment as the reason to leave NATO. However, top military advisors and his own party members have criticized his opinion has the basis for his reasoning is flawed. Instead of an America-first agenda through supporting our allies with troops and weaponry to protect the United States’ interests in Europe, Trump has chosen to interpret isolationism as the way to put the United States first. He will debate this till the end of the election cycle and will be disproven every time.
In regard to Turkish aggression toward NATO, I believe all candidates regardless of party will disprove of Turkey’s hard stance against the United States and NATO. As I believe, it should be President Trump’s top priority to end the Turkish insubordination through whatever means necessary. All candidates will agree that Turkey is of key strategic importance for both the missile defense and nuclear deterrence of Europe and the United States. Taking the hardline way against this Turkish aggression, will not stand with NATO or the United States government. The time is now that NATO must be united against Turkey and pressure Erdogan against his threatening remarks. The United States must lead the counterattack and lean on its European allies to strengthen European political influence while simultaneously increasing NATO influence in the region. If successful, this could deter Russia from trying to sway Turkey to its sphere of influence.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is too important to even consider pulling out of, and Trump increasing tensions with NATO members may have contributed to Turkey’s insubordination against NATO. Though domestic issues will be the “hot topic” of the presidential races, I believe debating the United States’ support for NATO will be the most discussed U.S. foreign policy topic. Questions regarding a candidate’s response to Turkish realignment towards Russia could unite the Democratic party and weaken Donald Trump. Simply stating a candidate is in support for NATO and the United States’ role in the Alliance will further separate Trump’s isolationist ideology from globalizing inclusion ideology of the United States government.