Turkey may split from Nato as soon as the end of this year, according to a report from New York-based financial firm Academy Securities.
Based on a six-month rolling survey of Academy Securities’ "Geopolitical Intelligence Group", comprised of 10 retired admirals and generals, it outlines multi-faceted reasoning as to why there is a likelihood that Ankara will exit the military alliance, and concludes: "Turkey as a Nato ally is no longer a given."
Washington is currently under fire from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for sanctions and tariffs moves that have been instrumental in accelerating Turkey’s currency meltdown, which threatens to turn into a full-blown debt and liquidity crisis. Erdogan, who has grown increasingly close to Moscow in the past two years and also maintains good relations with Iran, an arch-foe of the US, told a news conference on August 13 that he sees Turkey’s economic woes as the result of a plot rather than economic fundamentals.
The Turkish leader has blasted the Donald Trump administration, saying: "You act on one side as a strategic partner, but on the other, you fire bullets into the foot of your strategic partner.” Moscow may be waiting in the wings to take critical advantage of the big fall-out between two Nato allies.
Written by General James 'Spider' Marks and Rachel Washburn, the Academy Securities report, published shortly after Erdogan was re-elected president in late June, gives several reasons for a possible move out of Nato by Turkey, which boasts the second largest armed forces in the defence bloc behind those of the US. Those include Russia’s increasing cosiness with Turkey. "Turkey continues to strengthen its relationship with Russia, raising red flags of Nato’s relevance in the region," the report states.
One dispute between the US and Turkey is over the latter's plan to buy the S-400 advanced missile defence system from Moscow, which is not compatible with Nato military hardware.
The row over US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria seen as a “terrorist” threat by Ankara is also cited as contributing to the likelihood of a Turkish departure from Nato. "Kurdish militias [the YPG and PKK] have been integral to the counter‐ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria. Arguably, the YPG are the most effective regional fighters. However, Ankara [Turkey's seat of government] recognizes both the YPG and the PKK as terrorist organizations," the report notes.
Turkey, Russia, and Iran, meanwhile, are all trying to influence Syria. They "are all jostling for influence in Syria leading to unprecedented and unpredictable cooperation among the three nations," the report states.
Turkey’s move towards authoritarianism is also given as a factor that could push Ankara to desert Nato. "No longer a secular Muslim democracy, Turkey is an increasingly religious and dangerously authoritarian regime, leaning east, cutting its own deals," the report says.
Call for UK to step in
Timothy Ash, an expert strategist on Turkey at BlueBay Asset Management, called on the UK to play conciliator in the row between Turkey and the US.
He said in an August 14 note to investors: “I hear the new [British] foreign secretary [Jeremy Hunt] is on a grand tour of the Lowlands and Scandi. All well and good given he is new to the job. But why the heck is he not in Ankara? What is the UK govt doing? Nato is facing the biggest crisis in 45 years, with the Trump-Erdogan clash, and the UK has unique angles into both... and we seem to be doing nothing to resolve this issue. The UK should be showing some diplomatic abilities, still, here. Or with Brexit, have we thrown in the towel here?”
Ash added: “Surprised that the UK media is not asking the question. We say that we care about Nato, but then do nothing to secure its future. Embarrassing.”