Profile picture
Sam Brannen @samwashdc
, 26 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
President Erdogan threatened in an op-ed in the @nytimes that #Turkey "has alternatives" to its alliance with the US. He's wrong, but we should be very alarmed. Here's a brief primer on the history of the US-Turkey alliance, warts and all, and what's at stake. 1/24
The US-Turkey alliance is rooted in the Truman Doctrine backed by significant US military and development assistance in the late 1940s-1950s designed to keep Turkey out of the Soviet sphere, and enshrined by Turkey joining NATO in 1952 alongside Greece. 2/24
Put crudely, Turkey joined up with the US and NATO because of the centuries-old threat posed by the Russian (then Soviet) military and the need to keep economic and military parity with rival Greece. It wasn't out of admiration or shared values. 3/24
There was never a golden period in US-Turkey ties, not least because Turkey is a fiercely nationalist country with an identity all its own and highly complex regional relations on all borders. But Turkey remained tied to the US because the US found ways to keep it onside. 4/24
The relationship existed almost exclusively in military channels backed by military hardware transferred, financed, and sold to keep Turkey a regional heavyweight and a firebreak for Soviet forces streaming into Western Europe. 5/24
Military channels worked because Turkey's military effectively ran the country, with the retired Chief of the Turkish General Staff (TGS) often serving as the president and civilians a rubber stamp for the current Chief. When all else failed, the TGS launched coups. 6/24
When Turkey's civilian politicians got too powerful, the TGS overthrew them in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997. There were other near-coups or attempted coups as well, as recently as July 2016. Except in the case of the 1997 coup and more recent coup attempts, the US looked away. 7/24
That's not to say that the US and Turkey's military governments always got along. The US and Turkey nearly broke their alliance altogether over Turkey's July 1964 invasion and partition of Cyprus. Many would say the relationship never fully recovered trust. 8/24
The next great tension points in the US-Turkey relationship came over the Persian Gulf War, in which Turkey maintained neutrality and then fought a decades-long counterinsurgency campaign against Kurdish groups operating from "liberated"northern Iraq. 9/24
Tensions again flared between the US and Turkey over the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and occupation. Turkey again chose not to participate in operations after a protracted and ultimately failed negotiation with the US on basing and economic aid. 10/24
At the outset of the Arab Spring Turkey and the US were aligned but soon diverged over Syria, where Turkey felt the US needed to topple Assad and/or establish a buffer zone in northern Syria. Turkey later split with the US over backing of rebel (esp. Kurdish) groups. 11/24
The US and Turkey have also historically found themselves at loggerheads over several Islamist-rooted political parties that came to power in Turkey, where during the Cold War the US de facto condoned Turkish military coups and more recently the US simply scowled. 12/24
Current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept to power in 2002 with his Justice and Development Party on an anti-corruption and economic development platform tinged with political Islam. It wasn't clear how long he would last, and the Bush Administration wasn't happy.13/24
Well, fast forward 16 years and Erdogan not only has survived multiple political challenges and at least one attempted coup (lots of argument about whether past military statements, etc. counted as attempts), changing Turkey to effectively a one-man presidential system. 14/24
Erdogan is now on his third US president, and he's never gotten along with any of them very well, despite high hopes on both sides each time at the outset. Diplomats on both sides lament the relationship hasn't transformed beyond its Cold War root as they put out fires. 15/24
Yet, Turkey and the US always find themselves needing one another in a crisis, and here is the reason Erdogan is wrong that Turkey has alternatives to the US. And why President Trump should realize he's hurting long-term US interests.16/24
By alternatives, Erdogan is referring foremost to Moscow, then to a host of other clearly less credible options such as Beijing, Tehran, and Doha. So why isn't this threat of alternatives something to take seriously? 17/24
I've looked closely at Turkey's bilateral and multilateral foreign policy ties in two previous reports with former colleagues @CSIS. See here:… and… 18/24
Bottom line: a real alliance for Turkey with Russia, Iran, China, Qatar, or really any other country isn't possible. The points of divergence are greater than convergence, and these relationships are immature, fraught with historic baggage, and against core interests. 19/24
It's really US or bust. This is the problem for Washington. Former US officials agree on one thing: as difficult as Turkey is inside the tent on any given issue, it's 100 times worse to have them outside. Erdogan is really threatening non-alignment. 20/24
The US-Turkey relationship has long been in need of a reset and redefinition. But for now, it's simply in need of life support. Tough as the relationship is, both countries benefit more than not, and it is totally reckless to throw it away as is being pursued on both sides. 21/24
For Turkey to be out on its own at this moment of geopolitical disorder is high risk to itself and its neighbors. While doubtless the US relationship and US actions have complicated regional politics for Turkey, the US is always there in a crisis, not least under Article 5. 22/24
Even the most Turkey-skeptic US policymakers should ask three questions
- Without close US ties, can Turkey stay in NATO?
- With Turkey out of NATO, which countries or regions are less stable?
- If Turkey leaves NATO, will it pursue its own nuclear bomb? 23/24
Urgent highest-level diplomacy is needed. Trump and Erdogan have both shown ability to one moment berate another country's leader and the next have a warm diplomatic engagement. Now's the time for a summit that truly means something to long-term US and Turkish interests. 24/24
Correction to typo above: date of Turkish invasion of Cyprus was July 1974! Famed Johnson Letter regarding Cyprus situation was June 1964, a decade earlier.
And thanks to @jteurope for the catch!
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Sam Brannen
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!