Relations with Turkey Are Putting the Political Cohesion of the Atlantic Alliance Through the Mill
Indicative of Western powerlessness, the Idlib humanitarian tragedy in Syria highlights the limits of the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia. It may well be the opportunity for Ankara to return to its traditional allies as Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer suggests in a column for Le Monde.
The war in Syria is rushing in the rise of a new geopolitical era, marked by the flexible nature of alliances in the context of a reassessment of U.S. military engagements in the Middle East. The United States’ partial relinquishment of its role as policeman of the region is encouraging its traditional allies to become more autonomous and to strengthen their foreign policies, and it is pushing its adversaries to test the United States’ “red lines” on all fronts. In Syria, President Obama followed by President Trump, both keen on putting an end to two decades of “the war on terror,” did not want to see the diplomatic advantages of military leverage that they outsourced to Russia and Turkey, which have both become regional policemen. These two powers are openly confronting one another on the ground in an effort to consolidate their respective spheres of influence, forcing the United States, the Europeans, and NATO to stand ready.
Washington perceives the recent escalation between Turkey and Russia as an opportunity to force Ankara back into NATO’s core and to show the limits of rapprochement with Moscow. However, this alliance turnaround will be, in reality, hard to operate since Ankara does not want to choose between Russia and the West and has been following an increasingly autonomous trajectory vis-à-vis the United States since the war in Iraq in 2003. The United States will have to increasingly deal with partners with multiple and often contradictory alliances and accept the risks of a de-Westernization of crisis-management that Washington has encouraged.