Turkey steals the show from Macron in NATO

Turkey steals the show from Macron in NATO

“I understand your desire for disruptive politics,” Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said, talking about the French president’s recent outburst on NATO. “But I’m tired of picking up the pieces. Over and over, I have to glue together the cups you have broken so that we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together,” she continued, according to a New York Times article dated Nov.23.

Macron said NATO is experiencing a “brain death” during a recent interview with the Economist because in his eyes NATO members can no longer trust the United States, which reached a deal with Turkey and decided to pull its troops from Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hit back at Macron saying, “Have your own brain death checked. These statements are suitable only to people like you who are in a state of brain death.”

Mark the difference of rhetoric: Which one will smooth the tension that already overshadowed the summit to mark NATO’s 70th birthday? Certainly not the Turkish one, since France reacted to Erdoğan’s statement by summoning the Turkish envoy in Paris to complain.

If Turkey’s intention was to grab the international headlines, that purpose was certainly served.

But what was a week ago a standoff between France and the rest of NATO has turned into a personal feud between Macron and Erdoğan, putting Turkey at the center of the crisis.

In its immediate aftermath, Macron’s statement underlined the strains in Franco-German relations and was not endorsed by the rest of NATO. On the contrary, it was met with serious criticism from the leaders of the Eastern and Central European countries.

Under normal circumstances, Macron was (and still could be) the loser in this recent episode of diplomatic “war of words.” Not because of brain death but rather because of the brain malfunction caused by the French diplomacy’s inconsistencies.

Macron’s criticism is not that unfounded.

The U.S. president’s calls on European capitals to increase their defense spending has led to an erosion of confidence. Trump’s skepticism about U.S. security commitments to Europe and his friendly relations with Russia are behind Macron’s recent statement.

Also, the U.S.-Turkish deal in Syria seems to have further angered him. According to the New York Times article, Macron does not think that the U.S. and Turkey have behaved in the collective interest in Syria.

But what exactly is NATO’s collective interest in Syria? Is it just limited to fighting ISIL? Is cooperating with the YPG, which Ankara says is the offshoot of the illegal PKK, to fight ISIL the main priority in the collective security for Poland and the Baltic States, for instance?

Macron argues in his interview with the Economist that Europe is now dealing for the first time with an American president who “doesn’t share our idea of the European project.” What exactly is the idea of the European project, especially at a time when the EU is being shaken by Brexit?

His recent resistance to open the doors of the EU to Western Balkan countries was defined as a “historic error,” in terms of the “European project,” he seems to uphold so much.

At a time when Turkey is under criticism for its close relationship with Russia, Macron suggested that the alliance should not regard

Russia as an adversary, a view that would not be appreciated by Poland and the Baltic states.

Given all that, Macron could have been the shining star of polarization together with Trump at the London summit due to start tomorrow, Dec. 3.

But Erdoğan rushed to his rescue. Not only did he take a personal hit at him, but he succeeded in deviating reactions to France towards Turkey.

First came the news that Turkish F16s flew the skies over Ankara to test the Russian S-400 anti-missile defense system, an issue that has poisoned Turkey’s relations with its NATO allies. This was followed by a piece of leaked news over Turkey’s refusal to agree on a NATO defense plan for Poland and Baltics until it got more political support for its fight against YPG.

And finally came the news about the Turkey –Libya maritime deal that will inevitably introduce more fuel to the contention in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey finds itself alone against European players.

All of this is turning the spotlight on Turkey, which was not the only spoiler of NATO’s 70th birthday party.

As it stands, Turkey decided to opt for a confrontational approach rather than using subtle diplomacy. If this is being done for domestic consumption, unfortunately, short-term diplomatic “victories” are not decreasing the prices in the market, while it increases the costs of restoring its international reputation.