Following the alleged March 4th alleged Russian poisoning of Sergei Skripal, an ex-double agent in the UK, several European countries and the US have begun ejecting Russian diplomats from their countries. With both the UK and US each ejecting dozens of diplomats, it stands to reason that every other NATO country would follow suit.
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However, several European Union members have yet to follow London’s lead. One important NATO country isn’t bowing to western Russophobia: Turkey.
Despite calls from the UK for all of their allies to stand with them in “punishing Russia” they have failed to convince many of their fellow EU members, Israel, and Turkey to follow their suggestions. While there isn’t much London can do to their fellow European states, and obviously, they can’t criticize Israel; tension between Turkey and the EU has reached a point where it’s fashionable to demonize Ankara.
Both the US and UK often pander to Turkey due to the country’s strategic location and their control of the second largest military in NATO. This, however, has become much more difficult in recent months due to the increasingly authoritarian governance of the country leading to arrests of western employees, global kidnappings, and blatant defiance of international law.
This tense relationship between Turkey and the EU was on full display yesterday as Turkish President Recep Erdogan met with EU leaders about his nation’s prospects of joining the bloc. Predictably, no new results were achieved between Brussels and Ankara. This allows Erdogan to go back to turkey and play the victim, likely in anticipation of this announcement on Russia, which he will probably frame as ‘retaliation.’
Tensions between NATO and Turkey have also increased following the recent decision by Ankara to purchase Russian-made S-400 anti-air missile systems rather than the US Patriot missiles. According to Turkey the decision for this purchase was due to the vast amount of red tape around the purchase of the Patriot systems (although, they may have dodged a bullet as the Patriots have recently shown to be ineffective).
The Turks have also found themselves quarreling with the US over their support for the Kurds in northern Syria. According to Ankara (and some high level US officials) the Syrian Kurdish group’s armed by the US have very public connections to the terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Combine all these factors and it shouldn’t be surprising to hear the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdag announce that “Turkey isn’t considering taking any decisions against Russia.” According to Bozdag, the current crises in US-Turkish relations is a large factor in their decision not to alienate Moscow at a time when “there is a positive and good relationship between Turkey and Russia.”
While nobody can be sure what to believe coming from the Turks, Erdogan also confirmed the decision to not retaliate against Russia although he “condemns what happened in the UK and regards the use of chemical weapons as a crime against humanity.”