Turkey is a "valuable but utterly untenable ally" that is "so disliked and so feared," a Hoover Institution senior fellow said Thursday, and President Donald Trump should "perhaps reconsider his own sometimes appeasing outreach" to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Under Erdogan, "Turkey has become NATO's only non-democratic nation," Victor Davis Hanson, whose expertise is in military history, said in an op-ed for Fox News. "It's also NATO's only Muslim-majority member.
"Erdogan has been trying to recreate Turkey as a new Ottoman imperial power," he said. "He feels no allegiance to Western-style democracy."
Key to Erdogan's thinking is his desire to become a nuclear powerhouse and a belief that 50 B61 nuclear bombs owned by the U.S. are stored on an airbase in Incirlik, northwest of the Syrian border.
While information on the weapons is classified, Hanson cited a Stars and Stripes report estimating that "their maximum yield each is 10 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima."
Turkey has threatened to "go nuclear itself should the U.S. ever dare to transfer the lethal arsenal," Hanson said. "Apparently, Turkey's theory is that possession of bombs in one’s territory is 9/10ths of the law of nuclear weapons ownership."
But other anti-Western actions includes Ankara's opposition to "almost every American ally in the region" — Israel, Egypt, among them — while befriending "almost every U.S. enemy."
Turkey recently bought a $2 billion S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia that is designed to shoot down the latest NATO aircraft, Hanson said.
"Yet the U.S. is contracted to sell Turkey F-35 fighter aircraft, the cornerstone of the next-generation air defense of America and NATO.
"Given that some of the plane’s assemblage was outsourced to Turkish companies, it's conceivable that on-site Russian technicians could build into the S-400 system ways to down F-35s," the historian said.
But the U.S. remains an ally of Turkey, which Hanson described as an "anti-American rogue nation," for "a number of scary reasons."
These include the ability for U.S. fighters at Incirlik to quickly reach "any strategic conflict in the Middle East" and the belief that "a bad ally is better than a bitter enemy."
"It fears that a hostile Turkey could start and win wars against our vulnerable regional friends and create a formidable nuclear alliance with Russia, China or Iran," Hanson said.
Perhaps, more broadly, Western countries are "blackmailed by Turkey, a gateway to the Middle East that has threatened to unleash a flood of millions of migrants onto European soil."
"Not since the U.S. came to the aid of Josef Stalin's Soviet Union in World War II," Hanson concluded, "has America so disliked and so feared a valuable but utterly untenable ally."
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