By Alvin Chan
A 17 year old student's view on global affairs
United States President Donald Trump's latest move to double metal tariffs on Turkey, which stems from the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, is not only a stab in the back against its strategic ally, but a grave mistake that threatens to disturb the geopolitical role that Turkey plays in the Middle East and generate ramifications beyond Turkey's borders.
If you are not confident about where Turkey is on the map, or you wish for the alleged dictator, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be toppled, so be it. Taking a more objective view on this, once you see Turkey's borders, you realise why everyone is freaking out. Turkey borders Greece and Bulgaria on its Western flank. Turkey borders three Middle Eastern nations with ongoing conflicts: Iraq, Iran, Syria. Turkey is the nation that has prevented ISIS from posing a greater threat to Europe through Greece (for now). It keeps the Syrian Civil War, the most unnecessary of all unnecessary Middle East wars inside Syria. It restricts Russia's influence in the Western Balkans. And it deters the Iraqis, Iranians, and the Kurds from escalating their conflicts into Europe. Turkey acts as the bridge between the East and the West, and has the largest standing military in Europe, which is poised to influence every conflict in the Middle East.
That's the reason why the West needs Turkey. Turkey will no longer view the U.S. as a reliable ally. A weak and unstable Turkey would shift the center of gravity away from the West towards Russia, an increasing threat to the world order. It would make Turkey less in tune with the U.S. and European agenda in the Middle East, meaning a more independent security and defence policy.
Imagine a world without Turkey, should economic turmoil devastate this geopolitically critical country. Without Turkey to defend against ISIS, Greece, with its limited resources and limited support for security, would see an influx in terrorists intent on creating a global caliphate, leaving Europe more vulnerable to terror attacks. Without Turkey to restrict influence on the Western Balkans by Russia, and if the EU loses its grip on the Western Balkans, due to the loss of legitimacy of the liberal democratic model — deeply shaken by Brexit and the Trump administration — Russian meddling in European elections seems likely to grow. Without Turkey to contain the refugee crisis that erupted inside Europe, far-right demagogues will continue their exploitation of their discriminatory and hateful rhetoric as a political tactic to gain power ‒‒ when it clearly is a matter of the failure of the establishment to understand and resolve the problems inflicted upon the working class by destructive crony capitalism, not immigration ‒‒ posing a greater threat to democratic values and the world order, effectively ending the chances of the sensible, rational, and compassionate far-left from ever implementing their workable agenda.
Turkey needs to be strong and stable, in other words. It has the military infrastructure (deterrence to operational capacity to defence technology) and political clout necessary to control the agenda in the region. It has a democratically elected leader capable of striking when the time is right. It is a moderate Islamic country that provides a critical intermediary between the West and the anti-West (although there is truth in this rhetoric) Muslim world.
If this anti-Turkey rhetoric continues, Turkey, under extreme circumstances, will contemplate withdrawing from NATO and terminate their customs union with the EU. NATO needs Turkey today for the same reasons it did during the Cold War— to fight against Soviet Russian aggression. Like it or not, this is the geopolitical reality the world faces and it is time that the West realises that it can no longer trample upon other nations' sovereignty. They must realise that pragmatism is the way forward with Turkey, not animosity. This means engaging with Turkey inside NATO, resuming Turkey's EU accession talks— not spreading lies and misinterpreting the meaning of the word 'dictator'. Otherwise, the West will pay a heavy, apocalyptical price for losing a strategic ally.