Published On: Sat, Oct 19th, 2019

Nato on the BRINK: December’s summit could be scrapped over furious divisions on Turkey | World | News

Mike Pence

US Vice President Mike Pence (Image: ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The heads of 29 member states are expected to descend on the capital to mark Nato’s 70th anniversary, in what was due to be Britain’s first major international conference following Brexit. They are due to address the growing threat from China for the first time. But senior political sources in Brussels have cast doubts over the wisdom of holding it while European members, which make up the majority of Nato, face two deep rifts: one with Turkey and one with the US.

“Attempting to pass meaningful policies in this challenging environment seems to me to be problematic,” said one.

“Nato needs, more than anything right now, to demonstrate harmony and solidarity. Unless things change substantially, a delay would not be unwise.”

Fabrice Pothier, Nato’s former director of planning and policy, last night branded the Turkey crisis as “the biggest to affect the alliance since the Gulf War.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, beset by low opinion polls and a tanking economy, says the operation aims to counter a terror threat by securing a Kurdish-free buffer zone 300 miles along the border and extending 20 miles into Syrian territory.

But the move is viewed by Europe as a betrayal of Kurdish forces who helped to vanquish Islamic State, and has opened the prospect of thousands of detained IS fighters and their families, now being held by Kurdish forces, being released from detention camps to make their way back into Europe.

It was only made possible because of President Trump’s decision to move all US troops out of eastern Syria.

Washington attempted to mitigate the fall-out by imposing sanctions on Turkey.

However a request for Nato members to follow suit, made in front of Turkish delegates during a high-level meeting in London last week, simply drove divisions deeper, sources say.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Image: Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump (Image: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

A five-day cease fire was brokered on Thursday but it is not certain it will hold.

Even if does hold the result, victory for Erdogan and a regional boost for Russia, would do little to cement divisions.

“This is a crisis of the magnitude of the onset of the Iraq War, when European allies were divided, particularly France and Germany and Turkey, which refused to grant US forces access to the north,”  said Fabrice Pothier.

“Nato’s problem with this troubling incursion is that it creates a double rift; one against Turkey, because it could have humanitarian consequences and security consequences which could seriously impact Europe.

“The other is with the US which simultaneously opened the gates for Turkey’s actions and allowed Russia to further its regional aims.

“If some are saying the summit should be suspended, I can understand why.

“The whole point about Nato summits is to show accord and move forward, together, with fresh policies.

“This summit is hoping to tackle the serious issue of China for the first time. “But the Turkey issue isn’t going away, and they won’t want it to dominate proceedings.”

Jens Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Image: Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS)

Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron (Image: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

On Friday French premier Emmanuel Macron criticised Nato’s lacklustre response to the crisis, prompting EU firebrand Guy Verhofstadt to renew calls for a European Army, which risks undermining Nato further.

A meeting that evening between Vice President Mike Pence and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg – who, while condemning the incursion sympathised with Turkey’s position – did little to appease critics.

Britain’s lacklustre response has also not helped

While Germany, France, Finland and Sweden immediately announced an arms embargo to Turkey follow the launch of hostilities, followed by an EU ban on arms exports on Monday, it was only on Tuesday – after defence secretary Ben Wallace told Nato delegates that “Turkey needs to do what it sometimes has to do to defend itself” from Kurdish PKK terrorists in Syria  – that Britain also paused the issuing of new arms export licenses.

“Britain’s response is being read in Brussels as a deliberate demonstration that it will pursue its own foreign policy after Brexit,” said Pothier.

He added, however, that Nato should “pinch its nose” and resist calls to boot Turkey out.

Ben Wallace

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Image: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

“There have been issues with Turkey’s membership, like its recent acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defence system and dangerous regional games.

“But it remains a key Nato ally – we now know it even holds US nuclear weapons.

“The more we allow Turkey to push itself out, the closer it becomes to Russia.

“If it aligns properly to Nato’s number one threat, we have a bigger problem.”

Last night former head of Britain’s armed forces General Lord Dannatt said: “Current divisions within Nato are very concerning and suggestions that the summit should be postponed understandable.

“It would be very difficult to have a cordial Nato summit when two of its largest members are at loggerheads over Syria.”

He added: “The fracturing of Nato is one of Vladimir Putin’s long term strategic goals. We mustn’t allow ourselves to play into that agenda.”

Nato sources confirmed defence minsters would gather in Brussels next week, followed by a foreign minsters minister meeting next month.

Source link

Most Popular News