Turkey’s Drift Away From the West Won’t Stop Under Erdogan

Turkey’s Drift Away From the West Won’t Stop Under Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and his wife, Emine, arrive for a private audience with Pope Francis, Vatican, Feb. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Gregorio Borgia).

The contentious relationship between Turkey and the West hit a little-noticed but significant milestone this week, when the Dutch government announced it was formally downgrading diplomatic ties and officially withdrawing its ambassador from Ankara. Turkey and the Netherlands remain NATO allies, and diplomatic relations continue at the level of charges d’affaires. While not garnering the attention of the escalating confrontation between Turkey and NATO in Syria, the Dutch move is an important marker of Turkey’s continuing drift away from the West under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The decision was also unexpected because Turkey and the Netherlands had been in talks to try to resolve their differences. But those talks suddenly collapsed, and now the Dutch say they will not allow a Turkish ambassador into the Netherlands. While Turkey’s differences with its allies over strategic priorities and objectives in Syria are well understood, the failure to resolve political differences that have no relation to that conflict suggests that the prospects for genuine reconciliation with the West are all but dead for the foreseeable future.

The spat with the Dutch has much in common with Ankara’s problems with other European countries. Tensions had been rising, but they burst into full, televised live view last March, when Erdogan was campaigning for a referendum to boost his powers as president.

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