Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.
“It happened essentially very quickly, which means that it was a pre-planned purge of the military, and maybe also explains why there was an attempted coup by some elements,” Barkey said during a panel discussion organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center on Feb. 1, while speaking about a purge conducted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government following a foiled coup attempt on July 15.
“After the coup 149 generals and admirals were kicked out of the Turkish military. This is 46 percent of all the Turkish General Staff. We know that those 149 were not involved in the coup, because had they been involved in the coup, there would have been more than six or ten thousand soldiers out in the streets.”
“When you look at who are these generals you do realize that many of them, and maybe most of them – I mean it’s very hard to figure that out concretely – but many of them are pro-American, pro-NATO generals. And they are being replaced now presumably with much more nationalist generals. The consequences of that, in terms of the long term, are actually quite serious,” added Barkey.
Expressing that the new set of very senior officers “who do not share the history of the Alliance, the sympathy to the Alliance,” Barkey said: “That doesn’t mean that they will get out of NATO, but it does mean there is a question mark now about the relationship with NATO. … [T]he relationship with NATO is going to become much more difficult precisely because of this new cadre of generals … So there may be a shift …”
Barkey also pointed out the anti-American and anti-NATO rhetoric among the ruling party: “Last week one of the Turkish MPs, it made all the newspapers in big letters, that NATO is a terrorist organization. And he was from the ruling AKP.”
He also underlined a recent statement from Ankara about buying S-400 missile systems from Russia. “They are not going to be integrated into NATO because these are not exactly NATO-compatible missiles. But we don’t know whether this is also also a little bit of a dance, it’s a way of sending messages to the new administration,” added Barkey.