“Increasingly assertive, ambitious and authoritarian,” Turkey has become the “elephant in the room” for NATO, according to The New York Times’ chief diplomatic correspondent in an article published on Monday.
“A more aggressive, nationalist and religious Turkey is increasingly at odds with its Western allies over Libya, Syria, Iraq, Russia and the energy resources of the eastern Mediterranean,” says analyst Steven Erlanger.
Turkey’s recent behavior, he adds, is being seen by some NATO ambassadors as an “open challenge to the group’s democratic values and its collective defense.”
However, alliance officials also suggest that Turkey is “too big, powerful and strategically important…to allow an open confrontation,” according to Erlanger.
“While many looked to Turkey as a moderate democratic model during the Arab spring a decade ago, Turkey is a different country under Mr. Erdogan, who has mobilized the more religious voters in the countryside,” adds Erlanger, pointing to the decision by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month to convert the Hagia Sophia cathedral and museum into a mosque.