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Is NATO membership shackling Turkey?

Pro-government Turkish analysts argue that NATO membership has become a shackle on Turkey, hampering the country’s ambitions to become a global actor.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of Norway addresses U.S. soldiers during his visit to view the U.S. Patriot missile system at a Turkish military base in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey, October 10, 2014. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY CONFLICT) - RTR49NVP

Turkey’s foreign policy and role in the international system have become the subject of growing debate both in local and foreign media over the past two years. The country’s NATO membership is inevitably a central topic in the debate. Some argue NATO membership has “shackled” Turkey’s independence and maneuvering ability and should be gotten rid of, while others see the alliance as a vital “anchor” that has held Turkey in the Western bloc for 62 years. Those arguments are worth a closer look, for they reflect how the international community’s perception of Turkey has changed and could be helpful in analyzing the domestic foreign policy debates.

Clearly, making joint decisions with Western NATO allies and implementing those decisions has become a serious problem for Turkey in the past several years. In an Oct. 9 article headlined "Time to Kick Turkey out of NATO?" Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argues the Syrian crisis has demonstrated that “Turkey under the AKP [Justice and Development Party] is a lost cause. It is simply not a partner for NATO. Nor is it a partner in the fight against the Islamic State [IS].”

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