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Andreas Kluth

What Can NATO Really Do About Turkey?

Increasingly, Turkey behaves more like a foe than a friend. But kicking it out of the alliance could create far bigger problems.

Frenemy or foe?

Frenemy or foe?

Photographer: Christian Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images

If the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were any ordinary club, it wouldn’t hesitate to kick out one of its members: Turkey. The country has long been difficult; in 1974 it even fought against another member, Greece. But under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has increasingly seemed less frenemy than outright foe. And yet NATO can’t simply push it out. That’s because Turkey might go nuclear, and not in a metaphorical sense.

The case for ejecting Turkey is certainly compelling. This week, as NATO leaders tried gamely to appear united after recent spats and divisions, Erdogan blithely went the other way. He threatened to block a plan to better protect the Polish and Baltic allies from Russia, NATO’s most obvious enemy, because he wanted NATO in return to designate the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist group. The YPG was until recently an American ally in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, so that wasn’t going to happen.