Gordon Hahn’s Interview on the US-Russian-Turkish Triangle and NATO for Yenicag.ru in English

The following is the English-language version of my recently published interview with Nidzhat Gadzhiev at yenicg.ru. For the Russian language version, please see: yenicag.ru/v-konechnom-itoge-eto-mozhet-zastavit-erdogana-pokinut-nato-amerikanskij-ekspert/

Relations will continue to deteriorate in the event President Trump does not veto this law. Although this is far from the central issue in the relationship, the tit-for-tat  sanctions are poisoning the atmosphere and deepening distrust. The danger is that one side – more likely the US – will react asymmetrically acting on an important issue to the other side. An example might be a US decision to provide lethal ‘defensive’ weaponry to Ukraine. Such might come in response to a Russian overreaction like cutting the US off from the Russian space flight services. The key issue remains NATO expansion. As long as it continues side by side with EU expansion and US democracy-promotion/regime change policies – American ‘revolutionism’ – then the relationship will continue to deteriorate to the risk of war.

Deeply entrenched elite economic and political interests and resulting cultural biases are the main drivers of opposition to Trump’s preference for an improved relationship with Russia. In addition, the Democratic Party is increasingly radicalized, corrupt, and desparate given recent electoral defeats. There is a racial component as well. When Democrats see Vladimir Putin, they see, in their minds, the Republican white heterosexual male they hate so much. This is not to say Putin is a conservative of the Western mold. He is a Russian traditionalist. It is to say that this is what US Democratic Party supporters tend to see in Putin.

US-Turkish relations are in akind of purgatory. Neither Washington nor Brusslels wants to condemn Turkey ‘to hell’ – that is, raise the issue of its expulsion from NATO because of increasingly authoritarianization and growing rapproachement with Russia. Turkey is still seen as too valuable an asset for Western policy in the Middle East, for the West to openly begin to challenge Erdogan’s policies. It is interesting that far less authoritarian measures in Poland and Hungary bring greater rebuke.

This has already happened in relation to Ankara’s Syria and Iraq policies and is increasingly possible to extend to the overall Turkish-West relationship under Erdogan. The more he seeks to create a soft authorititarian order in Turkey, he will be forced to counterbalance possible expulsion or censure by NATO with the threat of an alliance with Russia and China, much as Belarus’s Lukashenka plays the West and Russia off against each other. Eventally, this may force Erdogan to completely jump ship and leave NATO or push NATO to expel Turkey.

It remains unclear just how antagonistic the Trump administration will actually be towards Teheran. On the one hand, Trump’s and some toehr officials’ rhetoric is extremely tough. However, the administration recently came out to say that Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement. Whether Trump will implement a proposed policy of issuing sanctions against Iran separate from the nuclear weapons agreement issue is unclear. This may be the reason for putting sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea – to somehow seemingly de-link sanctions against Iran from its nuclear compliance and thus be able to institute sanctions against Teheran.

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About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California, www.cetisresearch.org; an expert analyst at Corr Analytics, www.canalyt.com; a member of the Executive Advisory Board at the American Institute of Geostrategy (AIGEO) (Los Angeles), www.aigeo.org; and an analyst at Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation (Chicago), www.geostrategicforecasting.com.

Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book from McFarland Publishers Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the ‘New Cold War. Previously, and three well-received published books: Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002);  Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007); and The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media and has served as a consultant and provided expert testimony to the U.S. government.

Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia. He has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Kennan Institute in Washington DC as well as the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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About Gordon M. Hahn