August 29, 2016 | Press Release

U.S., NATO Should Develop Contingency Plans to Move Military Bases Out of Turkey, FDD Report Finds

Washington, D.C., August 29, 2016 — Amidst a recent spike in anti-American sentiment in Turkey since the failed coup d'etat in July, and owing to myriad foreign policy disagreements between Ankara and Washington in recent years, the United States and its NATO allies need a contingency plan for alternative military basing outside of Turkey. A new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) issued today explains how ties have soured and where the Pentagon may need to look next.

The report, authored by FDD scholars John Cappello, Patrick Megahan, John Hannah and Jonathan Schanzer, comes on the heels of a trip by Vice President Joe Biden to Ankara to meet with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The visit was an effort to strengthen ties between the United States and Turkey after the failed putsch in July, which some officials in Turkey claim was orchestrated by the United States.

While the relationship is in crisis, the report's authors write that Turkey’s NATO role and its relationship with the United States is crucial. Western nations should therefore take every reasonable step to maintain that association.

The Turkey bases used by NATO forces have historically provided the U.S. military important access to multiple theaters. Today, those bases play a critical role in the campaign against the Islamic State, the European integrated missile defense system, and the ongoing effort to deter a resurgent Russia.

“Moving NATO bases out of Turkey is the last course of action,” said FDD senior fellow John Cappello, the report’s lead author. “Any pressure the United States brings to bear on Turkey should be applied delicately and in coordination with NATO members. But signaling to Erdoğan that the U.S. is not solely dependent on Turkey could help to put the relationship back on equal footing.”

The report, “Covering the Bases: Reassessing U.S. Military Deployments in Turkey after the July 2016 Attempted Coup d’État,” provides a look back at 60 years of the U.S. – Turkey military alliance. During that time, Turkey helped deter Soviet aggression by allowing the United States to deploy nuclear weapons there. Turkey also granted the U.S. permission to use the Incirlik air base to launch strikes inside Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. Following the 2003 Gulf War, Turkey gave the U.S. permission to use the Incirlik air base for logistical operations to move troops and equipment in and out of Iraq.

Today, the authors note that Turkish facilities are crucial to several vital U.S. and NATO missions and commands, including NATO’s Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) in Izmir, which provides support and interoperability to all NATO ground forces.

Turkey also plays an important role in NATO’s integrated ballistic missile defense system. There is also an early-warning radar in Kürecik that became operational in 2012. The radar provides for critical early warning to detect, track, and intercept incoming missiles from Iran.

However, the authors note that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have embraced foreign policies at odds with NATO. This includes support for known terrorist groups and poor regulation of its border with Syria, which has exacerbated security challenges for both the U.S. and Turkey.

In light of these challenges, the spike in anti-American sentiment, and Ankara's recent outreach to Moscow, alternative basing options with other U.S. and NATO allies in the region should be examined. Such planning should send a message to Ankara that, while the U.S. desires to keep its close ties and operate from Turkey, there are alternatives.

“This would not only send a message to Turkey, but to other regional powers, that the United States seeks strong partnerships with allies that share common values, interests, and vision,” Cappello said. “More importantly, it will send a message that America is committed to ensuring that it has the flexibility and leverage it needs to secure its vital interests in the region for years to come.”

To arrange an interview with the authors about the report, contact [email protected] or 202.403.2904.

About FDD:

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Founded in 2001, FDD combines policy research, democracy and counterterrorism education, strategic communications and investigative journalism in support of its mission to promote pluralism, defend democratic values and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism. Visit our website at and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.