Are “allies” actually allies?

A quick glance around the world and we can see that it is one big mess. There is a massive ebola outbreak, a flourishing illicit arms trade and of course, ISIS. ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIL, depending on who you ask, has caused some headaches in the national security community.

Some of the bright minds in Washington have thought about bringing in NATO allies to combat ISIS. This is interesting because the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are all economically interdependent on each other and going to war may not be in each states interest. War is a costly activity and has the potential to disrupt trade. The Middle East has a lot of trade that passes through it, namely fossil fuels and minerals.

There are currently only a few members of NATO really pushing for more action to be taken against ISIS and those members are the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy. These states are all economically interdependent and happen to be major powers in the NATO region. This influences the level of cooperation that they maintain with each other because it is in their interest to cooperate militarily with their trade partners.

One member of NATO that is causing the U.S. led coalition against ISIS some trouble is Turkey. Turkey has been caught up in their own goals for the ISIS crisis. They want to see the Kurds out of the way and they want to have Assad eliminated. The Kurds have a separatist movement along the border of Turkey and have been a nuisance to the Turkish government for years. Turkey has also formed an oil dependency on ISIS, where they are buying large quantities of black market oil from the organization. This should really make Western leaders consider where the loyalties of its “allies” actually lie. We will have to wait and see how the economic situation between ISIS and Turkey plays out.

What do you think of Turkeys dependency on ISIS oil? Will this have an affect on the attitudes of the other NATO members? Does this have the potential to create bigger issues in the future?


8 thoughts on “Are “allies” actually allies?

  1. This is extremely interesting, its important to identify when an alliance stops being an alliance and more of a “barrier” to progress. Being allied with a country that suddenly goes against your own states interest definitely brings complications to all parties involved. Could you provide evidence of Turkey buying oil from ISIS? If Turkey is indirectly supporting a terrorist organization, then there would be serious consequences if discovered


  2. It appears that Turkey isn’t quite so trustworthy after all. Joe Biden’s criticism of them is fairly justified. Even with this coalition it appears that it isn’t exactly the most effective effort at this moment, and with Turkey and its leniency with ISIS because of their anti-Assad stance and opposition to the Kurds is troubling.


  3. I think this post underlies one of the fundamental problem with modern alliances like NATO which is their size and purpose. When NATO was originally created it only consisted of 12 nations with the explicit purpose of stemming the Soviet bloc. Now NATO has 28 full members as well as 22 members of the Partnership for Peace program and 15 countries in institutionalized dialogue programs with the alliance. These various actors no longer have a single unified purpose and instead are held to the whims of different member states objectives. For alliances to truly be effective they need to be streamlined and efficient.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think this blog post was very interesting and gave a good background on Turkey’s current cooperation with ISIS and regional interests. However, I have to disagree a bit with some comments made. I don’t think it’s Turkey “going against an alliance” or “not being trustworthy,” personally I analyze the situation as Turkey simply being selfish and looking after it’s own interests first. So I guess you can say I’m taking a more realist perspective here. For instance, in one of the articles you link, it states how Turkey has been buying black-market oil from ISIS for HALF of the international market’s rate. I can just see countries salivating over that type of deal. Also, just because two countries are allies doesn’t mean they have similar interests in every aspect of politics, something Jesse mentioned above. When Germany and France opposed the invasion of Iraq, did that no longer make them our allies?

    For the record, I am by no means saying that I agree with Turkey’s actions. Countries should not support ISIS and should take international counter terrorism action. Simply it’s important to look at these types of scenarios with a realist perspective since most states act out of their own interests, especially with something as costly as war. Furthermore, a clearer definition of alliance is needed in this post. I’m sure there are many other examples in which countries have not cooperated on/participated in conflicts due to selfish reasons or unsimilar political interests, but remained allies.

    This is an interesting dynamic to look into. Where is the line to remain allies and the line in which an alliance breaks?


  5. This is definitely one article that caught my attention because I think it’s something that countries often question when it comes to becoming allies with others and its a question that was brought up in one of the comments on this post which was ” When does an alliance stop being an alliance and begins to become a barrier?”. This is an extremely good question because how does one come to the conclusion that a country who is suppose to be their Allie no longer serves them any purpose. And to answer the question, I do think that there would be serious consequences if Turkey continues to depend on ISIS oil. The reason being so is because Turkey depending on ISIS for large quantities of oil which is an extremely important resource, something is just bound to go wrong ; especially when it involves large quantities of a resource that they have become dependent on.


  6. Interesting take on the topic of alliances. Usually when we think of the concept, we often associate it directly with political alliances. Yet economic interests of a nation plays a vital role in determining the types and credibility of alliances.
    However, in the case of Turkey in combating ISIS, it faces a dilemma of “defeating Islamic militants across its border while not enhancing the power of its own Kurdish separatists.”(
    So another question to ask may be is it possible to strengthen alliances through economic incentives? How?


  7. Very interesting post. It brought up the issue about how alliance and their objectives are defined. I would not blame Turkey for buying oil from ISIS. As kjarthur commented above, all states are acting based on their own interest. It would be hard to stop importing oil which is crucial resource for their living even though they are against ISIS. But if they want to stay as an ally among NATO members, it would be suggested that they find another oil provider. Otherwise they won’t be able to avoid criticism from their allies.


  8. This is very difficult issue because each countries has their interest.
    Therefore, in international relation, it is difficult to blame Turkey.
    Germany and Iran, China and North Korea, and the United States and Israel, they have own economic interest. there are so many similar situations. Moreover, the connection with ISIS is important because it is more dangerous to leave them alone, and air strike against them.


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