Coalitions, it is said, tend to move along at the pace of their most grudging members. If so, the West's most important military alliance could soon find itself at a standstill.
To understand why, one need look no further than the survey of foreign policy attitudes among around 1,500 Turks carried out by the Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center in December 2010.
The results of the poll were as striking as they were under-reported. Forty-three per cent of respondents identified the United States, a fellow member of NATO, as "the biggest threat" to their country.
Israel, until recently one of Turkey's key military partners, came in second, at 24 per cent. Meanwhile, traditional adversaries rated barely a mention. Only three per cent of those polled viewed the Islamic Republic of Iran as a threat to their country despite Tehran's recent foreign adventurism and its persistent nuclear ambitions. Even fewer, just 1.7 per cent, termed Russia, Turkey's historic geopolitical rival in Eurasia, to be a hostile power.
These findings underscore the depths of the strategic reorientation that has taken place in Ankara since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power more than eight years ago. Ever since November 2002, when the Islamist-leaning AKP won a landslide electoral victory over Bulent Ecevit's sclerotic secular-nationalist coalition, the steady erosion of Turkey's historic pro-Western outlook has sent the country's ties with its traditional allies into a tailspin.
Thus relations between Washington and Ankara, once rock solid, are now on the skids. Turkey opposed the US invasion of Saddam's Iraq in 2003, and a number of high-profile diplomatic skirmishes since, including the infamous capture of Turkish soldiers operating in Northern Iraq by US troops in 2003, have convinced most Turks that, when it comes to Middle East policy, Washington and Ankara these days are on opposing sides. (So has the increasingly sympathetic attitude taken by the US Congress over the past two years toward the "Armenian genocide" issue, an historic 'third rail' in US-Turkish relations.)
The resulting diplomatic downturn has been dramatic; the US's favourability rating among the Turkish population stands at just 17 per cent, only slightly higher than in historic bastions of anti-Americanism like the Palestinian Territories and Pakistan.
The Turkish-Israeli relationship has fared even worse. The strategic entente that developed between the two countries in the late 1990s in response to shared regional threats is a thing of the past, due in no small measure to Ankara's growing co-operation with Israel's regional enemies and its increasingly intrusive role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The final nail in the partnership's coffin came in late 2010 when, following a spate of cancelled co-operative military manoeuvres and a rash of vitriolic rhetoric, Turkey's influential National Security Council formally added Israel to the list of countries deemed to pose a "major threat" to Turkey.
Even Europe, to which Turkey once yearned to belong, is increasingly seen as hostile. Just six years ago, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that a healthy majority of Turkish citizens (58 per cent) still held favourable views of the European Union and wanted to belong to it. However, EU-erected roadblocks to formal membership for Turkey have taken their toll, and less than one-third of Turks (just 28 per cent) now view the Old Continent approvingly.
In lieu of these historical bonds, Ankara has increasingly looked east.
It has deepened its economic and political relations with Iran, throwing its weight behind Tehran's nuclear drive and dramatically broadening bilateral trade (current plans call for a trebling of today's trade volume of USD10 billion by the middle of this decade). It has likewise normalised relations with regional nemesis Syria, with whom it nearly went to war less than 15 years ago, even going so far as to launch extensive joint military drills with Damascus in April of 2010.
Meanwhile, Turkey has steadily drifted into Moscow's geopolitical orbit, becoming a major consumer of Russian hydrocarbons – as well as a key partner in Russia's coveted Black Sea natural gas pipeline, known as South Stream, with which the Kremlin hopes to neuter the pro-Western Nabucco route favoured by both the US and Europe.
All of which serves to underscore the depths of NATO's dilemma. With its unique status as what some have termed a "Western Muslim" country, Turkey has long served as an indispensable partner for the alliance, as well as its geopolitical bridge to the troubled Middle East. However, the growing eastward tilt now visible in Ankara threatens to undermine this role and to transform the nation from one of NATO's most dependable players into its weakest link.
The recent tussle over continental missile defence provided a telling indicator of disagreements to come. During the latter part of 2010, NATO's push for an alliance-wide architecture to counter ballistic missile threats from abroad was effectively held hostage by Ankara, which refused to sign up to the system if its new partner, Iran, was formally listed as a threat. In the end, NATO leaders blinked, scrubbing references to Iran as an adversary from the project for the sake of coalition solidarity.
Given the changes taking place in Ankara's geopolitical reorientation, such incidents could well end up becoming the norm, rather than the exception. If they do, NATO is likely to find itself increasingly consumed by internal gridlock over its global role.