By İsmail Duman, World Bulletin
Turkey marks 60th anniversary as a member of NATO. As a loyal ally of NATO, Turkey made historic choice of siding with the Western Bloc and since 1952, it has served as a strategic partnership in the Middle East in favor of Western Bloc.
“Protocol regarding Turkey’s membership to NATO was signed on 17 October 1951. Law on the accession of Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty was endorsed on 18 February 1952 and Turkey became a NATO member together with Greece.”
The aim of the foundation of NATO was to constitute a Western block against the Soviet Russia(USSR) after World War II. Although NATO was not a legitimate organization since its foundation, it completely lost its legitimacy after the collapse of USSR. But because it is an imperialist project, NATO always gets a new form through new strategic concepts. When we look at the activities of NATO, we can easily see that it serves to American hegemony.Unfortunately, Turkey was/is always with NATO and has passed all the loyalty tests of NATO perfectly.
After the Justice and Development Party has come to the power, there were some debates about the Turkish foreign policies. Many Western politicians and diplomats commented Turkey’s ‘zero problem policy’ as an axial dislocation and disengagement from the Western Bloc. But even in those days, Turkey was always loyal to NATO and its policies in the region.
Today, we want to discuss Turkey’s “love” of the NATO in detail. We will try to look at the historical process and Turkey’s function in the region in favor of NATO’s policies. In the end of this discussion, we will question whether Turkey is ‘always’ with Western Bloc or not.
”It is not possible to understand things that happened by means of ignoring relations between NATO’s strategic concepts and U.S.’s globally hegemonic strategies” says Akif Emre, from the Turkish Yeni Safak Newspaper. We can add to this comment that even every membership process of NATO is not independent of U.S.’s allowance and globally hegemonic policies. In other words, when Turkey chose of siding with Western Bloc, it knew that Turkey will conform with the U.S. policies.
"NATO membership gave Turkey a Westernized identity and provided her with a say on European security. In return, Turkey assumed the defense of the southeastern part of NATO against the soft underbelly of the Soviets," says Retired Lieutenant General Şadi Erguvenc.
“Turkey joined this alliance in 1952, alongside with its western neighbor Greece; when it was seeking means to strengthen its defense policy. Located at the heart of Eurasia supercontinent, Turkey’s geopolitical value was incontestably substantial. This geopolitical value was doubled with its relative proximity to the USSR, for very evident reasons,” says Gunes Unuvar. “A global attention was drawn to the conflict between the West and the East for over five decades, and NATO members have rarely shifted their attention elsewhere. It was the case for Turkey, as well – the Soviet threat inevitably approximated Turkey and NATO allies, therefore and especially the USA. Given to its geopolitical significance, Turkey was an important regional power which the USA particularly praised. With their foreign priorities and their shared notion of ‘threat’ during the Cold War, it was only normal that Turkey – NATO relationship was a crucial aspect of the very existence of NATO.”
As Sofia Hafdell says, with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the beginning of a new, uncertain world order, new members were incorporated into NATO from the former Eastern bloc, in turn testing Turkey’s strategic importance in its relations with the Western world. The perception of Turkey as a determined ally to NATO persisted, however, through its engagements by the US in the first Gulf War. While the underlying political structures had changed in the post-Cold War era, NATO and Turkey worked together to respond to the range of new risks and challenges resulting from an increasingly changing world order.
“Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, NATO adopted its act of collective defense against external threats under Article 5. Since then, the more diverse security environment led to NATO engagements far beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, and provided new importance to Turkey given its geographical and cultural position in contemporary ‘out of area’ missions” she says. “For example, Turkey’s strategic geography has helped facilitate European involvement in Afghanistan where Turkish troops have been stationed since 2001, holding command of the Kabul--‐based International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) both in 2002 and 2005”
Turkey’s contributions to NATO are put in order by U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs as follows:
“The Republic of Turkey has contributed forces to international missions under the banners of the United Nations and NATO since 1952, including peacekeeping missions in Somalia and the Balkan states of the former Yugoslavia, support to coalition forces in the Operation Desert Storm, and in the global war on terror.
Beginning in December 1995, the U.S. and several of its allies deployed peacekeeping forces to Bosnia for Operation Joint Endeavor. That contingent, known as Task Force Eagle, was comprised of 20,000 American Soldiers and forces from 12 other nations, including Turkey. The task force implemented the Dayton Agreement, the peace treaty that put an end to the three-and-a-half year war in Bosnia.
Soon afterward Turkish forces provided assistance in another Balkan region when they supported the NATO-led peacekeeping force known as the Kosovo Force. Turkey, along with other military forces, entered Kosovo in 1999 to support the NATO mandate to deter hostility, establish and maintain a secure environment, and demilitarize the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Turkey has played a key role in the global war on terror and helped to establish peace and security in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkish forces have been deployed to Afghanistan since 2001 as part of the U.S. stabilization force and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. Since then Turkey has twice held the leadership of ISAF, has helped train thousands members of the Afghan National Army; has spent nearly $1 million dollars on anti-narcotics efforts; and has operated two fully equipped hospitals, two clinics and two mobile clinics that have treated around 650,000 patients annually.
Turkey provided extensive logistical support to American troops in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, including humanitarian airlift operations, refueling and sustainment operations and other military operations.
Recently European countries throughout NATO have joined with the U.S to begin laying the framework for a NATO-led missile defense shield in Europe. Turkey chose to support the development of the shield and the stationing of an early warning radar system on its soil.”
On the other hand, "we've had a long-standing military partnership with the Turkish Land Forces, we've trained together, we've fought together, and because of that close relationship and those experiences, our U.S. Soldiers are better trained and prepared and I believe, the Turkish Soldiers are as well," said USAREUR Commander Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling in a USAREUR release about the general’s December visit and discussion with Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kivrikoglu.
NATO-Turkey Relations after the Cold War
“In the post-Cold War world, the role of NATO and Turkey's position within it has changed as both parties have had to adapt to new security challenges and keep the Alliance relevant and efficient,” says Menekse Tokyay. “With its active participation in a number of NATO missions, ranging from Afghanistan to Libya and the Balkans, Turkey has demonstrated that it is committed to playing a responsible leadership role within its strategic region and beyond.”
In the document of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the changing concepts of NATO are mentioned as follows:
“In recognition of the need to adapt itself to post Cold war realities, NATO has for some time been undergoing a comprehensive transformation process. The basic elements of this process were reflected in the Strategic Concepts of 1991, 1999 and lastly in the new Strategic Concept of 2010. This is a process of both internal and external adaptation. On one hand, NATO undergoes its forces through a comprehensive modernization process to preserve its collective defense and crisis response capabilities. On the other hand, the Alliance with the perception of ‘security based on cooperation’ reinforces its present political and military partnership mechanisms and also frames new ones to develop its ‘soft power’ capacity. The Partnership for Peace Program, Mediterranean Dialogue, NATO-Russia Council and NATO-Ukraine Commission, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, relations with Contact Countries and comprehensive dialogue and cooperation built with Afghanistan and Pakistan are concrete examples to demonstrate NATO’s determination to this end. Furthermore, NATO’s open door policy and its collaboration with other international organizations such as the UN, OSCE and the EU prevail as important elements on this area.”
On the other hand, according to Assoc. Prof. Selcuk Colakoglu, there are different processes which correspond to different strategic concepts.
“Throughout the 1990s, NATO’s basic mission was to ensure that the countries of Eastern Europe made a rapid transition from communism and that they raised their standards as far as human rights were concerned. Mainly using the instruments of soft power, the goal of helping the countries of Eastern Europe to prepare for membership in the alliance was successfully completed with twelve of these countries becoming members between 1999 and 2009. The same humanitarian considerations led to air operations being successfully carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999, and civil wars in these two countries were stopped” he says. “The terrorist attacks against the U.S. on September 11 caused a radical alteration in NATO’s security concept. The alliance discarded the concept of soft power which it had adopted in the 1990s and returned to its former approach of hard power against international terrorism and radical groups. To this end, NATO launched a military operation against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan on the grounds that it had given shelter to the terrorist organization al-Qaida. Afghanistan was outside the North Atlantic region which until then had been the geographic area for the alliance’s security operations. However, during its period in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011, despite all its military and civilian casualties, NATO failed to score the sort of success it was hoping for against the Taliban, something which raised questions about the use of land forces and military power.”
Axial Dislocation Debates and Missile Shield Radars…
Up to the ‘axial dislocation’ debates about Turkish foreign policies, it was taken into account as one of the most loyal members of NATO. But, when Turkey’s foreign policy turned its face towards to East, many commentators supposed that Turkey is abandoning Western Bloc and after this day, anything will be like former. But, all these anxieties got lost after Turkey’s acceptance of hosting missile shield radars on its soil in the NATO Summit in Lisbon-2010.
Although Turkish Foreign Minister said that Lisbon Summit was not a loyalty test because there is no any country that tests us like this; actually, his explanations were very optimistic because the U.S. generally has first call on Turkey’s issue. On the other hand, as Mostafa Zein emphasizes, “Turkey has never faced such a test in the past. It is true that it refrained from allowing the United States to invade Iraq from its soil, and sided with Iran in many stances, the latest being voting at the Security Council against sanctions on Iran.
However, this time its options are not many, especially after having crossed a great distance towards establishing itself as a regional power that has its own strategy in the Middle East and in Central Asia, far from the policies of NATO and the United States. Will it then abandon its new Ottomanism to follow Atatürk’s dreams of being European?“
Here, remembering the debates of axial dislocation will be very productive:
“As Turkey's relations with Israel continue to deteriorate, its foreign policy has come under scrutiny in the West. The diplomatic spat between the two countries led to a trenchant bipartisan letter being sent to the White House criticizing Turkish policy and questioning its commitment to NATO” says Avnish Patel. “In other quarters, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is being accused of expressing a renascent 'neo-Ottomanism' as he re-aligns Turkey as a beacon for the Arab and Islamic world in the wake of the Arab Spring. The escalating hostile rhetoric towards Israel is indicative of a leader keen to shore up Islamist support domestically and to a wider regional audience.”
After these comments, Patel focuses on Turkey’s position on different issues in favor of NATO and the West.
“Yet Turkey is still an indispensible member of NATO and is still pragmatically robust against traditional Western enemies in the form of Iran and Syria” he says. “The decision to host the radar, being integral to the EPAA, politically reaffirms Turkey's commitment to NATO. In the post-Cold War security environment it is a hardnosed security decision, indicating that Turkey is firmly under the Alliance's security umbrella and forewarning those with hostile intentions towards it. In the talks preceding the declaration at the Lisbon Summit, Turkey campaigned that its regional neighbours (in particular Iran) not be named as a specific potential threat. There was an insistence on proclaiming the defensive nature of the Missile Defence system rather than explicitly antagonizing any single country. Despite these positive intentions linked to the 'zero problems' foreign policy as espoused by Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Iranian fears have predictably not been assuaged. Whilst Turkey's positioning within the EPAA secures its position within NATO, clarification is required on the issue of data-sharing with Israel. Presently the US has remained coy on the subject and further risks inflaming the current impasse between Turkey and Israel. Transparency is required on the US intention to collate data from Turkish, Israeli and other radar sites to create a comprehensive picture of the missile threat.”
“Turkey's interests and hyper-active foreign policy sometimes result in a divergence from NATO or the stance of individual member states. However, experts note that initial disagreements between the parties end up with the alignment of Turkey's policies with those of the Alliance,” says Menekse Tokyay. “The NATO-led military intervention in Libya and the anti-missile defense shield are often cited as recent examples.”
On the other hand, as NATO prepares to announce the completion of the first important phase of its ambitious nuclear missile defense system during the alliance’s Chicago summit this month, Turkey’s decision last September to host the early warning radar system for the shield has proved to be a turning point in the government’s relations with the West, said Professor Mustafa Aydın, the rector of Kadir Has University.
His answer to the question “Many believe Turkey’s decision to host the radars for NATO’s nuclear defense shield was a turning point in Turkey’s relations with the alliance and the U.S. Do you share this view?” in his interview, deserves to be thought over it:
“I agreed that it has been a very important turning point, but this decision was not just limited to refreshing mutual confidence. I look at the bigger picture. Turkey’s links to the West were questioned. Recall the discussions on whether Turkey was changing its axis. There was confusion. The [nuclear defense shield] decision is a psychological sign that Turkey, under the ruling Justice and Development Party, has chosen its side. What does Turkey want? It wants to be powerful in its region. It wants to have good relations in its neighborhood. But when it comes to joint decisions about the future of the world, Turkey says ‘We still want to move together with the West and want to cooperate more with the U.S.,’ and this [hosting the radars] is not an isolated decision. Look at the change in rhetoric of the politicians. Take the example of Syria. Turkey and the U.S. have similar policies and similar rhetoric on Syria. It was absolutely the opposite a bit ago. Turkey’s prime minister went to Egypt and told the Egyptians to have a secular constitution. Was his message to Egyptians, to Turks or to the West? We need to ask this question as the amount of oil bought from Iran starts to diminish. All these are messages that say ‘I will act with the West in shaping the world; I want to be an influential country in this region, but I’ll do this without cutting my links to the West’.”
The Arab Spring Process and Turkey’s role in the Middle East…
“Turkey’s increasing regional role makes it a strategic ally to NATO following dramatic changes in many Middle Eastern and North African countries. As these countries still transform, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen sees Turkey’s role in this region as crucial for the new strategic environment and future partnerships not only because of its size and location, but also with respect to its cultural and historical experience with neighboring countries” says Sofia Hafdell. “Further, the Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz believes that Turkey’s economic growth, Muslim identity, democratic values, and links with the West both as an EU-candidate country and military ally serve as criteria by which Turkey can act as a model for many countries in the MENA(Middle East and North Africa) region.”
Moreover, “Commemorative Meeting for the 60th Anniversary of Turkey’s Participation in NATO” in Istanbul Aydin University, it is said that in the context of events in North Africa and the Middle East Turkey, with its expertise and experience, has a special role as to the future in the region. “Turkey can rightfully claim its place as a leader and mentor in democracy, promoting a more peaceful, cooperative and prosperous Mediterranean and Middle East. NATO can and should firmly support Turkey in this role, because the security of NATO and of Turkey depends on the relationships that we forge beyond our borders. Turkey thus shapes security for the Alliance.”
In contrast to these comments, Mostafa Zein criticizes Turkey’s role in the Middle East in favor of NATO.
“Turkey does not get its reputation from the history of its empire, despite the theories of its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and despite the attempt to renew Ottomanism and return to the country’s roots and to its neighborhood, after the illusion of exile to Europe. Neither does it get its reputation from the history of its army, which ruled it and upheld ‘its secularism and its democracy’ until the Justice and Development Party (AKP – Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) came to power, nor from oppressing Kurds and forbidding them from speaking their language” he says. “Turkey gets its reputation and its power from being the second military force in the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO). In other words, Turkey is the arm of the Europeans and the Americans in the Middle East, not to say the policeman entrusted with guarding Western interests, without being accepted into the European Union because of its ancient and modern Islamic history.”
“Such recent history could not be erased by the leader of the ruling AKP party Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His stances on Shimon Peres at the Davos forum, as well as his stance on the Gaza war, were only attempts at distinguishing himself from the Europeans and the Americans in order to prove that he had a regional role to play, without this meaning to depart from the interests of both, especially when it comes to issues that have a direct impact on his own domestic situation, such as his stance on the Iraq war.
Based on such a stance, Erdoğan started, from the first day of the events in Syria, behaving on the basis that this was an ‘internal Turkish matter’. He thus went on to exercise his policies on this basis. He hosted conferences for the Syrian opposition and adopted its slogans. Moreover, he contributed to shaping an Arab and international public opinion opposed to the Syrian regime, making use of the presence of those displaced from Jisr Al-Shughur on Turkish soil near the Syrian border.”
Moreover, according to Emine Deniz, Turkey is the key component for sustainable relationships between NATO and the Middle East and North Africa. As a NATO member, Turkey represents a military and economic bridge between the West and MENA. NATO must utilize Turkey’s connections to improve the Alliance’s relations with the region.
“Turkey's importance is two-fold, political and military” she says. “As soon as the dictators were toppled, the most prominent concern in the Western world was the question of the Muslim Brothers and like groups and their rise to power. The legitimacy of this concern is open to discussion. However, I believe that Turkey’s contribution in the political arena to the region's countries is not. Both the Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan and the President Abdullah Gul during their visits to the region emphasized the importance of a secular state. The idea of a secular state may seem trivial, but it is not. Coming from leaders of a political party known for their religious faithfulness, advice on a secular state means a lot to the region's leaders. Democracy cannot be forced upon nations unless they ask for it themselves, and bottom top approaches are important for consolidation of democracy. Role modeling and mentorship become important in that case, and NATO has the best role model to present available in its alliance, Turkey.
The second point is military intervention, namely R2P. Being the second largest military power in NATO, Turkey is an important ally in military interventions conducted by NATO. The country's importance doubles, even triples, in the region due to the aforementioned relationship. In many Middle East countries, the military is part of the ruling elite of the old regimes.”
As Sofia Hafdell said, after 60 years of membership in NATO, both Turkey and NATO have vested interests in continued cooperation. Turkey’s role in the alliance remains important due to its strategic geography in reaching beyond the Euro-Atlantic region.
But on the other hand, as Pepe Escobar says, Turkey can be NATOstan. “But Cold War remix it is, and Turkey runs the risk of being just a paw in their game. Profiting from NATO's new Strategic Concept, the ultimate goal of the US global missile dome - complete with cyber warfare and Prompt Global Strike - is to encircle the heart of Eurasia and isolate, who else, Russia, Iran and China. War is peace. Welcome to the pleasure dome. Welcome to NATOstan.”
In other words, between all these ‘exciting’ scenarios, it is most probably that Turkey will be only pawn in this game rather than being a play maker.
Marking the 60th anniversary of Turkey’s accession to the North Atlantic Alliance, the Secretary General stressed the country's vital role. “Turkey plays an important role in our operations and we are particularly grateful for your steadfast commitment to our ISAF operation. Turkey has an important voice in our decisions. And Turkey has a vital part to play in shaping our partnerships”, he said.
The Secretary General highlighted Turkey’s crucial leadership role as the Arab Spring unfolds.“Turkey does more than just share our security: you shape it. Your experience and your expertise in the Middle East and North Africa are invaluable. They benefit the whole of NATO.”
On the other hand, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has also said NATO is still the main pillar of Turkey’s vision 60 years after the country’s accession to the organization, while declaring Turkey needs NATO more than it did back then. “Turkey became a member of NATO as a result of a strategic decision it made in the Cold War era, and it has become one of the top contributors of NATO in its regional and global peace efforts in the past 60 years,” Davutoğlu said. “Although a lot has changed in NATO and in Turkey, one thing has not: NATO has remained the main pillar of Turkey’s strategic planning and vision,” he added.
Unfortunately, the statement of Ahmet Davutoğlu is very dangerous for Turkey’s future. In recent years, we are talking about Greater Middle East Project more than ever. In this picture Turkey’s relations with NATO and the U.S. is very crucial.
“During the NATO Chicago Summit in May, the alliance is set to agree on a range of key priorities, including smart defense, stability in North African and Middle Eastern countries, and the missile defense capability, to which Turkey’s position is crucial.” says Sofia Hafdell.
We hope that Turkey reviews its relations with the world’s military mafia-NATO- and produces particular policies in the Middle East independent of NATO and the U.S.