DOES ERDOGAN WANT TURKEY TO REMAIN IN NATO?
Today’s Zaman, Turkey
March 16 2015
March 16, 2015, Monday/ 17:36:03/ AYDOÃ„~^AN VATANDAÃ…~^
Until 1946, Turkey was ruled under a single-party political system.
The defeat of the authoritarian-fascist regimes after World War II and
the emergence of the Soviet threat forced Turkey in 1952 to join NATO,
which was based on democratic principles. Thus, security concerns
were instrumental to the transition of the Turkish political system
from a single-party political system to a multi-party system that
was protected by the military tutelage.
During the Cold War, Turkey had a strategic importance within
the Atlantic Alliance, NATO. Many argued that after the end of
the Cold War, Turkey wouldn’t have the strategic importance it had
before; however, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 created new
circumstances and brought a new purpose and mission to NATO, which
described the main threat as international terrorist groups and their
potential to obtain and use weapons of mass destruction. This new
vision for the alliance actually provided a new and greater role for
Turkey in the region: Turkey has always been a cultural and geographic
bridge between the Islamic world and the West, and now it could emerge
as a model to indicate that Islam and democracy can coexist.
The strategic focus of NATO during the last decade has been the Middle
East and Turkey was an important part of this focus.
The Atlantic Alliance supported and encouraged Turkey’s democratic
reforms and EU membership during the last decade. Even though
then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believed
that it was his own success, Turkey’s booming economy during the last
decade actually flourished as part of this vision.
It has now become clear that Erdogan’s alliance with NATO was not
a strategic one but a tactical one. Erdogan had envisioned that he
could use the Atlantic Alliance to get rid of the military tutelage
in Turkey, not to democratize Turkey but to consolidate his own power
Many scholars who were once staunch supporters and admirers of
Erdogan’s leadership now express their disappointment.
In an editorial piece that appeared on Saturday, The New York Times
once more emphasized that Turkey under President Erdogan’s leadership
is drifting away from NATO alliances.
“On crucial issues — from fighting the Islamic State [the Islamic
State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)] to fielding integrated defense
systems, which share information and operate together, to standing firm
against Russian aggression in Ukraine — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
and his government either are not cooperating fully or are acting in
outright defiance of NATO’s priorities and interests. Add the fact that
Turkey under Mr. Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian, and it
becomes apparent that the country is drifting away from an alliance
whose treaty says it is ‘founded on the principles of democracy’
as much as defense.”
In any organization it is essential that members are expected to
resolve their problems within the organization, not outside. In
Turkey’s case, it now has become apparent that institutional
flexibility has already been broken. Erdogan is clearly distancing
himself from the NATO vision regarding fighting ISIL and many other
issues in the Middle East. In addition to that, Erdogan has been using
anti-American and anti-Western rhetoric in the last several years.
It was only two years ago that Erdogan opened up the debate on Turkey’s
membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), demanding
a seat from Russian President Vladimir Putin to save Ankara from
“the troubles” of the EU accession process.
Regardless of the concerns of NATO and Turkish security officials,
Erdogan chose China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC)
as a preferred bidder in 2013 to supply a missile system for Turkey.
All these developments raise one single concrete question. Does
Erdogan want Turkey to remain in NATO?
Erdogan also believes that this year US President Barack Obama might
utter the word “genocide” in reference to the Armenian issue, which
is known as a tragic event or series of events that occurred mainly
in 1915 in Anatolia.
If that happens, Erdogan would also want to use it as an instrument to
mobilize nationalist voters before the elections in June and justify
moving away from NATO by accusing the Gulen movement of being behind
the shift in the traditional American policy on the Armenian issue.
*Aydogan VatandaÃ…~_ is an investigative journalist based in New York.