The Disintegration of NATO Will Start in Turkey

Translated by Ollie Richardson


To speak about the possible exit of Turkey from NATO, even if there are more and more reasons to do so, can seem an exaggeration. However, let’s look at the situation…

NATO seems to be a monolith with a long line of persons interested in joining this bloc. However, the European Union also seemed to be the same kind of monolith, applicants to join it were no less. Nevertheless, Great Britain leaving the EU is the second economy of the European Union after the German one. And also the second largest in the composition of NATO after the American army is the Turkish one. It is possible to think that it is the magic of numbers…

The series of scandals eroding the position of Turkey in the North Atlantic bloc received one more in recent days – during the NATO Trident Javelin exercises in Norway. This case is symbolic. The world’s media reported that some loner-employee on his own personal whim set up during military training either military targets or posters with images of the Ataturk and Erdogan as the conditional enemy. However it isn’t a loner eccentric. The founding father of the Republic of Turkey and its acting President were included in the scenario of NATO manoeuvres as the leaders of enemy forces. The actions of the loner cannot be explained. It is necessary only to assume that NATO is able to look forward.

And the political top brass of Turkey was shaken by an outburst of indignation. President Erdogan withdrew 40 Turkish soldiers from the doctrines in Norway and stated that such “impudence” is a reflection of the “distorted point of view that we have been observing in NATO for a while”. Erdogan added that “some mistakes are not committed by fools, but by vile people”.

The case is such that an apology won’t suffice. In Turkey a criminal case was opened concerning the insult caused to the State. Erdogan was supported almost unanimously by all leading politicians of the country. The leader of the main opposition party of Turkey Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu declared that “insulting Turkish history and the current leadership is unacceptable”. The chairman of the party “Nationalist Movement Party” Devlet Bahçeli refused to acknowledge the incident as the actions of “a few freaks and low-ranking officials”. According to him, it is “psychological warfare tactics” and “open enmity” towards Turkey. “We are here when there was no NATO, and if it is necessary we cannot stay in this structure; it would not be the end of the world,” stated Bahçeli.

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Only the Chief of the General Staff of Turkey General Hulusi Akar, who at that moment was in Canada, tried to hush up the scandal, having hoped that cooperation between Turkey and NATO won’t be undermined because of this episode. In some contradiction with the evaluation of the President, he connected the incident to the intrigues of the organization of Fethullah Gülen FETO.

However this scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. In Norway the case didn’t involve a trick of NATO officials during doctrines: 5 Turkish officers – participants of the failed coup attempt in July, 2016, were granted political asylum in this country. And hundreds of putshists sought refuge in various NATO countries. Such “a knife in the bosom” is a direct threat to the security of Turkey. I.e. while Turkey is a part of NATO, any minute that protection is not provided to it, it is threatened by a military coup. The purchase of Russia S-400 systems is not a cause, but a consequence of the disagreements between Ankara and the alliance. Erdogan’s intention to develop the Turkish military industrial complex to such an extent that within five years it will completely exempt the country from purchasing foreign (NATO) weapons systems testifies to this.

It seems that the estrangement between Ankara and Washington (as well as Brussels) became mutual and gains stability. The old bipolar world collapsed, a unipolar one didn’t form, and in the emerging multipolar order they diverge.

At the beginning of 2017 the National Intelligence Council, part of the structure of the US Government, issued the report “Global trends. 2035”. In the document it is said: “The problem of an increasingly independent and multidirectional foreign policy in Turkey and its nondemocratic impulses, at least over the medium term, will add to the disintegrative currents in Europe and pose a threat to the coherence of NATO and NATO-EU cooperation”.

The Turkish press commented on this thesis as an expression of Washington’s concern that a possible union between Turkey and “other” States would put an end to the hegemony of the US; therefore, the process of forming such a union, according to the American intelligence analysts, should be stopped as soon as possible. By remaining in the North Atlantic alliance and at the same time undermining its unity, Turkey sets a “bad example” to other NATO members.

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And in the Foreign Policy magazine the famous turkologist Stephen Cook recently stated that “the American alliance with Turkey was built on a myth”, and that it is time to recognize: Washington and Ankara share neither values nor interests, and that their partnership cannot return to its Cold War heyday.

In the leading capitals of the Atlantic community Turkey is increasingly seen as a “self-supporting” or a “trouble-maker” undermining the unity of the NATO bloc. What disturbs Turkey isn’t of interest to the alliance led by the United States. It is quite possible that Turkey is deliberately pushed towards a sharp rupture, which would look like an inadequate reaction to “petty irritants”. In this case responsibility for the ripening suspension of Turkey’s membership in NATO would lie on Ankara and on Erdogan personally. The result of such a turn of events would become either the restoration of Turkey’s “bloc loyalty” or the disposal of NATO from the “Turkish ballast”. Haste is caused here by the aspiration to work ahead of the curve, until Turkey has created an alternative security system, for example based on the axis Ankara-Moscow-Tehran.

The West, apparently, recognises that Turkey and especially its officer corps are not ready for such radical steps. After all, NATO’s programs of cooperation in the absence of a real enemy is a feeding trough for the national military elites, and at the same time an inoculation of the ideology of atlanticism. In this sense the “reserved” behavior during the “Norwegian scandal” of General Akar – an atlantist in his views – is symptomatic. The calculation of the NATO centers of decision-making can be based on the fact that the accelerated parting of Turkey with NATO will spur on the Turkish military towards a new, more prepared performance against the authorities.

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It isn’t excluded that Turkey will choose another way that is more unpleasant for NATO – a slow distancing from the bloc according to the French sample of the times of de Gaulle, without disrupting programs of cooperation, continuing to receive certain resources, but conducting an increasingly independent foreign policy. And this is a bad option for the alliance, because its unity will be eroded, prompting new States to think about whether it is time to get rid of the atavisms of bloc thinking.

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