Jun 23, 2022
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Turkey is considering leaving NATO

Turkey is considering leaving NATO

Photo: AP/TASS

Turkey has not seen a single advantage in 70 years of NATO membership, says Cumhuriyet columnist Mehmet Ali Guller. The only argument in favor of participating in the alliance, in his opinion, is the right of veto within the bloc. Guller also urged Ankara to close the Black Sea, the Caucasus and the western gates of Central Asia to the US and become part of the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

“Turkey must sever ties with NATO,” he wrote. At the same time, according to him, withdrawal from NATO will mean Turkey’s transition to a strategic partnership with Russia and Iran, as well as integration into the “new world” through the SCO and BRICS.

Guller is confident that the country’s withdrawal from the alliance will not only deprive the United States of the ability to control Turkey’s policy, but also interfere with Washington’s plans to turn the Black Sea into a “lake of NATO.”

How to understand such publications? Another demonstrative “voice of the people”, which Tayyip Recep Tayyip Erdogan will blackmail the US? Or are such sentiments really strong in Turkey?

Has the alliance really given this country nothing? No benefits? Why did they join then, and most importantly, why are they still?

– There were many advantages, of course, – I’m sure Associate Professor, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation Gevorg Mirzayan.

– This is the preservation of Turkey’s independence from the Soviet Union, and the development of weapons, and, in the end, ensuring the security of Turkey’s external borders from enemies. So NATO membership turned out to be beneficial for Turkey.

Ankara once joined NATO primarily to protect itself from the Soviet Union. From Stalin’s plans to revise the eastern borders of Turkey. It is clear that now this topic is no longer relevant, but Turkey’s security is still under threat. Erdogan has made too many enemies.

“SP”: Is Guller’s voice the voice of the public or an individual expert? Are the authorities ready to listen to this opinion?

“Indeed, a number of Turkish citizens are thinking the same thing. That they don’t need NATO, that they don’t need the United States. The Turkish authorities are not so much listening to these voices as demonstratively showing them to the same Americans in order to fill their own worth. Turkey is not going to leave NATO.

Washington is also not going to let Turkey out of NATO, since it is an outpost of the alliance in the Middle East, an instrument of pressure on the southern borders of Russia. Especially now, after the Ukrainian crisis. This is not to mention the fact that it is impossible to leave NATO for image reasons. Therefore, the United States is ready to do a lot to prevent Turkey from leaving NATO. However, they do not embody this “much” since Erdogan is not going to leave the alliance.

“SP”: In which case Turkey might want to leave? When will the cons outweigh the pros?

– In the event that America puts them before some very tough ultimatum. When Turkey’s continued presence in NATO becomes too costly for Erdogan from a domestic political point of view.

“SP”: Guller believes that Turkey needs a strategic partnership with Russia and Iran, as well as integration into the “new world” through the SCO and BRICS. That is, after leaving NATO, Turkey will definitely go over to the opponents of the alliance?

“Turkey is not self-sufficient on its own. It lacks the resources for great power status, and is in a very dangerous geopolitical position, at the crossroads of the interests of many powers. Therefore, Turkey, of course, needs allies. And if those allies are not the United States, then Russia will take their place. True, for this Turkey will need to give up its claims to control the Crimea and the population of the Muslim regions of the Russian Federation. Ankara does not want to do this, so America is still a priority ally.

“In June 2022, the results of a study by MetroPOLL were published, which recorded a high level of distrust of Turkish respondents in NATO,” recalls Leading Analyst of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications Mikhail Neizhmakov.

– Moreover, a high proportion of respondents with such an attitude towards the alliance was recorded both among supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (66.8%) and their partners from the Nationalist Movement Party (70.3%), and among representatives of key opposition forces, including including the Republican People’s Party (62.4%), the Good Party (64.8%) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (66.7%).

Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself has repeatedly criticized the alliance over the past years on a variety of issues – from the unwillingness of NATO partners to support Ankara’s actions in the Syrian direction to the insufficient activity of the alliance in the Black Sea region. But Erdogan is clearly not in the mood to seek his country’s withdrawal from this organization.

“SP”: Turkey has not seen a single advantage in 70 years of NATO membership, Guller said. Really? None at all?

– Of course, there are advantageous aspects of NATO membership for Turkey. Starting with the veto right mentioned by Mehmet Ali Guller himself, which provides additional opportunities for political bargaining with alliance partners. In addition, such membership gives Ankara additional hopes for larger military-technical cooperation with partners in the bloc and new opportunities for supplying its own military-industrial complex products to other members of the alliance. Although it is clear that hopes do not mean guarantees, let us recall the same disputes between Ankara and Washington over the supply of F-16s and inclusion in the F-35 production program.

“SP”: Who is more important to whom: NATO for Turkey or Turkey for NATO? What needs to happen for the US to decide to exclude Turkey, or for Turkey to decide to leave?

– Actually, the North Atlantic Treaty does not spell out the procedure for exclusion from the alliance, only voluntary withdrawal, which is referred to in Article 13 of this document. In addition, both the geographical position and the defense potential of Turkey are too important for the United States to start really squeezing Ankara out of the alliance.

Turkey also has no objective reasons to leave NATO in the foreseeable future, except perhaps in a hypothetical scenario where such membership would automatically draw the country into a large-scale armed conflict that is absolutely contrary to the interests of the Turkish leadership. For an analogy, one can recall how Charles de Gaulle justified his decision to withdraw France from the military structure of NATO by the need to take measures so that his compatriots “do not become embroiled in a war in which they have nothing to do.”

“SP”: Is it possible to say that relations between NATO and Turkey today are at their lowest level in 70 years? The problem is Erdogan’s personality? Will anything change under a new president?

– It is hardly possible to say that Ankara’s relations with NATO are at the lowest level at this particular moment. The crisis around Ukraine just strengthens the interest of Western players in cooperation with Turkey.

Perhaps it would be easier for leading Western players with some new president of Turkey for the United States than with Erdogan. US Ambassador to Turkey Jeffrey Flake’s meetings with opposition leaders may partly indicate such hopes in Washington, and not just an intention to comprehensively study the situation in the country. You can also recall how in the spring the head of the Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs, Suleiman Soylu, accused the opposition Republican People’s Party that its representatives sent one of the joint statements of Erdogan’s opponents for approval “to one of the foreign embassies” (moreover, as some Turkish media suggested, it was about the embassy Germany).

But it is worth remembering that a partner with such a defense, military-technical, demographic, transit potential as Turkey, by definition, is unlikely to be convenient and agree to any conditions. The same contradictions between Athens and Ankara will only add problematic moments for the work of the same United States with Turkey and for the situation within NATO. That is, in order for the Turkish president to be as problem-free as possible for the United States, he must be a politician who is “on a short leash” (for example, due to some kind of leverage on him personally). But it is by no means a fact that such a person under these conditions would have held the head of Turkey for a long time.

“SP”: According to Guller, withdrawal from NATO will mean Turkey’s transition to a strategic partnership with Russia and Iran, as well as integration into the “new world” through the SCO and BRICS. Does it mean? Or is Turkey self-sufficient on its own?

– Actually, many factors that create problems in relations between Ankara and Washington will make Turkey a difficult partner for Moscow as well. Moreover, Russia is geographically closer to Turkey and has less financial resources than the United States, which will only add potential difficult moments in its relations with Ankara. But this does not negate the likelihood of a quite fruitful pragmatic dialogue between Moscow and Ankara in the future as well.

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