Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Turkey Skunks the NATO Party

Especially for Finland, but less so for Sweden, their neutrality in Europe is in a large measure a Cold War relic.

For old NATO hands like your humble blogg'r, this is a great moment. Though they were not NATO, you could find in most NATO HQs and operations, including Afghanistan, Finns and Swedes. Superb professionals and friends. To see them come fully in to the fold is just plain right - not just from a security perspective, but on a baseline of NATO's common values and shared baseline respect for the rule of law and liberty. They are great nations for those who value Western civilization.
We should be so lucky.

Like the rude uncle that keeps showing up to holiday dinners, Turkey would like a word;
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Sweden should not expect Turkey to approve its NATO bid without returning "terrorists", and Swedish and Finnish delegations should not come to Turkey to convince it to back their membership in the alliance.

Earlier, Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the accession process expected to take only a few weeks despite Turkey's objections.
Erdogan said NATO allies had never supported Turkey in its fight against Kurdish militant groups, including the Syrian Kurdish YPG, which Ankara also views as a terrorist group closely tied to the PKK.

"NATO expansion is only meaningful for us in proportion to the respect that will be shown to our sensitivities," he said.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said on Monday Sweden and Finland had not granted approval for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested.
The diplomats have some time here, but Turkey is far outside a half standard deviation from the center of the NATO alliance. Most of us who served remember our Turkish colleges who "disappeared" or were forced in to exile by Erdogan. How does that mesh with "NATO values?"

No modern nation is going to turn people over to Turkey who have taken refuge there from torture or death. Erdogan has undermined basic freedoms as the rest of NATO members define them to the point it would be a crime to turn people over to a fate we all know is one best discussed at The Hague than Brussels.

As we've discussed here in the past, it is time to reassess Turkey's position in NATO.  Like Finland and Sweden's neutrality, is Turkey's membership in NATO also a Cold War relic worthy of reconsideration?

A step that should have been taken years ago (and maybe it has...), any "special weapons" assigned to NATO need to be removed from Turkish soil.

When push comes to shove in that part of the world, access to Turkish bases has always been unreliable. They are unreliable. They bully and threaten their friends. Who needs to be in an abusive relationship for that? Has her membership in the alliance brought her closer to Western values, or is she degrading in to Ottomanism?

Turkey is buying relatively advanced weapons systems from Russia.

She has used the refugee crisis to extort money and other concessions from her allies.

Turkey's turn to neo-Ottoman moves from off Cypress to Libya - including threatening the French navy - calls further in to question what she brings to the larger goals of the alliance besides inertia.

We should let this play out - but if Turkey decides to play the spoiler, then serious people need to start making some serious decisions about what NATO needs to focus on in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century. Yes, I know "kicking them out" is exceptionally unlikely for a whole host of reasons - but the rest of the alliance, if they can stand firm, has other motivational tools at their disposal.

Alliances, like friendships, have obligations as well as benefits. Actions have consequences. Turkey needs to know she can't be a bully with her friends ... or that friendship might not last.

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