Without Türkiye, NATO is just a ‘straw man’

The European Union can no longer hide behind ‘straw man’ arguments when it comes to Türkiye’s full membership negotiations

The recent NATO summit in Vilnius was, in essence, a celebration of Türkiye. Probably, like all the Western media, from the German newspaper Bild, a true lover of Türkiye, to the British newspaper Guardian, another paramour of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one might think that the reason for this celebration is Türkiye’s concur with Sweden’s joining NATO.

This is not what I have in mind because Türkiye has not yet caved to the collective pressure to take Sweden into the folds of the useless alliance called NATO and the fat lady, that is the “Congress” in Ankara, has yet to agree. Whereas, what I have in mind is the fact that, due to some miraculous thing that happened in Vilnius, Lithuania (see my take on the magic and miracles about the peace summits here), the NATO partners of Türkiye and future EU partners experienced an unexpected enlightenment about Türkiye-the-military-ally. The same Europeans would not sell even a simple headlight for military vehicles lest Türkiye might use it against what they think is the human rights of the Kurdish minority – which is actually an armed rebellion and terrorism against Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Turkish people in Türkiye, Iraq, Iran and Syria. They agreed to drop their objections to military equipment sales to Türkiye and undeclared embargoes against Türkiye’s full membership in the EU. U.S. President Joe Biden, while still keeping the “good cop-bad cop” excuse alive in the coffer, offered semi-insurance about the sale of F-16 Block 70/72s, fourth-generation warplanes.

Türkiye had requested to purchase $20 billion (TL 523.41 billion) worth of Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighters and nearly 80 modernization kits for its existing warplanes, but the Biden administration has been dancing the “We’re-OK-but-Bob Menendez-is-the-killjoy-here!” dance since October 2021. Biden’s neocons want Türkiye to take a more belligerent stance toward Russia; Senator Bob Menendez, on the other hand, wants Türkiye to be less belligerent to “NATO allies and neighbors” before lifting his opposition to the sale of F-16s. “NATO allies and neighbors,” in Bob’s parlance, means Greece and Greek Cypriots. He still believes in the existence of the “Republic of Cyprus,” which was nullified when the Greek junta occupied southern Cyprus and overthrew the elected government on July 15, 1974; and any reference by the Turkish government to the Turkish entity on the northern Cyprus is considered “belligerent stance” against that non-existing state. By the way, Greek descendants are the majority of the congressman’s constituents in New Jersey.

EU membership

Another miraculous thing that happened in Vilnius was that, when declaring that Türkiye had agreed to support Sweden’s NATO bid in return for deeper cooperation on security issues and a promise from Sweden to revive Türkiye’s quest for EU membership, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg added that he also supports Türkiye’s EU membership.

Well! When I say “they agreed to drop their objections” it should not be taken as if that military equipment is on the next FedEx cargo truck and F-16s are on their way to Türkiye. As for reviving Turkish membership in the EU, we have already begun hearing objections. German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz said that Turkish entry to the EU is only on their agenda, and Politico reporter Lee Hudson doesn’t believe that a “Sweden deal with NATO” could land Türkiye in the EU members roster.

Then what is there to celebrate?

I think we can agree that bi- or multi-polar peace on Earth depends on dialogue. Also, I think you’d agree that military alliances do not win by making wars but by preventing wars. Their real power is in their deterrent power.

Deterrence is a military strategy that uses the power that effectively precludes an attack from the adversary, which requires communication not only of the threat of reprisal but the ways of peaceful cooperation between them. It is a narrative that can be summarized as: “If you attack us, we’ll retaliate in a such way that you’ll be totally obliterated from the face of the Earth!” However, it only works to deepen the enmity in the first place. You can allocate more sources to fortify your first strike and deterrent powers and add more nations to your alliance, but still, you depend on your adversary for major economic and financial resources. Your “NATOfication” of Europe as a whole sucks up all your time and energy (and money), yet Europe depends on Russian gas! That fact alone is good enough to turn NATO into a scarecrow.

Türkiye now ‘calibrates its balancing act’

As Dr. Rich Outzen, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Türkiye and a senior adviser at Dragoman LLC, has repeatedly said, since the start of Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine, NATO countries have sought to project a united front against Russian President Vladimir Putin – all but one: Türkiye. Instead, Erdoğan has opted for a delicate balancing act to keep the communication channels open. Outzen says Russia’s “diminished military reputation” has been good for Türkiye. Likewise, Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and chairperson of the Istanbul-based think-tank EDAM, points out that Türkiye now “calibrates its balancing act, becoming more openly ‘pro-Ukraine.’”

Several scholars and former members of diplomatic and military establishments believe that it is Türkiye’s approach that makes NATO a truly deterrent power by providing an open channel to Putin. Erdoğan’s pragmatic style enables him to evaluate the situation closely and if the two countries’ interests align, then he convinces Putin to move forward. Kılıç Buğra Kanat, research director at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) in Washington, D.C., calls NATO a lame-duck without Türkiye: “All those people who argued over the last few years that Türkiye should be expelled from NATO were smoking crack.”

Now that the European Union has evolved into the “North and South, East and West Treaty Organization,” it understands like its Atlantic counterpart that Türkiye serves as a window to Russia. As the EU may heap all its used and/or unopened U.S. aid packages on Ukraine, they cannot make Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his neo-Nazi Azov brethren win any war against Moscow. So, they need to sit down around a table in Istanbul and convince both sides to make peace. For this to work effectively, Türkiye must be a real part of the EU.

Europe cannot hide behind the “straw man” anymore after having accepted to reopen the full membership negotiations with Türkiye; they cannot rebut Türkiye’s full membership arguments by misconstruing them.

We have to celebrate Türkiye’s entry to the EU by this time next year. We have waited for 60 years; we can wait for one more year.

Source: Daily Sabah

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About the author

Hakki Ocal

Hakki Ocal

Hakkı Öcal is a columnist at both Daily Sabah and Milliyet newspapers, which are based in Istanbul. He is also an advisor to the President of Ibn Haldun University.

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