Stressing the importance of Türkiye for NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country’s partners forgot about its contributions to the alliance when there were no threats to their national security.
In an exclusive article written for British weekly The Economist on Monday, Erdogan said his country’s increased defensive capacity has contributed to the alliance’s resilience and strength.
“Whereas our partners have always appreciated Turkish contributions to NATO’s collective security mission, they quickly forgot about them when there were no threats to their national security. Our partners who only remember Türkiye’s importance in turbulent times, such as the crisis in the Balkans, mistakenly thought that long-term stability could be achieved without Türkiye,” he said.
“Thus, after the elimination of the immediate threat, they disregarded geopolitical realities and the potential threats that might emerge in the region. Needless to say, such pipe dreams turned out to be short-lived as a result of international crises.”
Costing alliance many years
Pointing out that the threats to international peace and security had changed recently and that led many to believe that NATO was an “obsolete” organization which ceased to serve its purpose, Erdogan said: “Emmanuel Macron even said in 2019 that the alliance was experiencing ‘brain death.’ The same folks questioned Türkiye’s role within NATO. That blend of extraordinary wishful thinking and extreme strategic myopia cost the alliance many years.”
Nonetheless, Türkiye refused to believe that the shortsighted and occasionally reckless attitudes of certain member states reflected the position of NATO as a whole, Erdogan said, adding his country underlined the importance of the alliance and called on member states to take necessary steps.
“That call was in line with our nation’s response to the international system’s deepening instability, too.”
The Turkish leader drew attention to Türkiye and argued that NATO -- like all other international organizations -- had to implement certain reforms to cope with emerging security threats.
“Specifically on terrorism, the lack of collective action, in spite of direct attacks against many member states, undermined security co-operation and fueled deep distrust among the citizens of NATO countries about the organization,” he said.
“Türkiye highlighted that trend at all NATO summits and maintained that international co-operation was vital for transforming the fight against terrorism. We wanted NATO to co-operate better on intelligence and military issues when dealing with terror organizations, not only to prevent terrorist attacks but also to curb terrorist financing and recruitment within NATO borders. We remain committed to that position.”
‘Türkiye’s expectations, calls were accurate’
Furthermore, Erdogan noted that Türkiye made legitimate and necessary demands upon NATO, as multiple civil wars broke out in Türkiye’s neighborhood, to ensure the security of its borders, airspace and human security.
“Largely abandoned, our country dealt with all those crises by itself and paid a high price during that effort. Ironically, any steps taken under the NATO umbrella would have prepared the alliance for future conflicts and crises at its borders.”
“The new state of affairs, which emerged out of the war in Ukraine, proves that Türkiye’s expectations and calls were accurate. Certain member states, which suddenly appreciated Türkiye’s geopolitical positioning as that conflict caused widespread disruption, saw that our nation had been right to take certain steps in the past. Türkiye was right to ask NATO members to prepare for coming geopolitical challenges and, in spite of those who argued that NATO was irrelevant, Türkiye was absolutely right to state that the organization would be increasingly important.”
He said it was unfortunate that some NATO members fail fully to appreciate certain threats to Türkiye while all NATO allies accept the country’s critical importance to the alliance.
“Türkiye maintains that the admission of Sweden and Finland entails risks for its own security and the organization’s future. We have every right to expect those countries, which will expect NATO’s second-largest army to come to their defense under Article 5, to prevent the recruitment, fundraising and propaganda activities of the PKK, which the European Union and America consider a terrorist entity.”
Stressing the demand of his country that the candidate countries restrain the activities of all terrorist organizations and extradite their members, Erdogan said:
“We provided clear evidence to the authorities in these countries and waited for action from them. Also, Türkiye wants these countries to support the anti-terror operations of NATO members. Terrorism is a threat for all members and the candidate countries should recognize this reality before joining. Unless they take necessary steps, Türkiye will not change its position on this issue.”
Damaging NATO’s own identity
Erdogan also underlined that all forms of arms embargoes are incompatible with the spirit of military partnership under NATO.
“Such restrictions not only undermine our national security but also damage NATO’s own identity. Sweden’s and Finland’s uncompromising insistence on joining the alliance has added an unnecessary item to NATO’s agenda.”
“Türkiye’s objection to the admission of Sweden and Finland, which remained neutral up until the most recent developments, represents a decisive step taken on behalf of all nations that have been targeted by terrorist organizations to date. At the end of the day, terrorism has no religion, nation or color. That each member state decisively stands up to any organization that aims to harm the civilian population is one of NATO’s core aims. No country enjoys any privilege in that regard.”
Stand on national security concerns, considerations of other countries
Erdogan said where Stockholm and Helsinki stand on the national security concerns and considerations of other countries with which they would like to be allies will determine to what extent Ankara would like to be allies with those states.
“The ignorance and obtrusiveness of those who dare to question the relationship between Türkiye, which has adopted a positive and constructive approach regarding the alliance’s expansion in the past, and NATO does not change our stance. Our country, which is open to all forms of diplomacy and dialogue, strongly recommends that such focus be directed instead to persuading the candidates to change their positions.”
“There is no authority in Ankara that can be told what to do by any country that is unwilling to fight terrorism. We believe that the reputation and the credibility of the alliance will be at risk if NATO members follow double standards in regard to the fight against terrorism."