President Erdoğan: "As all NATO allies accept Türkiye’s critical importance to the alliance, it is unfortunate that some members fail fully to appreciate certain threats to our country."
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan penned an article for the UK-based The Economist magazine.
In his article, President Erdoğan stated that the war in Ukraine challenged conventional wisdom about the rules-based international order, great power competition and Euro-Atlantic security and that the most recent developments breathed new life into NATO, the greatest military alliance in history.
Pointing out that Türkiye has been a proud and indispensable NATO ally for 70 years, President Erdoğan noted that Türkiye joined the alliance in 1952, having sent troops to Korea in defence of democracy and freedom and that during the cold war and in its aftermath, Türkiye has been a stabilising power and a force for good in the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Black Sea regions and Turkish troops, too, have deployed to many parts of the world, from Kosovo to Afghanistan, as part of NATO missions.
Emphasising that at the same time, Türkiye invested billions of dollars in its defence industry, bolstering its defensive capacity, and that additional capacity resulted in the development of military products that have made their impact in various theatres of war, including Ukraine, President Erdoğan added:
"Indeed, Türkiye’s increased capacity has also contributed to NATO’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. 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."
"This stance cost the alliance many years"
Pointing out that the threats against international peace and security changed in recent years and that led many to believe that NATO was an “obsolete” organisation that ceased to serve its purpose, President Erdoğan 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.”
Noting that, nonetheless, Türkiye refused to believe that the shortsighted and occasionally reckless attitudes of certain member states reflected the position of NATO as a whole and that, quite the contrary, stressed NATO’s importance and called on member states to take necessary steps, and that included updating NATO’s missions to cover emerging threats and making the organisation more relevant for new geopolitical and global challenges, President Erdoğan stated that Türkiye’s call was in line with our nation’s response to the international system’s deepening instability.
Pointing out that in this sense, Türkiye argued that NATO—like all other international organisations—had to implement certain reforms to cope with emerging security threats, President Erdoğan continued as follows:
"Specifically on terrorism, the lack of collective action, in spite of direct attacks against many member states, undermined security co-operation and fuelled deep distrust among the citizens of NATO countries about the organisation.
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 organisations, not only to prevent terrorist attacks but also to curb terrorist financing and recruitment within NATO borders."
"Member states saw that our nation had been right to take certain steps in the past"
Noting that they made legitimate and necessary demands upon NATO, as multiple civil wars broke out in Türkiye’s neighbourhood, President Erdoğan said:
"We made these demands to ensure the security of our borders and airspace as well as human security, as the largest refugee wave since World War II had emerged in the region. 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 organisation would be increasingly important.
As all NATO allies accept Türkiye’s critical importance to the alliance, it is unfortunate that some members fail fully to appreciate certain threats to our country. Türkiye maintains that the admission of Sweden and Finland entails risks for its own security and the organisation’s future. We have every right to expect those countries, which will expect NATO’s second-largest army to come to their defence 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 that Türkiye wanted the candidate countries to curb the activities of all terrorist organisations and extradite the members of these organisations, President Erdoğan 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 recognise this reality before joining. Unless they take necessary steps, Türkiye will not change its position on this issue.”
“It is a decisive step taken on behalf of all nations that have been targeted by terrorist organisations”
“Türkiye stresses that all forms of arms embargo—such as the one Sweden has imposed on my country—are incompatible with the spirit of military partnership under the NATO umbrella,” President Erdoğan said and added:
“Such restrictions not only undermine our national security but also damage NATO’s own identity. Sweden 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 represents a decisive step taken on behalf of all nations that have been targeted by terrorist organisations to date. At the end of the day, terrorism has no religion, nation or colour. That each member state decisively stands up to any organisation that aims to harm the civilian population is one of NATO’s core aims. No country enjoys any privilege in that regard.”
President Erdoğan emphasised that when it comes to solving problems and promoting global peace and security, there may not always be shortcuts, yet the path to success could be shortened by taking bold and necessary steps along the way.
“There is no authority in Ankara that can be told what to do”
Stating that where Sweden and Finland stand on the national security concerns and considerations of other countries, with which they would like to be allies, will determine to what extent Türkiye would like to be allies with those states, President Erdoğan added:
“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 persuade 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.”