The Baltics rely on Turkish women for air security
This is the type of headline I’d like to see when we talk about Turkey’s international activism and actually the above headline is not fiction. It is real. Let me explain.
The Baltic states do not have their own fighter jets to protect their national airspace. When the three former Soviet states joined NATO, member countries started to deploy their aircraft to conduct the Baltic Air Policing mission to fill in the Baltic states’ shortage of relevant aircraft.
Since 2004, when the Baltic mission was first launched, a dozen member countries including Turkey have been rotating the mission. In other words, Turkish fighter jets have been assigned to do air patrolling in Baltic airspace, and the crew includes female pilots too.
This was mentioned by one of the leaders of the Baltic states, who told the visiting NATO secretary-general how Baltic air security was in “the hands of Turkish women.”
That’s the type of news I’d like to read about Turkey’s foreign policy.
I don’t want to read news stories about the discovery of smuggled weapons in a Turkish ship bound for Yemen, a few days after Turkey forced a Russian plane to land on suspicion of carrying military materiel to Syria.
I want to read about the Turkish army being almost the only foreign troops in Afghanistan to have a billboard with a national flag announcing its radio station, which will broadcast in English and Pashtun.
I don’t want to read stories that say members of Turkish al-Qaeda were found dead in Syria while fighting alongside the Syrian opposition.
I want to read news stories that talk about how Turkey, which set up tents in Kosovo during Ramadan so fasting Kosovars could break their fast, also organized a jazz festival that became a huge success, proving that Turkey’s activities in Kosovo are not limited to religious undertakings.
I don’t want to read stories about kidnapped Turkish businessmen or journalists, a tool that rogue states or nonstate actors often use against a country they believe to have imperial designs.
I want to read stories that say, while English and German still remain popular, there is a serious rise in the number of Serbs who want to learn Turkish, because of the popularity of Turkish soap operas, the very ones that the Turkish prime minister has been critical about.
I don’t want to read stories about how Turkey has become a back base for Syrian opposition forces and concerns about weapons going through the Turkish borders ending up in the hands of radical Islamists.
Turkey’s strength as a major regional player and a midsize global actor comes from a finely tuned mix of soft and hard power; the latter being used only for defensive purposes and as a projection of soft power in places like Afghanistan. Getting into dirty politics, becoming a “little America,” to use the jargon of the ruling party’s constituency, won’t make Turkey a major player.
Finally I don’t want to see the Turkish foreign minister crying. It is not tears that will help the Palestinians, but sober thinking just as we have seen in Egypt’s mediation to end the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas.