NATO’s cute little maverick

NATO’s cute little maverick

Turkey was the first NATO member state to have a military that conducted joint exercises with the Syrian military. Turkey was the first NATO country to have an air force that conducted joint exercises with the Chinese air force. Two years ago, Turkey selected a Chinese company to build its long-range air and anti-missile defense architecture – a contract which Ankara scrapped on Nov. 13 (the original Turkish plan was to make NATO assets stationed on Turkish soil interoperable with the Chinese-made air defense system). Turkey also became the first NATO member state to seek a seat at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And, most recently, Turkey became the first NATO country to shoot down a Soviet or Russian military jet since World War II. 

Since shooting down the Russian SU-24, Turkey has been behaving like a neighborhood bully that threw a stone and broke the window of one of the tough guys in the neighborhood before running to hide in the house of a group of friendly tough guys. That’s fine – alliance rules. The good tough guys will protect the neighborhood bully from the bad tough guy, at least from a good beating – although some kind of punishment looks inevitable.  

Meanwhile, the bad tough guy keeps on beating the neighborhood bully’s cousins in the next neighborhood over. The neighborhood bully is unhappy, worried and angry that his cousins are on the receiving end of a daily beating from the bad tough guy. He feels helpless because the bad tough guy is just a size too much to take on. Poor cousins…  

This fancy slogan is the making of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “The world is greater than five!” It symbolizes Mr. Erdoğan’s constant ideological resentment that the fate of world affairs is entrusted to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. In greater depths, Mr. Erdoğan’s dictum is a longing for the days when a Muslim country, ideally Turkey, has a word to say among the world’s great powers. Most recently, on Nov. 25, Mr. Erdoğan said in a speech to a regular gathering of village headmen that “This is why we say ‘the world is greater than five.’” Is the world really greater than five? 

Feeling insecure after the SU-24 affair, Mr. Erdoğan and his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, knocked on the doors of the great powers countless times. The United States, Germany, Britain, France, the European Union, NATO, the United Nations... They proudly declared that the world’s big powers agree and side with Turkey in the SU-24 crisis. Turkey officially urged the U.N. to protect Turkmens in Syria. Is the world greater than five? It is, when we have to run away from the bad tough guy and are in need of protection. In short, the world may or may not be greater than five, at our convenience. These days, it is NOT. Tomorrow it may be. 

Fortunately, the good tough guys are starting to gather in front of the neighborhood bully’s house, with batons, stilettos and pistols in their hands, to protect the neighborhood bully from the bad tough guy. That’s fine, too. No one wants a world war in the neighborhood. Hopefully, there will never be a world war in the neighborhood. After all, a pane of glass was broken. The little bully is sorry to have broken it.  

In the meantime, the little bully’s worst enemy, a young criminal who is living in a war-torn house a few blocks away, is watching the neighborhood affairs with a cunning smile on his lips. He feels safer now that the bad tough guy has fewer reasons to turn on him and make the neighborhood bully’s day. In fact, the bad tough guy is starting to protect him even more willingly against the little bully.

The whole town is hoping for a happy ending. Everyone wants some kind of peace to return to the ever-tense neighborhood. One question remains: Who benefits from the broken glass?