NATO’s part-time ally

NATO’s part-time ally

According to Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s victory in local elections “will bolster the Palestinian nation and cause.” As the Afghan mission comes to an end, NATO should start weighing the merits and demerits of having Muslim Brothers inside the alliance.

As it faces multiple challenges ahead as evinced, most recently, by Ukraine, NATO should rethink “likeminded-ness” in the house since it is a political club with a military force, not just a military club. Turkey increasingly features several titles falling into the category of “the only NATO member…”

Never mind if the Turkish foreign ministry became the first foreign ministry in the alliance that ordered a (non-judicial) ban on YouTube and Twitter. Never mind if Mr. Erdoğan associated atheists with terrorists only a few weeks before Saudi Arabia passed new legislation that labels all atheists as terrorists. Or if NATO allied Turkey has outlawed the words “platform” and “council” from association names because “they may echo terrorist activity.” There is more than that. 

Taking refuge from the August heat at Alexei Kosygin’s Kremlin banquette back in cold war-stricken 1965, Turkish Prime Minister Suat Hayri Ürgüplü said he “was very pleased to be witness to the gradual and confident development of mutual understanding with the Soviet Union.” The next day, an Istanbul daily commented: “Improvement of Turkey’s relations with the Soviets is fine on one condition: that we always remain an ally of the United States and in NATO.”

Some 44 years later, in April 2009, military teams from Turkey and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria crossed the border and visited outposts during joint military drills. That was the first time a NATO army had exercised with Syria’s.

In September 2010, Turkish and Chinese air force aircrafts conducted joint exercises in Turkish airspace. That, too, was the first time a NATO air force had military exercises with China’s.

In 2011, a Transatlantic Trends survey revealed Turkey was the NATO member with the lowest support for the alliance: just 37 percent.

The same year, before finally agreeing to provide NATO forces with logistical support, Mr. Erdoğan had angrily asked: “What business can NATO have in Libya?”

Also in 2011, the Turkish government announced plans to eventually build a ballistic missile with a range of 2,500 kilometers.

In 2012, Turkey joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a dialogue partner, along with Belarus and Sri Lanka. Since then, Mr. Erdoğan has at least a few times said Ankara would abandon its quest to join the European Union if it was offered full membership of the SCO.

In September 2013, Turkey announced that it selected a Chinese company for the construction of its first long-range air and anti-missile defense system. Turkish officials have said local engineering would make the Chinese system interoperable with the U.S. and NATO assets deployed on Turkish soil. 

And this year, the Financial Act Task Force, an international body setting the global rules and standards for combating terrorist financing, ruled Turkey should remain on its gray list. Once again, Turkey was the odd one out: the only NATO member country on an embarrassing list shared with Algeria, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen.

All that makes Turkey possibly NATO’s most bizarre ally, not to mention Turkey is the only NATO member which, according to the U.N., occupies territories of a member of the European Union.

True, Turkey’s position is convergent with NATO’s on Ukraine; and yes, Turkey has other converging interests too, like the preservation of stability of the global commons: air, sea, space and aerospace.

But while NATO wishes to reinforce its outreach to likeminded democracies like Australia and Japan, Turkey is forging regional and wider partnerships with the chosen parts of the Arab world, Africa, Russia, China, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

 As once staunch member Turkey’s likeminded-ness with the rest of the alliance visibly fades away, in favor of the Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood thinking, it is on a fast journey to become NATO’s part-time ally.

If a la carte membership is open to the global clientele, Hamas, too, may wish to join one day.