The Turkish and German armies and NATO’s cooperation culture
Turkey is seeking to reinforce its air defense system in order to minimize the security risks caused by Syria. NATO was asked to help. Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, that is, the NATO members with high-altitude air-defense systems, agreed to help. Kahramanmaraş now hosts the German batteries.
The Turkish and German armies that were once very close World War I allies are sharing the same barracks again. However, the news is that some problems have arisen between the Turkish and German soldiers. One would have expected that things could work better between these NATO partners.
It is no secret that the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Angela Merkel governments have their disagreements. This is normal. I don’t think this has anything to do with the relations between the two countries’ soldiers. The issue has to be approached without exaggeration and in light of its technical dimension.
When the soldiers belonging to the armies of two different countries share the same barracks, it is understandable that problems may arise. This is even the case when two different outfits of the same army share the same barracks. There are many reasons for this. First of all, there are cultural differences. It is important for the Germans to consider the fact that they are in a foreign country and take note of cultural differences. In other words, one should not confuse the Turkish army with the Afghan army. On the other hand, the Turkish soldiers should also understand the Germans’ cultural codes and act in accordance with traditional Turkish hospitality.
Second, there are some differences in organizational cultures. The Turkish Armed Forces is being subjected to important changes. Yet, it is still possible to discern the historical Prussian influence on the military understanding of our Land Forces. It may be difficult for the German soldiers who are nowadays “citizens in uniforms” to grasp this conception of absolute discipline.
Additionally, the positions of the countries within NATO, the differences in their ability to provide their soldiers with favorable physical conditions and the slow pace of bureaucracy and production of common codes all make it difficult for both sides to understand each other.
The cooperation between organizations with different cultures is possible only through the choice of qualified and experienced personnel. It is not right to discuss this issue in the media without taking into account the technical dimension. Despite the difficulties, however, the German soldiers, like their grandfathers, will surely return to their countries with interesting memories and good experiences about a different culture.