There is no better alternative to NATO: Analysis
In the last decade, there have been many debates concerning Turkey’s international position, and some local circles have opened the discussion on the benefits of NATO membership for our country’s interests. They have evoked “Eurasianism” as a potential alternative for our country’s future.
In today’s world, neo-Eurasianism is an important political strand that indirectly influences Turkey’s international relations. While it is often referenced in our public discussions, there have not been any serious studies on its pillars.
Eurasianism is not a new political theory. Its origins date from late Czarist times. We came to know about it through the recent work of Igor Panarin and Aleksandr Dugin. It is a political movement in Russia that claims that Russian civilization does not belong to either “European” or “Asian” categories but rather to the geopolitical concept of “Eurasia.” Interestingly, the geopolitical boundaries of Eurasia correspond to the boundaries of the ex-Soviet Union. It is easy to see why this strand of thought is appealing to the Russian elite and how Soviet-centered it is. It is particularly worthwhile to remember Mr. Putin’s 2005 speech where he described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the major geopolitical disaster of the century.”
Since then, we also note that Russia has been following an assertive foreign policy starting with the Russo-Georgian war and, most notably, continuing with the annexation of Crimea. From a Russian perspective, they are “simply” taking back what belongs to them. This kind of assertive behavior, however, looks strange to the rest of the world, as it does not consider the tremendous global changes and improvements of the last 30 years.
While the Eurasianist concept of “Komplimentarnost” offers an accommodating place for ex-Soviet Turkic republics, it does not for Turkey. In fact, in his 1997 book, “The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia,” Aleksandr Dugin implies that Turkey should be weakened through different geopolitical shocks. He does not hide his dislike for Turkey’s Atlanticist NATO ties. This way of thinking and these policy measures represent risks for our country.
Turkey has been a NATO member for almost 70 years, and this alliance has served us well economically and politically. As highlighted in the Hürriyet Daily News article, “Economic benefits of NATO Alliance for Turkey” (August 21, 2018), by being under NATO’s security umbrella and spending less on our defense budget, we have grown faster on average since 1960. While we should all be for better commercial relations with Russia, we should not forget that there have been many Russo-Turkish wars, and that Turks have been hurt by Ottoman-period aggressions. Since 1952, any Russian advancement towards the south has been balanced by NATO’s firm stance. Today, the Turkish military can rightly pride itself on being among the most technologically-advanced armies in the world. In this success, the effective NATO supply chain is an important driver. For example, the Turkish air force benefits from NATO’s optimized infrastructure and maintains its air force capabilities in a cost-optimized manner.
In sum, it is in the interest of our country to embrace its place in NATO and take the relevant measures to tackle our problems with our NATO partners. It is true that there are illogical policies pursued by the United States in Syria, such as ties with a separatist organization and a lack of coherence in their policies. However, both American and Turkish defense veterans would confirm that there are more common interests that unite us than issues that separate us. The existing problems can be resolved by good communication and sound discussions rather than impulsive social media exchanges. Both NATO and Turkey will benefit if we can reinvigorate our cooperation and put aside minor differences.