Turkey and NATO’s approach to cooperative security

Turkey and NATO’s approach to cooperative security

NATO is an important enabler of the security and defense policy of Turkey. Having the longest borders with the Warsaw Pact, Turkey contributed to the security of the alliance and Western Europe during the Cold War. In the post-Cold War era, it made significant contributions to NATO operations and supported the process of transformation. 

 The current security environment is defined with uncertainty. The risks are increased and threats are varied. Because of the multitude of uncertainties and complexities, NATO allies agreed on strategic flexibility in countering the new threats.

The concept of “security” has also changed fairly. Economic crises, global warming, nuclear incidents, water scarcity, natural disasters, organized crime, diseases and inequality are included in today’s security concept. The broadening of the scope of these concepts, which are generally referred to as “securitization,” caused the missions of NATO and other military forces to be broadened as well.
No nation or organization is able to face the new threats alone. For this reason, “cooperative security” gained importance and the content of the term “security” began to mean “security for everyone,” as opposed to “security for one nation/one organization.” 

International society has realized that actors who seem at odds with each other may find common interests, and former enemies may one day end up working together. This is a shift of paradigm. NATO is on its way to being the first model of this new understanding among security and defense organizations.

With increased awareness of this reality, NATO has given more importance to its partnerships under the new strategic concept and renewed its partnership policy after the Lisbon Summit.
The Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative are partnerships demanding, both from NATO and the partner countries, serious effort to overcome the perception of the “other.” The same expectation also applies to the partnerships with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is important for these partnerships to function effectively for global security and stability, and the participation of new members in them would be beneficial and welcomed.

Turkey is an ally who has been supporting the NATO’s partnership policy from the outset due to its central location and its proximity to many of the partner countries. Additionally, Turkey believes that the enlargement of the alliance contributes to the consolidation of security and stability in the whole Euro-Atlantic area.

Turkey assumes the role of a natural bridge between north and south, west and east, among Europe, Asia, Africa and Middle East, embracing all of these cultures. To this end, mediation activities are a natural task for us. 

Since the end of the Cold War era, the developments in the Balkans, Mediterranean basin, Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East, which could be considered the most sensitive regions of the world, have brought a new dimension to Turkey’s role. There is no doubt that the developments in this region play a specific role for global peace and security.

Due to its strong economic and cultural ties with the Middle East and due to the effect of Turkey’s regional aspirations on its domestic and foreign policy, Turkey cannot ignore developments in this region. We believe that the destiny of the region should be determined by the countries of the region and regional problems should be solved through the establishment of an inclusive and long-lasting dynamic of peace.

Unless change and transformation toward democracy are achieved in an orderly manner, chaos and radicalization will inevitably follow. That is why Turkey is continuing to monitor the developments, play its part, and cooperate with other partners.

NATO’s success should not be underestimated. Its efforts are guided by the long-term goals of contributing to regional security and stability, enhancing political dialogue, and developing defense reforms. These efforts have reached the point of yielding fruits. Nevertheless, the near future will demand much more than today.

To create value, NATO needs not only new 21st-century capabilities but also new ways of thinking and working. It must be the primary forum for strategic debate among the allies. It must be remembered that building contacts with countries within and beyond the Euro-Atlantic area and stronger relationships with all international organizations are more important than ever today.

* İsmet Yılmaz is Turkey’s defense minister. This is an abbreviated version of an article first published in the Fall 2011 issue of Turkish Policy Quarterly (TPQ). For more information, please visit www.turkishpolicy.com.