Turkey’s contributions to NATO are ‘essential,’ NATO chief says
İpek Yezdani - BRUSSELS
Turkey will play an essential role in NATO’s security enhancement efforts, which will include creating two new commands across the Atlantic and within Europe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an online interview on July 9.
“In all of these efforts, Turkey’s contributions will be essential,” he said.
The transatlantic alliance is to boost its Command Structure by more than 1,200 personnel, and to have 30 mechanized battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat vessels ready to use within 30 days or less through a NATO Readiness Initiative, Stoltenberg said.
His remarks came ahead of the NATO Summit in Brussels on July 11-12 and amid a rift on Ankara’s missile weapons systems deal with Russia.
In the meantime, Turkey is preparing to take on a new, bigger role in the transatlantic alliance with a task to command the Very High Readiness Joint Force (VJFT) in 2021 along with France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, Stoltenberg said.
“The details related to the Turkish’s rotational lead are still being finalized, but this is another example of Turkey’s valuable contributions to Euro-Atlantic security,” he added.
NATO’s Spearhead Force, the VJFT, is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF)—about 20,000 strong—which includes a multinational land brigade of around 5,000 troops, including land, air, maritime and special operations forces components.
The enhanced NRF will number around 40,000 troops, Stoltenberg said.
Interoperability critical, Stoltenberg says on S-400 deal
Coming to the topic of Turkey’s S-400 deal with Russia, Stoltenberg underlined the importance of the interoperability of the military equipment with what NATO has.
“It is up to each Ally to decide what military equipment they buy. What matters for NATO is that the equipment Allies acquire is able to operate together. Interoperability of our armed forces is fundamental to NATO for the conduct of our operations and missions,” Stoltenberg said.
Not surprisingly, he also brought up Turkey’s air defense system deal with the European consortium.
“Buying equipment from other Allied countries generally enhances interoperability and security. Therefore, I welcome that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Turkey and a Franco-Italian consortium to co-produce air defense systems from European Allies,” the alliance head said.
Turkey, a highly valued ally: Stoltenberg
Turkey is a highly valued ally for NATO for many reasons, not least because of its strategic geographic location, bordering Russia in the Black Sea but also Iraq and Syria to the south, Stoltenberg said.
“Turkey makes many contributions to our shared security,” Stoltenberg said.
In the interview, Stoltenberg reassured NATO and Turkey remain intact.
“We recognize that Turkey faces a difficult security situation, and NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey,” he said.
“Our Article 5 security guarantee is at the core of the Alliance—one for all, and all for one. We support Turkey with assurance measures, including AWACS surveillance aircraft, naval patrols and exercises,” he added.
Saying NATO has deployed air and missile defense systems to protect Turkey’s border against “threats from Syria” since 2013, Stoltenberg said this deployment has been extended again this year “at Turkey’s request.”
“Turkey already makes many contributions to our shared security, including with contributions to NATO operations and the fight against Daesh,” Stoltenberg said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and also referring to the AWACS surveillance aircraft that fly from the Central Anatolian Konya province to support the fight.
“Turkey also helps build stability by playing a lead role in Afghanistan, by contributing to NATO’s mission in Kosovo, and actively supporting our training activities in Iraq. So Turkey does a lot, and this support is deeply valued,” he added.
Stoltenberg vowed the alliance would address a fairer burden sharing in the upcoming summit as well.
NATO seeks to boost security measures across Atlantic, in Europe
The summit is expected to serve as a platform where NATO will seek to further enforce its security with two new commands across the Atlantic and within Europe.
A new training mission in Iraq and step up support for NATO partners, including Jordan and Tunisia, will be launched in the summit, Stoltenberg said.
“This will help in the fight against terrorism and prevent the re-emergence of ISIS,” he added.
A boost in its Command Structure by more than 1,200 personnel, and an additional 30 mechanized battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat vessels, ready to use within 30 days or less through a NATO Readiness Initiative is on the table “so forces can deploy quickly across the Atlantic and within Europe,” Stoltenberg said.