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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Two views on Turkey's place in--or out--of NATO

...one from July 2016, another, from January 2017.

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In ALJAZEERA, Marwan Bishara addressed the issue TUREXIT: SHOULD TURKEY LEAVE NATO? shortly after Erdogan survived a coup attempt. Excerpts follow:
...But Ankara will hang tight to its NATO membership - more for its political than military benefits.
Contrary to huffs and puffs coming out of Washington and Paris, Turkey's experience shows that its NATO membership guarantees it can do what it pleases internally as long as it serves US and NATO externally.
Judging from President Barack Obama's phone call to President Erdogan this week, the US is holding tight to its Turkish ally. Likewise, if Admiral Starvidis's recommendations are anything to go by, so will Clinton.
So as Erdogan strengthens his grip over the country's military and political establishment, Turkey and NATO will continue to embrace each other, and probably increase visit exchanges, improve their lines of communications and intensify the cooperation against ISIL.
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Yekaterina Chulkovskaya asks WILL TURKEY LEAVE NATO? in an AL-MONITOR post of January 10, 2017. Citing increasing ties between Russia and Turkey, Chulkovskaya highlights Turkey's involvement in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO):
The “Shanghai Five” (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) was founded in 1996. It was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after Uzbekistan joined the group in 2001. Later, SCO observer status was granted to Mongolia, Iran, Belarus and Afghanistan. India and Pakistan signed accession agreements in June 2016 and are to become members this year. Turkey joined the SCO as a “dialogue partner” in 2012...
Russian military experts, however, are skeptical about Turkey's SCO membership. One such expert, a retired colonel and military journalist, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that without leaving NATO, Turkey can't join the SCO. "The SCO was established as a regional organization, which concentrates, first of all, on security threats such as extremism, terrorism, security and close military cooperation. It is just impossible that a NATO country will become an SCO member," he said.
In Turkey, however, membership in the SCO is hardly viewed as an alternative to NATO or the EU.
"Turkey, due to its geography and culture, is in Asia and in Europe, similar to Russia. Thus, Shanghai is not an alternative to the EU," Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told the media during a December trip to Russia. "We are not using [the SCO] to scare the EU. [But] Turkey cannot disregard the threats and opportunities it faces. We do not have the luxury to say, 'The EU is our only option and we will be there whenever it wants us to be there."
Soysal told Al-Monitor, "I don't see why Turkey [would have] to leave NATO. The SCO was not established as an alternative to NATO."
Russia has viewed the SCO as more of a security and political organization than an economic one. This seriously diminishes the membership chances for a NATO state in the SCO, even though Moscow welcomes Ankara’s efforts to join. Liberal Democrat leader Zhirinovsky, during his November visit to Turkey, said Erdogan personally asked him to help with Turkey’s efforts to join the SCO and said there is a possibility Turkey will leave NATO.
It's interesting to speculate whether Erdogan was joking this time.
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For more information on the SCO, see The Council on Foreign Relations' background paper.


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