Analysis

OPINION - Turkey, Europe and future of trans-Atlantic security

Security of NATO and hence EU starts from its eastern and southeastern flanks and completely depends on their strength and stability

Ahmet Gencturk   | 08.11.2021
OPINION - Turkey, Europe and future of trans-Atlantic security

*The author is Anadolu Agency correspondent and a research fellow in history at University of Rome "Tor Vergata." His research interests include nationalism studies, transnational history, North American studies, modern Greek studies, Turkish / Ottoman studies, and Turkish foreign policy.

ANKARA 

​​​​​​​While assertive Russian and Chinese foreign policies, which do not hesitate to utilize hard power to advance their foreign policy interests, threaten the security of the West, it appears that policymakers in Western capitals are confused and the individual goals of certain big powers transcend the notion of collective security, which is supposedly the pillar of trans-Atlantic security.

Looking at discourses, policy briefings and speeches by civil and military leaders of European states, one would think they are aware of the threat and will act accordingly. However, practices significantly differ and the future of trans-Atlantic security, to which Western countries owe their prosperity, is at stake.

One of the primary reasons behind this unfortunate state of affairs is the insistence on the ideological and short-sighted foreign policies of certain states. France, for example, is trying to switch the focus of the EU to the Eastern Mediterranean from Eastern Europe and the Baltics, where most states see Russia as an existential threat. While Eastern European and Baltic states all favor better relations with Turkey, France wants them to overlook developments on their eastern borders and instead support its ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean, which are increasingly intertwined with maximalist claims of Greece.

By forming alliances against Turkey, another NATO member protecting the alliance's southern flank for nearly seven decades, France and Greece undermined the alliance's unity and alienated Eastern European and Baltic states both from NATO and the EU. A growing Euro-skepticism, greater emphasis on autonomous defense strategies and rising military expenditures of these countries prove they are aware of the differentiated interests.

Germany, on the other hand, prioritizes its commercial interests over the security of Eastern Europe. Despite objections from these countries, mainly from Poland, it pushed forward with the NordStream2 natural gas line, which will increase Europe's energy dependency on Russia. Furthermore, Germany pursued a somewhat ambiguous policy toward Russia in the face of the illegal annexation of Crimea and the creation of Russian-backed separatist entities in eastern Ukraine. To be fair, France, which defended a softer stance against Russia, joined Germany in lecturing about the "absolute necessity of not losing Russia." Consequently, uneven economic sanctions didn't make Russia change its policies on Ukraine.

The US also seems confused about handling Russia and where to focus in Europe and the Near East. The US aptly sees that the axis of world history shifts from Atlantic to Pacific and wants to concentrate its military power and diplomatic efforts for protecting its vital interests in the region. However, the vacuum created by its withdrawal from Europe is too big to be filled by its European allies, which lack capacity, willingness and strategy.

In addition, the ideological foreign policy of some European powers towards Turkey, which is shared by some circles in the US state apparatus, threatens both US interests and the future of NATO. Some in the US who didn't mind the Chinese takeover of Piraeus Port, already one of the biggest in Europe, or German-Russia energy deals keep repeating that Turkey is drifting away from the West. Under this general pretext, they block even minor arms sales to Turkey while selling offensive, not defensive, weapons to Greece.

Meanwhile, Turkey is emerging as a manufacturing and logistical hub for Europe thanks to its excellent transportation infrastructure, skilled labor force and right policy settings, among other things. Its export sector is booming and the trade deficit is shrinking despite a spike in energy prices. Moreover, Turkey's growing defense sector distinguishes itself, peculiarly in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems and state-of-the-art missiles and rockets and through building various types of warships. This capacity further bolsters both Turkey's combat-proven armed forces and hence NATO's southeastern flank. It is also shared with other NATO countries such as Poland and Hungary and African countries fighting against terrorism such as Nigeria.

Against this background, one shouldn't be under the illusion that ensuring a stable, peaceful and prosperous Europe is possible while continuing to overlook Turkey's rightful demands and contribution to trans-Atlantic security. The security of NATO and hence the European Union starts from its eastern and southeastern flanks and entirely depends on their strength and stability. ​​​​​​​

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