In these times of health, economic and social crisis caused by the pandemic, it seems the world has stopped and the rest of crises and conflicts no longer exist. The global consequences and the economic ravages caused by the coronavirus are transversal and disrupt everything and everyone. Let us add to the pandemic the attention – oversized, in my opinion – from the media to the last weeks of the US electoral campaign andu noisy and tangled voting and counting procedure, and we find that other issues that concern us may be stealing from the public opinion and that they continue their course with less media control because the news focus is elsewhere.
Let’s talk about something that, although it is not as a priority as the health crisis, it also affects us. The debate on the cohesion and usefulness of NATO have not stopped growing in recent years caused by a succession of events that go from the appearance of the Brexi hastto the most recent crisis caused by Turkey on the eastern flank of the Alliance, through the arrival to the US presidency of Donald Trump and the Russian meddling in the West with disinformation campaigns.
The (non-binding) political commitment made at the 2014 Wales Summit to reach at least 2% of GDP as a contribution from member countries (30 today after the incorporation of Montenegro and North Macedonia) is proving to be a failure Over the years, only eight countries, of which only the United States and the United Kingdom are great powers, exceed that percentage. The other six do it with great effort for obvious reasons: Poland, Romania and the three Baltic countries for the Russian neighborhood and Greece for its historical bad relations with the Turkish neighbor.
The last statistics published by NATO, which show considerable increases in the budget effort of the most reticent, are nothing more than an optical illusion. Closely analyzing the data (as you have done Brussels2), France is already at 2.11% and other countries approach that bar, such as Germany and Italy, placing the whole of European countries very close to that desired 2%, but what is really behind this apparent improvement is the collapse of GDP throughout the area as a result of the covid 19 pandemic. The next statistics, when it recovers Somewhat the economy, they will probably return us to the reality of the national contribution effort to the Alliance.
But what most affects allied cohesion is the behavior of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, a loose verse that, longing for the Ottoman Empire, has undertaken the task of expanding its influence in the eastern Mediterranean, not hesitating to do so. an incursion into the Syrian region of Idlib to obsessively attack the Kurdish people or to explore Greek and Cypriot waters for hydrocarbons.
On the part of the European Union, already in the last summit of the first of last October, Erdogan was summoned to stop such activities in waters that do not belong to it and most likely at the December summit there will be talk of possible sanctions (we will see to what extent the EU is willing to tighten the rope with a country that has the upper hand of migration).
Add to the fire the fuel soaked wood that has been the recent harsh response of the Turkish president to President Macron (“need mental care therapy”) For his reaction to the terrible murder of a high school teacher near Paris and three other people in Nice, at the hands of young Muslim radicals. It is not the first time that Erdogan insults the French president and it is not the first time that he stands as a defender of a kind of political Islam that has nothing to do with Muslim Wahhabi terrorism but takes advantage of the troubled waters whenever he can to come to the fore promoting his particular crusade to expand Islam, aligning himself in that sense with non-Arab Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia.
With respect to NATO, the authoritarian and less and less democratic tendency of Erdogan’s policies appear as little compatible with the democratic values of the Alliance, as his Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has reminded him. More and more in Turkey collective victims of human rights violations since the dark coup d’état was dismantled in 2016, with thousands of lawyers, teachers, journalists, soldiers of all ranks, officials and judges sentenced to jail. On the other hand, the Turkish decision to acquire Russian S-400 missiles, with which it has already tested, has led the US to block the sale of F-35 fighters to Turkey and threaten it with sanctions for considering that defensive system incompatible with the Allied and above all American strategy.
But the Turkish strategy does not stop there. In recent weeks Erdogan has openly shown his support for Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia over the recent events in Nagorno-Karabakh, adding to instability in NATO-Russia relations.
Turkey, once a conciliator and promoter of a “zero conflict” policy, since the disarticulated coup of 2016 has not stopped radicalizing its positions and competes for regional hegemony with some monarchies of the Persian Gulf. Of course, without renouncing the umbrella of Article 5 of the Treaty but acting for free according to their interests.
In sum, Turkey, with the largest armed forces and most armaments in NATO after the United States, bordering eight countries, appears immersed in problems in Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Greece and Cyprus, and tensions arise, for times or simultaneously, with Russia, the United States, Israel, the European Union and NATO itself. This situation has become a strategic problem for the Alliance and Ankara it is beginning to be viewed by its partners with bad eyes due to its aggressiveness in the region and the lack of political cohesion that it is causing within the Atlantic Alliance.