Turkey, NATO and Policy of Balance

Turkey has pursued a policy of neutrality from the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian war. The most important example of this situation is Ankara’s refusal to impose the anti-Russian sanctions, despite all the pressures from the West. Both Moscow and Kiev accepting a Turkish mediation, is also an indication that Turkey’s neutrality policy is very well-understood by these two countries. On the other hand, the relations between Turkey and Russia are improving on each day and cover many different areas. Both countries are well-aware of each other’s importance.

We have to take into account the facts that presidential elections will be held in Turkey next year, and that the current economic situation is critical when evaluating this decision from the Turkish government. The Turkish government has turned towards a policy that maintains a balance between the West and the East, and that avoids a direct confrontation with the United States, throughout this process.

The government is currently trying to buy more time and strengthen its hand in negotiations. The decision in question, is a mere byproduct of such policies. Although it was said that the veto against Sweden and Finland has been lifted, this decision must be voted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, in order to become official. For example back in 2003, a bill that allowed American troops to pass through Turkish territories to intervene in Iraq, was approved by the government, but was voted against in the parliament.

There is a possibility which a similar situation could happen, depending on how things will proceed. Personally, I believe that the expansion of NATO, an organization that considers Turkish allies such as Russia and Iran as its advocates, and supports terrorist organizations that are against Turkish Republic, is clearly contrary to Turkey’s national interests.

The Turkish government has been pursuing a “policy of balance” for many years. The most fundamental parts of this strategy are to establish co-equal relations with both the West and the East, and taking part in as many institutions and organizations as possible. The government’s ongoing insistence on an EU membership, is a part of this policy. But I do not think it is possible for this policy to yield any positive results.

Of course, Turkey should still protect and develop its relations with the Western countries on co-equal grounds. But Turkey’s geopolitical and economic interests do not require an EU membership. Turkey is not only a part of Europe, but also of Asia while having a prominent status in Eurasia. It is not possible for an EU member Turkey to follow a geopolitical agenda, that are prerequisite for its own national interests. Therefore, I do not see Turkish ascension to EU realistic.

After the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey has abandoned its policy of friendship with the Soviet Union and other neighbors and has turned towards the West instead. Turkey’s NATO membership is a consequence of these developments. However, the idea to distance from or even to leave NATO, has begun to strengthen within the Turkish state since the 1990s.

Turkey’s breakaway from NATO will accelerate, as it improves its relations with its own neighbors. This is a 70-year long relationship. And NATO has influence in Turkey not only in militarily, but also in politics, economics, in its media and in culture. Of course, the breakaway will be painful, but today Turkey is currently on its path of breaking away from NATO. We will be witnessing this even more clearly in the upcoming time periods.

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