NATO – Turkey Relations: Allies on Insecurity

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NATO, which was the security umbrella for the Western Bloc in the bipolar system during the Cold War period and functioned as a protection shield against the Soviet Union and communist threat, especially in the context of Continental Europe, is one of the most debated international institutions today. On the one hand, discussions on the existence and concept of NATO are remaining on the agenda, on the other hand, there is an increase in the tendency of separatist among NATO members. No doubt, the argument that the main reason for this situation is the structural change of the international system is generally accepted. However, when we compared to past, in recent days, there has been a serious disintegration within NATO, and problems arise between member states. The latest development to justify this determination is the results of the ‘Transatlantic Trends’ survey conducted by the German Marshall Fund/German Marshall Fund and the Bertelsman Foundation in 11 NATO member countries.

According to the results of the survey conducted between March 29 and April 13, 2021, with thousands of people over the age of 18 and from various age groups from Turkey, USA, Canada, France, Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Spain and Sweden;

  • 42 percent of United States (US) citizens,
  • 76 percent of German and Dutch citizens,
  • 74 percent of Swedish citizens,
  • 73 percent of Italian citizens,
  • 72 percent of French citizens,

describing Turkey as “unreliable”. According to the results obtained from the responses of a thousand participants from Turkey;

  • The rate of those who say Germany are untrustable is 46 percent,
  • The rate of those who say France are untrustable is 74 percent,
  • The rate of those who say USA are untrustable is 77 percent,

In this survey, which was made by the German Marshall Fund and the Bertelsman Foundation, it was also declared that the democratic situation in Turkey, Italy and Poland, was not good.

According to another survey conducted by Areda Survey in Turkey on 7-8 June 2021, which reveals findings close to the above results, 90 percent of the participants do not believe that NATO will stand with Turkey in case of a possible conflict. 51.7 percent of these people think that NATO is using Turkey for their own interests. Moreover, 70.4 percent of the participants consider NATO bases in Turkey as a national security issue.

When an evaluation is made on the two surveys mentioned above, it can be clearly stated that the most fundamental problem in NATO-Turkey relations is the “issue of trust”. In the context of these surveys, which reveal the problem of trust, two important issues should be noted. First, the answers given by the participants and the findings shaped by answers, and the second is the timing of the survey and the messages hidden between the lines in the declaration of the results.

If the answers given by the citizens of the member states participating in the survey are evaluated considering the margin of error of the survey, it is revealed that there is a trust problem towards the organization in all of the most significant countries of NATO. On the basis of the trust problem, there is the concern that NATO cannot protect the interests of the member countries, and NATO will not support in case of any security problem or conflict. In addition, it is observed that there is a high level of belief in the public opinion of the aforementioned countries, including Turkey, that NATO is a structure that acts in line with the interests of the USA.

This negative perception towards the institutional identity of NATO, which is the alliance mechanism established over the Western value system, reveals pessimistic picture regarding the future of the organization. Because today, the support of the national public is very essential in terms of the state’s preferences in international relations and especially the establishment or survival of alliance relations. Otherwise, decision makers may be forced to abstain from a relationship that lacks public support in terms of being sustainable or functioning effectively. Therefore, the public’s pressure on decision-makers may become more serious with every passing day, and this means a serious problem regarding the existence of NATO.

Another remarkable point in this survey, which was published before the leaders’ summit, is the timing of the survey and the messages between the lines. First of all, it can be claimed that the survey aims to influence, manipulate, or expose the leaders who will attend the summit. It is also significant that those who serve the survey and the actors indirectly involved in the process are also questioned NATO’s current position and associated with states that have problems with some other NATO member countries. (Bu cümlenin control edilmesi gerekir.) In other words, although it is declared as public perception in the context of public opinion work, it can be argued that decision makers and power groups are actually conducting a psychological warfare over the media. In this context, it is not wrong to think that NATO has sent messages to some member countries through this survey. It is quite clear that one of these countries is Turkey.

In the NATO survey, both the countries participating in the survey and NATO’s indirectly described them as an “unreliable state” and, on the same day, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated in a session in the Senate that “Turkey sometimes does not act like a NATO ally”; these are the messages given to Turkey before the summit. Likewise, the fact is obvious that the Turkish public’s distrust of NATO is increasing day by day. If it is necessary to entitle NATO-Turkey relations in terms of current conditions over this reality; “Alliance on Insecurity” seems to be the most correct naming. If the aforementioned trust problem cannot be overcome, both Turkey’s relations with NATO and accordingly the USA and the West will be adversely affected and the problem of trust among NATO members (both decision makers and the public) towards each other and the organization will become a serious threat in terms of NATO’s survival problem.

Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK
ANKASAM Uluslararası İlişkiler Danışmanı Dr. Kadir Ertaç ÇELİK, lisans eğitimini Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde, yüksek lisans ve doktora eğitimini ise Gazi Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlamıştır. Günümüzde Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü öğretim elemanı olan Çelik’in başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, Türk Dünyası, güvenlik ve stratejidir.