Updated: 15-Apr-2002 NATO Review

No. 2 - Apr. 1992
Vol. 40 - pp. 9-12


Hikmet Cetin,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey

Dramatic and fast-moving developments, culminating in, and ushered in by, the 1989 revolutions would hardly have been thought possible even as late as the mid-1980s. Through them, the Cold War order collapsed. Seldom in the 20th century has any chain of events had broader implications. For nearly three years now, we have been witnessing successive, at times disorderly and painful, waves of change which have not yet run their course.

The most profound changes have taken place, and continue to do so, within the strategic parameters of the Baltic Sea and the Wall of China. This area comprises Central and Eastern Europe, Ukraine, the Balkans, Russia, as well as the trans-Caucasus and the trans-Caspian regions. Although Europe is no longer ideologically divided, the universal consolidation of the norms and values championed by the Atlantic Alliance, still has a long way to go. The number of transformed or new actors currently on the Central and Eastern European/Western Central Asian political scene represent different phases in democratic evolution.

Underlying the ideological convergence of standards set by the CSCE, there exists a wide divergence of levels of democratic political experience and socio-economic development. In Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine and Russia, as well as the Balkans, the trans-Caucasus and Central Asia, the new democracies will remain deeply preoccupied with internal matters of economic recovery and political reorganization for the foreseeable future.

We in Turkey think that peace, security and stability in the upper belt of the northern hemisphere - from Vancouver to Vladivostok - has to be sought and built on the basis of three considerations. The first may be identified as a moral imperative; having encouraged the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe and of the former Soviet Federation for more than 40 years to turn away from a totalitarian political system and adopt democratic institutions, we cannot, indeed should not, let them down now. The second, stems from economic logic; the surest way for nations to advance as peace-loving, politically stable partners is sustained economic development and increasing welfare. People often resort to irredentism and aggressive adventures when the economic path for promoting their interests is blocked. The third consideration is geopolitical. Much will depend on the success of the multifaceted transformation in Russia. This we regard as a critical concern not only for Russia herself, but also for the Euro-Atlantic and trans-Caspian communities as a whole. The chances for Russia's success would be enhanced if the democratic experiments on its entire periphery were to succeed. In other words, if the experiment with democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, in the trans-Caucasus and in Central Asia fails, leading to anarchy, nationalist dictatorships or economic misery, it will be very difficult for the democratic forces in Russia to stay their present course and prevent undesirable deviations that would undermine the whole historic effort in search of a durable peacein Europe and Northern Asia.

Peace and stability in Europe and at its periphery cannot be taken for granted. The developments, particularly over the last year, have brought about new security challenges for the countries stretching between NATO Europe and Russia. There is the possibility of prolonged civil and regional crises and situations of high tension originating from the inability of national governments in the Balkans and in the trans-Caucasus to deal with ethnic, economic, environmental and religious problems in a non-violent manner. Therefore, the future security outlook of the Euro-Atlantic and trans-Caspian communities will be a function, on the one hand, of the degree of domestic stability in Russia and at its periphery, while, on the other, of the set of bilateral relationships between and among these societies.

Interlocking organizations

The most important instrument we have at our disposal to influence these variables is the system of interlocking organizations. This system was conceived on the realistic admission that, during the post-Cold War era, no single European institution acting independently could address and cope with the manifold and intertwined challenges and requisites of extended security over the Euro-Atlantic/Eurasian strategic space. It reflects a valid provisional synthesis for a transition period of unpredictable duration fraught with, in part unidentified, in part ill or vaguely-defined, risks and uncertainties.

As we see it in Turkey, the efficient operation of this interlocking system hinges on the coordinated pooling of the comparative advantages of each organization. To put it another way, relations between these organizations and their respective tasks should be clarified if the system is to prove viable.

This is all the more so in the case of NATO-CSCE relations. The interaction between the Alliance and the CSCE is a natural one, as both institutions aim for the same goal. Given that both seek to contribute to peace, stability and security in Europe, it is inevitable that there will be some overlap and duplication. Nonetheless, a reasonable balance must be sought. We believe that keeping in mind the difference between the nature of NATO as a 16-nation transatlantic alliance, and that of the CSCE as a pan-European/Euro-Atlantic/Eurasian process, should be the starting point in striking that balance.

With respect to our Alliance, we believe that the requirements which constituted its raison d'être, although changed in nature, are still there. The Alliance, as the security anchor of not only its 16 members but also as an insurance system diffusing a sense of safety and stability over a much wider area, now spans the new Euro-Atlantic community.

A major contribution of NATO to the strengthening of the CSCE can be seen in the institutionalization of consultations and cooperation under the aegis of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), a forum which now brings together all the CIS members, along with their NATO and Central and Eastern European partners. The more the new members of the NACC succeed in attuning themselves to the pace of the process, the more they will derive in terms of enhanced peace and stability in their neighbourhood, especially in terms of improved dealings with each other.

Common sense requires that cooperation in the NACC framework be concentrated in those areas where NATO has particular expertise and that consultations and cooperation to be carried out in accordance with the recently adopted Work Plan (1) complement the activities of the other European institutions.

The European integration movement around the nucleus of the Twelve of the European Community, and the Council of Europe, as the depository of political, legal and social norms and standards making up the European heritage of values, are the two other pillars of the system of interlocking organizations. The EC is yet to enlarge and reach its natural politico-economic parameters while developing a security and defence identity complementary to, and compatible with, NATO. It is an increasingly common mistake to assume that a group of European countries may speak for Europe as a whole. We regard these countries as constituting the embryo of Europe's future comprehensive identity and recall their commitment, at the Rome Summit last year, to the principle of equal security for all Alliesand to the strategic unity of the NATO area. Moreover, we have noted with particular attention, the reaffirmation at Maastricht of the right of all European Allies to participate fully in the work of the Western European Union.

Aid to Russia

Security structures, interlocking or otherwise, are important devices in the conduct of a safe and orderly search for a better world. However, the degree of their efficiency and ultimate success depends primarily on the good faith, spirit of solidarity and the ability to assess situations accurately of their individual members. There is no reason to doubt the adequacy of the reservoir of good faith nurturing the current interlocking system. Yet, until now, tangible results, when they mattered, of its spirit of solidarity have not been commensurate with the potential of its combined moral authority. Aid to Russia is a case in point. Although preserving democracy in Russia, and the smooth and successful transformation of the Russian economy are of central importance for peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic/ Eurasian context where the interlocking security structures operate, these structures have, until now, not been able to help develop a serious and convincing response to this challenge on a scale comparable to the Marshall Plan.

A similar observation holds true for the other members of the CIS, as well as for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. To fight hyperinflation and make up for their trade losses resulting from the disintegration of the former Soviet economic space, all these countries need more generous financial and technical assistance. Continuing to suffer indefinitely from severe recession would neither facilitate nor accelerate the pace of their transformation endeavours. If they do not receive substantial assistance from the developed industrial economies in the form of access to markets, capital investments and balance of payments support, their economic prospects could be even bleaker during the coming years. It is needless to recall the syndrome whereby worsening economic prospectsbreed pessimism, heighten domestic tensions and precipitate frictions among frustrated neighbours. The ending of the Cold War, the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the enormous difficulties and obstacles facing Russia in its transformation process, the inherent risks which these uncertainties pose, the unresolved sources of tension overshadowing Russian-Ukranian relations, minority problems poisoning inter-state concord among the young democracies of Eastern Europe, the civil war that has torn Yugoslavia apart and engulfed the Balkans in turmoil, along with the conflicts raging in the trans-Caucasus and the emergence of independent states in the trans-Caspian region as new members of an extended Euro-Atlantic community, have profoundly altered the elements of the strategic equation which was valid during the years of inter-bloc rivalry.

The risk-intensive area in Europe has shifted from the Elbe towards the eastern and south-eastern regions of the continent. Turkey, bordering on this new risk-intensive area to her west and neighbouring actual trouble-spots in the trans-Caucasus, now finds herself in the epicentre of the series of historic upheavals reshaping the political landscape in Eurasia. It must be borne in mind that this epicentre is also located on the northern fringes of the Middle East where the post-war situation in the Gulf, and the problems affecting Iraq, remain largely unsettled and the future of Arab-Israeli peace hangs in the balance.

Turkey's role

In the current era of transition and ferment, Turkey has a greater stake than ever in the preservation of stability in Europe. Of crucial importance in this respect is the maintenance of peace in all areas adjacent to the Black Sea littoral and in the Balkans. Such a peace requires the efficient functioning of Europe's system of interlocking security structures with a strong Atlantic Alliance guaranteeing stability and ensuring change in an orderly fashion by fostering pan-European cooperation and strengthening the CSCE process and its institutions.

The Turkish contribution, direct and/or indirect, to the reinforcement of the security structures of a changing continent and to the promotion of NATO's liaison programme with our partners in the NACC, is expressed through several multilateral, bilateral and/or regional channels which we consider as complementary and mutually supportive.

Apart from actively participating in the consultative and cooperative activities in the forums provided by NATO, the NACC and the CSCE institutions,

  • We attach importance to carrying on a close and frank dialogue with Russia and to further develop our good neighbourly ties and broaden the scope of bilateral cooperation;
  • We look forward to the signing next summer of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone (BSECZ) Project Agreement, the outcome of a scheme proposed by Turkey, which aims at laying the groundwork for multilateral joint ventures in the region, thus contributing to basin-wide confidence-building through increased economic interdependence and institutionalized dialogue;
  • We are satisfactorily improving the traditional cooperative ties binding us to our Balkan neighbours and deploying all possible friendly efforts and using our good offices to facilitate peaceful contacts and dialogue among the newly independent countries of the eastern Adriatic, Macedonia and Yugoslavia;
  • We are prepared to enter into a substantive and sustained dialogue with Greece in a renewed effort to seek agreed solutions to the range of inter-related problems between the two nations and persist in the hope that Greece, too, would display an equally firm readiness in this respect;
  • We are laying the foundations of future cooperation with Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic countries, and expanding the scope of our existing cooperation with Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, offering them our experience in the transformation to a free market economy, encouraging more trade exchanges and extending credit lines for investment and joint ventures;
  • We are striving to exert a moderating influence on the conflicting parties in the trans-Caucasus region and to bring about a congenial environment for dialogue and reconciliation; we advise all countries interested in speeding up the search for a negotiated and lasting solution of the Azeri-Armenian dispute, to adopt an impartial and even-handed approach towards the problem;
  • We are aware of our special historic responsibility towards the Turkic republics in the trans-Caspian region with whom we share a common cultural heritage, particularly visible in linguistic affinity. In full appreciation of their dedication and commitment to develop along democratic and secular lines inspired by modern Turkey, we are determined to afford them every form of assistance we possibly can so that they may avoid pitfalls during the transition into contemporary, pluralistic and stable societies. We harbour neither pan-Turkic nor pan-Islamic illusions which are bankrupt ideologies of the pre-First World War years.

The number of critical unknowns associated with the unpredictabilities of the evolution in Russia, and to some extent with those in Ukraine, will have a strong impact on Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the trans-Caucasus and Central Asia. This evolution, along with the future of the European integration movement, holds the key to the overall evolution of the security structures of our changing continent. We ought to face the fact that to help Russia and Eastern Europe, let alone the other important sub-regions at their periphery, requires huge resources. We cannot do this without transatlantic collaboration. Given the range of uncertainties, we need to be flexible, creative and patient. Above all else, we have to be realistic. It is unlikely that the CSCE will provide an alternative system of collective security that would replace the system of interlocking organizations in the immediate future. Hence, our transformed Alliance and an enhanced CSCE will both be needed for an extended period of transition.


(1) For text of Work Plan, see p.34.

© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 1992.