WEB EDITION
No. 2 - Apr. 1994
Vol. 42 - pp.3-6

TURKEY AND NATO:
STABILITY IN THE VORTEX OF CHANGE

Professor Dr. Tansu Çiller
Prime Minister of Turkey


"...The clarity that the Cold War has imposed upon the countries of the developed world... has become blurred; the assumption of a natural community of interest between the nations of the Atlantic world has been weakened...; the belief that economic association within Western Europe would lead naturally to political association has been called in question; and many traditional sources of division between the European powers, nationalism and diminishing confidence in government, which were muted during the post-War era, have begun to reassert themselves..."

So wrote Alastair Buchan, director of the Institute for Strategic Studies in London some 25 years ago, in what is a fair approximation of commonplace descriptions of European affairs we hear from some quarters today.

What does this tell us? Only that the most successful alliance in history - the Atlantic Alliance - has throughout its existence been required to come to grips with fundamental issues and to articulate common purposes.

Today, no less than 25 years ago, we need to be mindful that determination and constancy of purpose and an undiluted commitment to the core functions of NATO are what have produced so successful a record. Dedication to these purposes and functions has secured the continued existence of what is, in essence, a moral community of nations espousing the same or at least compatible values of freedom, democracy and human dignity, which are assumed to be internalized by each member country and manifested in the political and economic processes of each.

A community of values

A primary concern for Alliance members should be the moral community and the physical security of the territory in which their citizens have realized certain values. These values, even now in the post-Cold War era, are under assault or are only partially - if at all - shared by others.

The security arrangements into which this moral community entered almost two generations ago prevented Cold War in Europe from becoming hot war. They succeeded in fostering the expansion of its space, bringing in first Turkey and Greece, and later Germany and Spain. They brought about an end to the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Empire.

This moral community, by providence or accident of geography, spans a vast ocean and is sustained by the twin pillars of its North American and European members. And, in the military field in particular, it has been and remains hard to conceive of any circumstances in which Europe would be better off without American participation. Practically and morally, the primary security organization for Europe has been, and must remain, the Atlantic Alliance, a transatlantic partnership.

Now, at the outset of 1994, the Atlantic Alliance must manifest the same constancy and dedication that have served it so well in the past, even as it evolves to take account of dramatic post-Cold War changes offering both opportunity and danger. Our task must be to consolidate the positive gains these changes have wrought. And, in part, it will be to articulate and to address, rather than obscure, in our security arrangements real concerns about the directions of some of these changes, without, in the process, turning such concerns into self-fulfilling prophecies.

We must also recognize the need to nurture the opportunities for peace and security that the new era challenges us to foster. One approach which offers promise is the Partnership for Peace (PFP), aiming as it does to support the efforts of the newly free states of Europe, and of the states which were part of the former Soviet Union, to build functioning democracies and free market economies while providing mechanisms to address their security concerns. Turkey encourages programmes of cooperation which demonstrate an Alliance commitment to the future stability and democratic character of these states.

At the same time, experience tells us that security and legal arrangements superimposed on political, social and economic conditions incompatible with their fulfilment, can make successful actions at times of maximum need extremely difficult, even impossible. The realities of our common security needs point to the necessity for PFP programmes, insofar as they embrace specific security arrangements, to differentiate between those states which, through demonstrable actions and follow-through, show that they have sufficiently absorbed the values of our moral community, and those other states for which this absorption is still very much work-in-progress.

The concrete criteria will be found not only in propinquity and in the content of each state's internal political and civil relations, but also in the shape of military force structures, civilian control of the military, transparency of budget processes and the like. The spectrum of prospective relationships between these states and the Alliance should be contingent on serious, concrete criteria that at once mirror and foster the evolution of these states into entities for whom final entry into full Alliance membership would merely formalize a genuine transformation already accomplished.

Relations with the newly free and newly independent states are matters of enormous importance to our Alliance. Yet, there are other matters, or the same matters in other guises, which demand our attention as well.

NATO members acknowledge advantages in strengthening the European Security and Defence Identity, including the implementation of the Combined Joint Task Forces concept. New situations must be seen with new eyes. The CJTF need not conflict with the primordial requirement that the Alliance never be undermined by measures undertaken to meet secondary security or other aims at the expense of over-arching Alliance purposes. As long as we remain vigilant in the process of incremental accumulation of subsidiary initiatives, we can avoid succumbing to the law of unintended consequences.

Danger of proliferation

Another issue which compels attention is the continued danger posed by the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - and especially the acquisition of such weapons by rogue states. More than any other NATO member, Turkey has been exposed to the dangers of such proliferation. Less than three years ago, in the wake of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait and Turkey's immediate response, civilian populations of major Turkish cities were donning gas masks. I will not dwell on Turkey's sacrifices and steadfastness during that period. Turks were and are implacably resolute. Their contributions to the liberation of Kuwait have been recognized worldwide - although perhaps not the great costs they continue to bear long after the hostilities have ceased. The point I wish to make is that no other member state since the Alliance was formed has so directly faced the consequences of proliferation.

Surely, we cannot remain aloof to reports suggesting that some elements of the former Soviet bloc military and its industrial appendages have exercised what can only be charitably described as lax control over dangerous materials and weapons stocks. These and other manifestations of the proliferation problem merit an official NATO strategy that offers a genuine prospect of advancing our mastery of this, one of our most serious problems.

Turkey, for the better part of our Alliance's history, has been regarded as an anchor of NATO's southeastern flank. Sharing, as it did, the longest border with the then Soviet Union, and responsible for defending fully one-third of the Alliance's frontier with the Warsaw Pact, its Alliance role was defined largely by these circumstances. This, combined with its location amidst some of the most strategically important geography in the world, including the Turkish Straits connecting the Black Sea with the Mediterranean, constituted determining factors for Turkey in the Cold War era.

However, in the period since, Turkey's role in the Alliance must increasingly be defined by its position at the geographic epicentre of post-Cold War changes profoundly affecting the security of Alliance members: changes in the Balkans, where an absence of decisive action - notwithstanding a number of successes recently, thanks to the use of NATO's military power and its political determination - threatens to drag us down a path which has produced catastrophe twice before in this century; changes in Russia and among the newly independent states to our north and east, where the history of reform is still being written and where there are forces determined to reverse it; changes to the east and the south, where "wars of civilizations" and ultra-nationalistic ethnic exceptionalism are actively preached and fomented, and where distinctions between means and ends, terrorism and proselytizing, are blurred and ultimately obliterated.

A European mindset

Elements of all these changes are causes for deep concern in Turkey - but not only because we are in their geographic vortex. Our values are utterly antithetical to those in which these threats are grounded. They also, therefore, menace the well-being of our Alliance and each of its members as participants in the moral community of shared values that our Alliance embodies. There is no centre or periphery for these values. They are central to us all.

Applied by some to Turkey in the past, terms such as "buffer" and "periphery" were at best questionable metaphors. But in virtually every sense, including the geopolitical, they were flawed then and are deeply misleading now. Although Turkey is situated in an area of physical transition on the Eurasian land mass, the geographic and political fact is that Turkey is a European country. And, the spectre of chaos - and too often its terrible reality - in areas of Europe and of Asia adjacent to it must now command the attention that once was focused on what was, but is no longer, the Alliance's central front.

Turkey's demonstrated record of moderation, responsibility and commitment to international order in the midst of this turbulence reveals the best of the characteristics one wants to associate with a European "mindset", a European outlook. Consider the dilemma for Alliance security were Turkey absent from the centre of this sea of turmoil and a nation of a different character were in its place.

Savagery continues in the Balkans and Caucasus. The violence and death are man-made calamities, needless, senseless. One could be unsparing in lamenting the meagre results of efforts by the international community in each instance to stop it. So far, the ravages of ultra-nationalistic ethnic exceptionalism, whether in the Balkans, the Caucasus or other areas, continue unabated, and evidence mounts of their manipulation for ulterior purposes by forces hostile to Alliance interests and values.

This is not the occasion to dissect Balkan or Caucasian issues. But, it is worth observing that even when we are at our most optimistic and can conceive of that day when a cessation of hostilities will come to these tragedies, it is difficult to imagine it will occur in, or be followed by, an enduring geopolitical vacuum. We can safely assert that however these tragic situations evolve, the Alliance will be better off by virtue of the nearby presence of Turkey and the self-discipline, sense of responsibility, and moderating influence it can be counted upon to manifest.

If I have emphasized dangers, both specific and theoretical (but nonetheless of high consequence), it is because our Alliance history informs us that steadfastness of common purpose not only alleviates dangers, but creates new opportunities to extend our community of values and to secure it for ourselves, for others, and for the generations to follow.

© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 1994.