June 26th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

Would Turkey leave NATO?

Editor's note: Soner Cagaptay is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a GPS contributor. You can find all his blog posts here. Col. Richard Outzen is a foreign area officer in the U.S. Army. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Soner Cagaptay and Col. Richard Outzen.

By Soner Cagaptay and Col. Richard Outzen, Special to CNN

Soner Cagaptay

Only a few years ago, Turkey’s commitment to NATO was in doubt. Some were even suggesting that Turkey would abandon the alliance — or that at least, the alliance should seriously lower its expectations.

But recent events in Syria, including last week's downing of a Turkish plane by Damascus, and Turkish-Iranian competition in the Middle East have been increasing NATO's worth for the Turks.

Turkey has also signed up to join NATO’s missile-defense project, putting its name under what has been NATO’s core mission for decades: meeting common threats with common action by democratic states. (In this modern-day example, it’s Iranian missiles as the threat in question, not Russian tanks.)

For the moment, at least, Turkey has found comfort in NATO’s security. But Ankara’s long-term commitment to the alliance should not be taken for granted, because Turkey has at least two strategic alternatives to NATO.

The first is remaining ideologically agnostic, grouping with other emerging economic powers to maintain a truly nonaligned and balanced strategic approach. This entails acting in unison with the BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India and China. (Though the “R” in that acronym could go missing if Turkish-Russian differences on Syria are exacerbated further.)

The second alternative is to recognize that Turkey has more in common with other emerging democracies than with economically dynamic authoritarian regimes. This form of nonalignment would place Turkey in a wider group referred to as IBSATI — India, Bra­zil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Although IBSATI would leave more room for Turkish coop­eration with the West than BRIC alignment, it could still preclude joint coordination with NATO.

For now, BRIC remains an analytic tool for investors more than for geo-strategists, and IBSATI is more of a pipe dream. Nevertheless, NATO should jealously promote and guard its “leading acronym” status in Ankara.

Buoyed by record-breaking economic growth over the past decade, the Turks are, once again, feeling powerful. Consequently, many Turks view world politics according to their desire to become a global player. So to maintain Turkey’s long-term commitment to NATO, the alliance should consider making Ankara feel important.

From Crisis to Cooperation: Turkey's Relations with Washington and NATO

It could, for instance, design a program for new democracies in the Arab world, similar to its post-Soviet Partnership for Peace initiative, and grant Turkey status as the lead nation in this endeavor. A NATO mechanism with a heavy Turkish flavor would excite far fewer antibodies among Arab partners than bilateral security cooperation programs run by individual Western nations. It would also give NATO an opportu­nity to invest in Turkey without a large armed presence.

For its part, the United States could cement Ankara’s commitment to NATO by protecting Turkey’s most vulnerable security flank: the Kurdistan Workers Party. Whenever Washington has appeared tone-deaf to Turkish con­cerns over Kurdish separatism and terrorism, as it did in the run-up to the Iraq war, Ankara’s response has been predictably bad.

On a practical level, NATO has made it clear that it sees Turkey as an indispensable member. During the recent NATO summit in Chicago, Turkey fea­tured prominently in discussions of the alliance’s future strategic posture and defense capabilities. This conviction was further underlined with NATO’s recent decision to switch its land forces headquarters from Ramstein, Germany, to Izmir, Turkey.

Indeed, Tur­key remains a necessary cornerstone of NATO as much in 2012 as it did in 1952. This is the silver lining of the Arab Spring: Turkey’s commitment to NATO, now revived, can be boosted further.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Soner Cagaptay and Col. Richard Outzen.

Topics: Iran • NATO • Syria • Turkey

soundoff (176 Responses)
  1. izlumuk11

    Turkey must end its brutal illegal military occupation of Cyprus.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
    • Marine5484

      The same is true of Northern Kurdistan, izlumuk11. In fact, if I were the Pres. of Turkey, I'd end the occupation of both states and then pull Turkey itself out of NATO and quit taking orders from Washington D.C.!

      June 26, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Reply
    • neennee

      stop lying

      June 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • i respond to imbecilic posts

      You should end the occupation of the place you live in. Take one-sided worthless views elsewhere, there are two sides to every story, nothing took place for no reason. You attacked Turks, Turks responded, you have been crying ever since. You ignore the initial part of the story and focus in the outcome to fool clueless third parties but a lot of decent people check the entire story and then side with Turks.

      June 26, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  2. diplomat

    Folks – we are human beings, so mistakes will occur, however, do NOT forget that if you believe in Oneness of God [Allah], you will be rewarded. Life is too short and dont waste it by fighting and accusing one another. Please read Koran and be thankful to Allah Who Created us all.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  3. jon

    It appears that crack is the drug of choice
    Among the two writers. While turkey has and would allow use of it's airbases,airspace etc. And that would depend on what mood they are in. Turkey
    Is on the downward slide towards theocracy. Slow but sure and is not a reliable partner. Tactical partnership i can see. Longterm strategic partnership?? This
    Is why our country is doomed.gay pride parades in the military and brainless strategy.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Reply
  4. James

    What a joke that Turkey goes crawling and begging to NATO for help. Not surprising from the country feared around the world for it's unmatched and brutal efficiency with two main Turkish specialties, buggery and genocide.

    June 26, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Reply
    • Doug

      Armenia will never be a relavent country James! Turkey will grow and prosper further. You'll continue your bitter life and die an angry man.

      June 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Reply
    • i respond to imbecilic posts

      That so-called genocide is as bogus as a three-dollar bill. Armenians ignore the initial part of the story, how they armed and started attacking Turks from within the empire when Turks were at their weakest time fighting against multiple nations at many different fronts.. Armenians ignore how they sided with Russians and started massacring women and children, how they declared war at Turkish empire, thought they could win and create greater Armenia, they miscalculated, and Turks managed to respond. Then they act like Turks turned on to them for no reason. This was war time, Armenians lost the war they started, they were no longer welcome on Turkish soil as a result and they were collected and kicked out of Turkish borders. Armenians were far from innocent, and their fate was the same as any other losing side of wars back at the time. Now, they try to show the evidence from the war and act like they were victims of a genocide. The actual number was increased from tens of thousands to half a million, then a million, now two millions.. soon to be a billion at a theater near you.

      June 27, 2012 at 12:01 am | Reply
    • Sam

      The Turks play politics just like ever other group, they certainly are not victims, innocent, or heroic. Just like any other nation they are out for their own interests. UN resolutions only apply to your enemies (or pawns) never yourself.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:23 am | Reply
  5. izlumuk11

    Let's see how hard we can smack Turkey on the rear with the door as they leave NATO! Then, let's make them leave Cyprus. Turkey's illegal occupation of Cyprus must end.

    June 26, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Reply
    • i respond to imbecilic posts

      Except, your side is always the one that gets smacked. You can have the feeling of accomplishment only at such online forums. The real life is a whole different story where your lies and propaganda does not exist, you can't come up with random nonsense there, there you always lose. You must end the illegal occupation of the space you take on earth surface, because you are a filthy creature.

      June 27, 2012 at 12:04 am | Reply
  6. Olivier


    June 26, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Reply
    • Olivier


      June 26, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Reply
      • oliver


        June 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  7. Bianca

    Very condenscending. I wonder why would Turkey see others making plans for its own interests - a "promotion" of sorts? The crisis in Syria was ready made to curb Turkey, and its growing regional clout. NATO just decided to move in, and give Turkey as much trouble as possible - given that Turkey managed to get their "secular" generals under control. It looks like those generals will be very happy to be allowed to make mischief again!

    June 27, 2012 at 1:32 am | Reply
    • Karen Schmidt

      Turkish generals make less mischief than the generals of the rest of the world, especially those of your country.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:20 am | Reply
    • Mark Martin

      Let the Turkish generals make mischief. Erdogan must go! This fight against Isis should bebTurkey's fight too.

      October 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Reply
    • Mark Martin

      Let the Turkish generals make mischief. Erdogan must go or make the point that Isis does not represent a respectable Islam. This fight against Isis should be Turkey's fight too.

      October 7, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  8. Nato: North Atlantic Treaty Organization

    is NATO even relevant anymore ?

    June 27, 2012 at 3:15 am | Reply
    • Jonas

      Yes, very much so.

      June 27, 2012 at 3:20 am | Reply
    • Sam

      Only as another way to squander US tax dollars in benefit of the military industrial complex.

      June 29, 2012 at 8:21 am | Reply
  9. Tony

    Turkey is a friend of the Assad regime under the table, so Turkey to protect the killer in Syria. Turkey not concerned with the brutal massacres in Syria. Erdogan's son is married to relatives of Bashar al-Assad .

    June 27, 2012 at 6:11 am | Reply
    • Fatih

      Sorry, UFO s must be real and you are from Mars don't you, otherwise these comments can not come from humanbeing.

      June 28, 2012 at 4:38 am | Reply
  10. armenian

    the day turkey leaves NATA will be the day Russia puts one in it..........

    June 27, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
    • Turk

      We have one saying in Turkish "Don't go to bed with someone else dic." According to your message Armenians are going bed with Russians...

      June 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  11. izlumuk11

    islam is a crime against moslems and all humanity. islam must be opposed wherever ti festers.

    June 27, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Reply
  12. rory

    Let's use the forum to promote world peace and love together thru worldwide media,love you all

    June 28, 2012 at 1:28 am | Reply
  13. JJ

    Turkey is nowhere near the military and economic clout of China and India, also not even close to the enormous size of Brazilian markets. Its best for Turkey to chart its own geopolitical strategy than align with NATO or EU ,a sinking boat or with the BRICS,higher weight category. Her best role would be to act as a buffer between the middle east and the west.

    June 28, 2012 at 2:39 am | Reply
  14. Tom

    It is an opportunity for Turkey to liberate the Syrian people of the massacres. According to the U.N, the Free Syrian army controls 50% of the area of ​​Syria. Free Syrian army is alliance with Turkey, so Turkey can the occupation of Syria in 7 days and the overthrow of Assad. But Erdogan coward! No room for cowards in NATO. Turkey should leave NATO .

    June 28, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply
  15. Cheese Wonton

    Turkey won't leave NATO. Without NATO, Turkey is nothing. None of the Muslim countries respect the Turks or aspire to mimick them and they all still harbor lingering hatred of the Turks from their suffering under the Ottoman Empire..

    June 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
    • Sahmat

      Firstly, Ottomans brought peace, brotherhood and likeness between the Arabs in the middle east. Ottomans sieged Constantinople and they won muslim's respect. Fatih, the commander, who conquered the city became blessed commander in the Islamic world. Secondly, have you ever been to a middle-eastern country? I don't think so. Because, even Bosnians, Albanians, Iraquians, Egyptians, Tunusians (basically almost all of the people from Ottoman territory) still praise how Ottomans, we Turks' ancestors, were magnificient. Thirdly, you Europeans don't even know what "Empire" means. Empire comes from the word "Imperial". For instance, British Empire; wherever they went, they inoculated their language and religion. But, Otommans weren't an empire, they could have forced to the Greeks, Bulgarians, Hungarians and Arabs to speak Turkish, however they didnt. They left them free because, that's what their religion orders them to do. Brieflly, USE YOUR BRAIN, READ, UNDERSTAND AND RESEARCH CLEARLY FROM ITS ACTUAL RESOURCES.

      October 31, 2014 at 6:30 am | Reply
  16. Sam

    Turkey isn't an asset to the USA, it is an albatross that will hang on the neck of any so called aliance the Turks seek to use and exploit. Turkey cares only about increasing it's sphere of infuence, they wish to relive the days of the Ottoman Empire, which is all good, as long as they are the ones that pay and fight for their vision. Please leave American tax dollars and soldiers lives out of this mess.

    June 29, 2012 at 8:19 am | Reply
  17. ccsroscoe@gmail.com

    It is time to stop pretending Turkey is an ally and Israel is not.

    Expel Turkey from NATO and replace them Israel.

    Let Turkey do it's Islamic thang.

    June 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
    • Turk

      I agree with you and let Isra-dEviL do it's satanic thang.

      June 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  18. krm1007 ©™

    PAKISTAN.....The New Gateway to Central Asia and Europe.
    With a population of over 180 million most of whom are well educated, English speaking, entrepreneurial and a cultural and social fit with Central Asians...Pakistan will now become the new face and gateway to Central Asia and Europe. Pakistan will thus span this region and provide the impetus for growth, prosperity and unity among these countries. These are new and exciting times for Pakistanis who should now look forward to their new leadership role aligned with Central Asia and Europe rather than the Subcontinent. We wish them much success as they have sacrificed the most during the past 30 + years creating a new world order.

    July 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply
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  22. Mark Martin

    Erdogan needs to get into the game against Isis or be expelled from NATO. His insecurity about the PKK goes against his own government's policy of working with the Kurds. If Isis conducts a genocide in Kobani, Erdogan will have blood on his hands. Given the conduct of Turkey with the Armenian genocide, one would think that his tacit support of Isis including selling its oil would come to an end. If not, the US should expel Turkey and begin to support a free Kurdistan.

    October 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Reply
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