Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and NATO -- Turkey Political News - Recep Tayyip Erdogan

In Turkey, they again started talking about the fact that the country could leave the NATO military bloc after half a century of presence in the alliance. How real such statements are and what actually stands behind them.

Is Turkey in NATO when Turkey joined NATO?

Turkey became the 13th NATO country, joining the alliance with Greece in 1952. This happened as part of the first expansion, which took place three years after the founding of the bloc. At least three NATO bases are located in Turkey, and the country’s troops regularly participate in the bloc’s sea and land exercises. In 2021, Turkey’s contribution to NATO amounted to €117.5 million.

After 60 years, for the first time in the history of the bloc, the question of the withdrawal of Turkey was raised. And although this point of view is not officially supported in Ankara, the very fact of raising the issue is resonant.

The catalyst for the conflict

The catalyst for the conflict was the negotiations on the entry into NATO of Sweden and Finland, to which Turkey put forward a number of ultimatums, and other disputes between Ankara and partners in the alliance.

Among the 10 conditions for lifting the veto on NATO membership of the Nordic countries, Turkey indicated the extradition of persons supporting the Kurds, whom Turkey considers involved in terrorist activities.

NATO and Turkey Politics News
NATO and Turkey Politics News

Ankara also asked for support in the fight against terrorist organizations recognized in Turkey, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen’s organizations FETO, DHKP / C, DAESH and their branches.

Negotiations on the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO were frozen in January 2023, when, instead of cooperating with Ankara, the Koran was publicly burned in Stockholm and an effigy of the Turkish president was hung by the legs.

Will Turkey leave NATO?

Is it possible to leave NATO? This issue is regulated by Article 13 of the North Atlantic Treaty. According to the document, after 20 years from the start of the treaty, any country can leave the bloc.

Technically, the withdrawal will take place a year after the party notifies the US government of the termination of the contract. The US authorities must then officially inform other NATO member countries about the withdrawal of one of the states from the treaty.

In practice, so far not a single country has left the alliance, although from 1966 to 2009 France partially left the bloc, remaining in the political structures of NATO, but leaving the military.

For the first time, it was not Ankara who spoke about Turkey’s withdrawal from the bloc: in May 2022, the American historian and president of the Middle East Form think tank, Daniel Pipes, proposed excluding Turkey from NATO due to the country’s policy on a number of issues.

“From 1952 to 2002, Turkey was a very good NATO ally, but in the last 20 years it has become extremely bad. Not even an ally. Ankara is pursuing a policy hostile to NATO members like Greece, it has invaded Syria, it is threatening Europe with Syrian migrants, it is buying S-400 systems from Russia,” Pipes said on TVP World on May 15.

And Fox News even called Ankara “Russia’s secret weapon” in the bloc. Accusations of cooperation with Moscow were also repeated by former Trump adviser John Bolton.

At the same time, a member of the Turkish parliament, Devlet Bahceli, for the first time, voiced the idea of leaving NATO because the bloc “does not respect Turkey” and creating an alternative military alliance for the Turkic and Islamic countries.

In January, these proposals were repeated by several other Turkish politicians. However, the ruling Justice and Development Party responded on the evening of January 25 that Turkey does not plan to abandon membership in the North Atlantic Alliance.

“Turkey is unlikely to leave NATO in the next six months. The Turkish leadership needs statements of this kind before the upcoming elections,” Kerim Has, a Turkish political scientist, candidate of political sciences explained. In his opinion, the rapid exit from the military alliance will harm Turkey itself and its political and military stability to a greater extent.

Denis Denisov, a Russian political scientist and expert at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, agrees with him.

“The possible withdrawal of Turkey from NATO threatens a “huge commotion” for the alliance and, in particular, for the United States. We do not need to console ourselves with high hopes that our strategic partner will simply leave NATO.”

“Moreover, it is necessary to understand that modern global geopolitics does not always imply independent decisions even from a state that claims to be a regional leader,” Denisov explained.

Presidential elections in Turkey – 2023

In mid-June, the next presidential elections will be held in Turkey. Many politicians and the media (in particular, Bloomberg) call them “the most important elections in the world – 2023”. Both sides of the Atlantic recognize that the outcome of the election will affect the geopolitical and economic decisions of the United States, Russia, as well as the countries of the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

On the eve of the elections, the Turkish company Avrasya Research published data from an electoral poll with the results not in favor of Erdogan. For the main force of the opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), 27% of respondents are ready to vote, for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – 25%.

In the virtual confrontation between Erdogan and CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the latter won with a score of 48.2% against 37.5%. Defending Turkey’s interests in NATO, Erdogan, among other things, expects to consolidate society around him, experts say.

Turkey’s conflicts within NATO

In addition to the conflict over the entry into NATO of Sweden and Finland, Turkey had other reasons for misunderstanding with partners in the alliance. For example, Turkey could not be included in the PESCO military mobility project, and also deprived of a number of arms supplies due to cooperation with Russia (remember the purchase of the S-400 air defense system).

Another point of tension was the dispute with Greece over islands in the Aegean. Ankara believes that Athens is pursuing a policy of militarization in the territories closest to Turkey and promises a tough response in case of an attack.

“Ankara will still try to seize the moment and negotiate for itself additional “bonuses” before ratifying the admission of northern European countries to the bloc. However, 28 out of 30 countries have already ratified the entry of Stockholm and Helsinki into the alliance, and Turkey is unlikely to interfere with this,” concluded Konstantin Sukhoverkhov, program coordinator of the Russian International Affairs Council.