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ARE ATATÜRK AND ERDOĞAN ENEMIES OF NATO?

José Miguel DIAS ROCHA

Last month, in the drills at NATO’S Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (the President of Turkey) and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (the founder of the Republic of Turkey) were reportedly depicted as enemies of NATO. According to Anadolu Agency, “a [civilian] Norwegian official created a dummy military chat account under the president’s name, and posted a fake chat showing ‘Erdogan’ as collaborating with an enemy” – earlier, the same official had already used a picture of Atatürk “in the ‘Hostile Leaders Biographies’ section of the computerized exercise”[1]. After (and because of) that, Turkey withdrew their 40 soldiers from the drill.[2]

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg immediately apologized “for the offense caused”, saying that “Turkey is a valued NATO ally, which makes important contributions to allied security”.[3] He underlined that what happened was a result of “individual’s actions” made by “a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee”. In addition, Stoltenberg said that the individual was dismissed and made clear that “it will be for the Norwegian authorities to decide on any disciplinary action”, as an investigation was already in progress.

Frank Bakke-Jensen (Norway’s defense minister) declared that “the message does not reflect Norway’s views or policies and I apologize for the content of the message”[4] and Major General Andrzej Reudowicz, the commander of the Joint Warfare Centre, also apologized to the Turkish government.[5]

But in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s view “this matter cannot be covered over with a simple apology” and, he added, “there can be no alliance like that”.[6] Furthermore, the Turkish President said that “yesterday, you have witnessed the impudence at NATO exercises in Norway. There are some mistakes that cannot be committed by fools but only by vile people”. Erdoğan believes that it was “a reflection of a distorted point of view that we have observed in NATO for a while”.

He was not alone in this opinion. Erdogan’s chief adviser, Yalçın Topçu, believes that “the presence of the great Turkish nation in this institution [NATO] has become questionable”.[7] Zafer Oğuz, a retired Turkish Army major, even returned a NATO medal following this controversy.[8] Finally, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ is of the opinion that the incident “should not be swept under the rug”.[9]

However, that was not what happened if we take into account most of the international media (at least considering the websites accessed for this study). This subject was somewhat ignored outside Turkey, not only by the media but also by all of the leaders of the countries belonging to NATO (and hence a fortiori Donald Trump and Angela Merkel — the American President and the chancellor of Germany, respectively.)

At the time of writing, no news related to this controversy were available on US websites like CNN.com (a 24-hour cable news international channel), New York Times and Washington Post (the two most read American online newspapers in the world). The same can be said about Le Monde (the second most read newspaper in France), El País and El Mundo (the two biggest general-interest daily newspapers in Spain). BBC[10] (a British public service broadcaster) and The Guardian[11] (a British newspaper, the third largest English speaking news website in the world), Le Figaro[12] (the most read newspaper in France), Deutsche Welle[13] (Germany’s public international broadcaster), and Al Jazeera[14] (a major global news organization based in Qatar) reported the incident once. As for Euronews[15] (the most watched pan-European news channel in Europe) and France24[16] (a French 24-hour international news television network), one can find two articles covering this subject on their website. All of this news was written in the span of two days — November 17 and 18 —, which means that there was no follow-up coverage. Moreover, not a single op-ed article was written regarding this particular subject in the news websites mentioned before. We can say that for them this was only a slightly important current affairs issue, no more than that.

The only exception was RT (formerly Russia Today, a Russian global news channel, “that American intelligence agencies say is a propaganda tool of the Kremlin”[17], as stated by the New York Times). One can read five articles related to this “Turkey-NATO controversy” on RT’s website.[18] They were published between November 17 and 21. Let’s not forget that since Russian military intervention in Ukraine tensions have arisen between NATO and Russia: for instance, practical cooperation with the Russians was suspended by NATO in March 2014.[19]

Turkey’s relations with the North Atlantic Organization (as well as with some of its most important members, particularly the US and Germany) are not at its peak, especially after last month Turkey agreed a $2bn deal with Russia to get Russian S-400 air defense missiles.[20] Petr Pavel, the chairman of NATO’s military committee, recently said that those missiles on Turkey would represent “challenges for allied assets potentially deployed onto the territory of that country”.[21] In a written statement, Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael told CNBC that “a NATO interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in the region”.[22] In his turn, NATO spokesman Mark Sanders said that “no NATO ally currently operates the S-400. NATO has not been informed about the details of any purchase”.[23] Erdoğan made his views clear on this subject assuring that no “financially effective” alternatives were offered by Western companies. “They went crazy because we made the S-400 agreement. What were we supposed to do, wait for you? We are taking and will take all our measures on the security front”[24], he asserted.

Furthermore, things are not better between Turkey and the US. That diplomatic relation “reached a near breaking point”[25], mainly because of four reasons: the non-extradition of Fethullah Gülen[26]; USA’s support for Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters in Syria – that are considered by Turkey as being intimately connected to Kurdistan Workers Party, a terrorist group to both the US and Turkey[27]; the arrest of two U.S. diplomatic employees in Turkey following accusations of links between them and PKK and FETÖ (Gülenist Terror Organisation)[28]; and, most recently, the declarations made by Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, in an American federal trial, implicating the Turkish President in an alleged scheme to help Iran evade US sanctions.[29]

As for Germany, Angela Merkel announced in September that her country would impose some restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.[30] Germany has constantly criticized the reaction of Turkish State after the failed coup last year (which ended up in mass arrests, some of them of German citizens), at the same time refusing to extradite people Turkey considers that were involved in the coup.[31] In September, during a televised election debate, Merkel said that “Turkey should not become a member of the EU” calling for an “end” of the “accession talks”.[32]

In conclusion, in spite of happening at a moment when Turkey’s relations with NATO are quite problematic, this controversy involving the depicting of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as “enemies” of that organization seems to have been somewhat ignored outside Turkey. Even though it had created lots of indignation in the country, we can conclude that in the perspective of the other NATO countries what happened was not an issue of great importance.

 

José Miguel DIAS ROCHA – Erasmus Volunteer of SASAM

________________________________________

[1] Anadolu Agency – “NATO chief apologizes to Turkey after drill incident”. 17/11/2017. http://aa.com.tr/en/politics/nato-chief-apologizes-to-turkey-after-drill-incident/968318?amp=1

[2] Reuters – “Turkey pulls troops out of NATO exercise over ‘enemy’ list”. 17/11/2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-nato-norway/turkey-pulls-troops-out-of-nato-exercise-over-enemy-list-idUSKBN1DH1P7

[3] The Independent – “Nato apologises to Turkey after ‘Erdogan and Ataturk depicted as enemies’ in joint exercise”. 17/11/2017. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/nato-apologises-turkey-erdogan-ataturk-enemies-joint-exercise-drills-norway-a8060541.html

[4] Reuters – “Turkey pulls troops out of NATO exercise over ‘enemy’ list”. 17/11/2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-nato-norway/turkey-pulls-troops-out-of-nato-exercise-over-enemy-list-idUSKBN1DH1P7

[5] TRT World – “NATO’s ‘enemy chart’ angers Ankara, Turkey withdraws troops from drill”. 17/11/2017. https://www.trtworld.com/turkey/nato-s-enemy-chart-angers-ankara-turkey-withdraws-troops-from-drill-12368

[6] RT – “‘Simple apology’ is not enough: Insulted Erdogan on NATO ‘impudence’ over enemy-chart scandal”.  18/11/2017. https://www.rt.com/news/410283-nato-norway-apology-erdogan/

[7] RT – “Erdogan’s chief adviser calls for Turkey’s NATO membership to be reconsidered – local media”. 20/11/2017. https://www.rt.com/news/410395-turkey-nato-membership-reconsider/

[8] Hürriyet Daily News – “Retired Turkish sergeant returns his medal to NATO after drill scandal”. 23/11/2017. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/retired-turkish-sergeant-returns-his-medal-to-nato-after-drill-scandal-122949

[9] Anadolu Agency – “NATO drill incident biggest scandal: Turkish deputy PM”. 20/11/2017. http://aa.com.tr/en/politics/nato-drill-incident-biggest-scandal-turkish-deputy-pm/971936?amp=1

[10] BBC – “Turkey abandons Nato drill over portrayal as the enemy”. 17/11/2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42031131

[11] The Guardian – “Nato apologises to Turkey after Erdogan and Ataturk appear on ‘enemy chart’”. 18/11/2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/18/nato-apologises-turkey-erdogan-ataturk-enemy-chart

[12] Le Figaro – “Erdogan rejette les excuses de l’OTAN”. 18/11/2017. http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2017/11/18/97001-20171118FILWWW00067-erdogan-rejette-les-excuses-de-l-otan.php

[13] Deutsche Welle – “NATO apologizes to Turkey for targeting Erdogan and Ataturk in training exercise”. 17/11/2017. http://www.dw.com/en/nato-apologizes-to-turkey-for-targeting-erdogan-and-ataturk-in-training-exercise/a-41429119

[14] Al Jazeera – “NATO apologises to Turkey for war games blunders”. 17/11/2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/nato-apologises-turkey-war-games-blunders-171117174536708.html

[15] Euronews – “Erdogan says Turkey pulls troops out of NATO exercise, Stoltenberg apologises”. 17/11/2017. http://www.euronews.com/2017/11/17/erdogan-says-turkey-pulls-troops-out-of-nato-exercise-stoltenberg-apologises

Euronews – “NATO apologises to Turkey after Erdogan and Ataturk depicted as ‘enemies’ during military drill”. 17/11/2017. http://www.euronews.com/2017/11/17/nato-apologizes-to-turkey-as-erdogan-and-ataturk-depicted-as-enemies-during

[16] France24 – “Erdogan says Turkey troops pulled from NATO drill amid new tensions”. 17/11/2017. http://www.france24.com/en/20171117-erdogan-says-turkey-troops-pulled-nato-drill-amid-new-tensions

France24 – “NATO chief apologises to Turkey over Norway ‘incident’”. 17/11/2017. http://www.france24.com/en/20171117-nato-chief-apologises-turkey-over-norway-incident

[17] New York Times – “Russia May Make All Outside News Media Register as ‘Foreign Agents’”. 15/11/2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/world/europe/russia-news-media-foreign-agents.html

[18] RT – “NATO military officer fired for using picture of Erdogan in ‘enemy chart’”. 17/11/2017. https://www.rt.com/newsline/410163-nato-turkey-erdogan-officer/

RT – “Turkey withdraws troops from Norway after Erdogan is listed as ‘enemy’ during NATO drills”. 17/11/2017. https://www.rt.com/news/410169-turkey-withdraws-troops-nato-drills/

RT – “‘Simple apology’ is not enough: Insulted Erdogan on NATO ‘impudence’ over enemy-chart scandal”. 18/11/2017. https://www.rt.com/news/410283-nato-norway-apology-erdogan/

RT – “Erdogan’s chief adviser calls for Turkey’s NATO membership to be reconsidered – local media”. 20/11/2017. https://www.rt.com/news/410395-turkey-nato-membership-reconsider/

RT – “Turkish ex-major returns NATO decoration over Erdogan & Ataturk ‘enemy’ depiction in drill”. 21/11/2017. https://www.rt.com/news/410517-turkish-officer-nato-medal/

[19] North Atlantic Treaty Organization – “Relations with Russia”. 16/06/2017. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_50090.htm

[20] The Economist – “Turkey’s $2bn arms deal with Russia faces hurdles, and possible sanctions”. 30/11/2017. https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21731832-vladimir-putin-wants-create-rift-within-nato-does-he-really-want-hand-russian

[21] Hürriyet Daily News – “Turkey can’t integrate Russian missiles: NATO”. 26/10/2017. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-cant-integrate-russian-missiles-nato-121447

[22] CNBC – “US relays concern to Turkey after NATO ally makes deposit to buy Russian defense system”. 12/09/2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/12/us-turkish-ties-continue-to-deteriorate-.html

[23] CNBC – “US relays concern to Turkey after NATO ally makes deposit to buy Russian defense system”. 12/09/2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/12/us-turkish-ties-continue-to-deteriorate-.html

[24] Reuters – “Turkey will take its own security measures after Russia defense deal: Erdogan”. 13/09/2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-defence/turkey-will-take-its-own-security-measures-after-russia-defense-deal-erdogan-idUSKCN1BO15J

[25] Washington Post – “Video: How U.S.-Turkey relations reached a near breaking point”. 09/10/2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/world/how-us-turkey-relations-reached-a-near-breaking-point/2017/10/09/72ceec12-acfc-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_video.html

[26] Hürriyet Daily News – “We never asked proof on 9/11 from US: Turkish PM”. 12/11/2017. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/we-never-asked-proof-on-9-11-from-us-turkish-pm-122324

[27] PBS – “Erdogan questions why U.S. has armed Syrian Kurdish ‘terrorists,’ disputes claims of dictatorship”. 19/09/2017. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/erdogan-questions-u-s-armed-syrian-kurdish-terrorists-disputes-claims-dictatorship

[28] Washington Post – “U.S.-Turkey tensions boil over after arrest of consulate employee”. 09/10/2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/turkey-summons-another-us-consulate-employee-as-crisis-deepens/2017/10/09/5fbaecf6-ac7b-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html

[29] Washington Post – “Erdogan: New York trial US conspiracy against Turkey”. 05/12/2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/erdogan-new-york-trial-us-conspiracy-against-turkey/2017/12/05/3d8b462a-d9a9-11e7-a241-0848315642d0_story.html

[30] Reuters – “Germany softens stance on Turkish arms sales, citing security”. 12/09/2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-turkey-minister/germany-softens-stance-on-turkish-arms-sales-citing-security-idUSKCN1BN1MV

[31] “Germany declines Turkish request to freeze Gulen assets – Spiegel”. 02/09/2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/germany-turkey/germany-declines-turkish-request-to-freeze-gulen-assets-spiegel-idUSL8N1LJ0BO

[32] The Independent – “Turkey will never become EU member, says Angela Merkel”. 03/09/2017. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-german-chancellor-angela-merkel-eu-member-president-recep-erdogan-nato-a7927861.html

sahipkiran Hakkında

Sahipkıran; 1 Aralık 2012 tarihinde kurulmuş, Ankara merkezli bir Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezidir. Merkezimiz; a) Türkiye Cumhuriyeti’nin ülkesi ve milletiyle bölünmez bütünlüğünü savunan; ülkemizin her alanda daha ileri gitmesi ve milletimizin daha müreffeh bir hayata kavuşması için elinden geldiği ölçüde katkı sağlamak isteyen her görüş ve inanıştan insanı bir araya getirmek, b) Ülke sorunları, yerel sorunlar ve yurtdışında yaşayan vatandaşlarımızın sorunlarına yönelik araştırma ve incelemeler yaparak, bu sorunlara çözüm önerileri üretmek, bu önerileri yayınlamak, c) Tespit edilen sorunların çözümüne yönelik ulusal veya uluslararası projeler yürütmek veya yürütülen projelere katılmak, ç) Tespit edilen sorunlar ve çözüm önerilerimize ilişkin seminer ve konferanslar düzenleyerek, vatandaşlarımızı bilinçlendirmek, amacıyla kurulmuştur.

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