On June 7, 2022, Ankara hosted a significant event titled "NATO in the 21st Century: Challenges, Partnerships and Enlargement" organized by the Turkish Presidency's Directorate of Communications. The event discussed topics such as Türkiye's military capabilities, political strengths and foreign policy initiatives, alongside NATO alliance expansion . Notably, the event's participants emphasized the importance of the foresight analysis working group, including Türkiye and nine other NATO member countries, which is tasked with determining the alliance's vision for 2030.
The attendees left with a crucial takeaway: Much like the European Union's search for identity and social inclusivity, NATO may benefit from debating its inner workings and outward appearance. The event sparked discussions about whether NATO is in an identity crisis and whether adopting a broader set of shared values, rather than simply responding to attacks on member countries, is the path toward future success.
Shortly after this event, the NATO leaders' Madrid Summit was held, and then the Brussels meeting began during which both Sweden and Finland completed accession talks with the alliance by confirming their intention to comply with all of the alliance’s requirements.
Now, in March 2023, the question arises as to where NATO expansion currently stands and why Türkiye would support Helsinki's membership before deciding on Stockholm's aspirations.
Upon the recent visit of the President of Finland Sauli Niinisto to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Türkiye’s capital Ankara, we learned that Türkiye has decided to initiate the approval process of Finland’s NATO accession protocol in Parliament. President Erdoğan went on by saying, "The only NATO country that has defeated Daesh on the ground is us ... are determined to eradicate organizations threatening our country’s future and our people’s lives, whatever their names, claims and the calculations that accompany them. We openly voice at every opportunity and on every platform our sensitivity and determination on this matter. We address NATO’s expansion process within the framework of these facts."
Besides NATO accession the Ukraine grain deal was debated, along with support for Türkiye’s EU membership and many further issues of bilateral concern. Thus the meeting was held in a very warm, inspiring atmosphere.
Today, we shall focus not on just one new member country – with all likelihood that Parliament is going to approve Finland joining – or on perhaps two when the right time has come to consider Sweden. What’s more, a detailed look at how the PKK started using Sweden as a welcome mat, as a matter of fact abusing that nation’s approach to civil liberties for their heinous criminal and terror-related ventures will become the focal point of another upcoming article including revisiting the murder of Sweden's late Prime Minister Olof Palme in February 1986. However, the gist for today’s piece: Which way forward, NATO ?
Granted, NATO is no transnational political body with many tens of thousands of pages filled with legal fine print, the so-called EU Acquis Communautaire. NATO’s primary aim is to respond to aggressions directed toward one of its member states. The term "aggression" was always a tricky one, and it was not until 9/11 that terror threats became accepted as part of that formula. Yet, then again and not really: Would a terror threat be classified as an attack on a member state triggering Article 5, how many individuals would be considered to term an attack as a terror attack, and would only "organizations" count thereunder? The 14 original statutes were drafted and adopted back in the year 1949 with the most recent update added in 2019.
The preamble states that "they are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law."
Times change, methods of warfare change, and above all else, a certain globalization of terror networks is occurring too. The PKK's responsibility for the deaths of over 40,000 innocent men, women and even children is one such case in point. Trying to destroy the territorial integrity of the Republic of Türkiye, those criminals and terrorists managed to set up a cobweb of satellite branches in countries ranging from Belgium to Germany, to name only two money-laundering hot spots, including overseas destinations as well. Hence the threat is global, and not limited to one country’s well-being.
The 2030 roadmap might just as well come to terms with this unfortunate development and classify "organized" terror as a potential threat to all NATO member states.
At the same time, it must stress the meaning, or perhaps redefine its meaning, when it comes to defining the term "solidarity" amongst NATO member states. Staying in the PKK terror clan picture, and NATO’s very own words from the preamble quoted above, it is only fair to argue that any NATO member country – or aspiring NATO member country – must not misinterpret principles of democracy and heralding individual liberties by allowing known terror group supporters intent on carrying out violent attacks on another NATO member to freely operate from their soil.
It would imply a totally new approach vis-à-vis determining "international solidarity" which brings us to our final observation for today.
Defending individual liberties is a core value of a democratic way of coexistence. This includes the right to freely speak up one's mind, to assemble, to hold manifestations and so on and so forth. There is nevertheless a fine line to be taken into account, a balancing act of sorts to be accomplished: when those liberties that were rightfully taken for granted in a democracy are misused to incite hatred within society, either society at home or in a friendly partner nation. Hate speech often leads to more than verbal warmongering – it may lead to atrocities and outright murder.
When one such friendly partner nation is under threat from organized terrorists, all NATO member states must consider it as an attack on their very own, shared values, too. Even if this would not automatically imply triggering Article 5, it for sure necessitates disallowing activities in aid and support of those threats emanating from one’s own territory.
The concept of "International Solidarity 2.0" emphasizes the importance of shared values, specifically those laid out in NATO's preamble. These values are still highly relevant and require full commitment from all member nations.
Türkiye at present is showing the way in this regard by supporting expansion based on exactly those shared values, which marks a positive transformation of the alliance's fixed place in our ever-volatile world.