Interview: Hüseyin Diriöz
How has NATO’s restructuring process and the adoption of a new Strategic Concept affected Turkey’s status within the organisation?
HUSEYIN DİRİÖZ: The Strategic Concept sets out the alliance’s three core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security. Turkey lies at the heart of all three tasks. The country’s armed forces are integrated into the NATO Defence Planning Process, helping to ensure the alliance is capable of collectively defending its members against the full spectrum of threats. Turkey’s geostrategic position affords it unique advantages in the planning and conduct of allied operations. Two years ago, NATO allies agreed on a reform of the NATO Command Structure to make it more effective. As part of that reform, it was agreed that Izmir would be the sole NATO Land Component Command. Turkey has also contributed to all of NATO crisis management operations since 1995 – from Bosnia and Herzegovina to today’s mission in Afghanistan.
Turkey brings together East and West, North and South. Its heart beats where Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean all meet, and no other NATO ally shares borders with more partner countries. Turkey has contributed to and benefitted from NATO’s Open Door policy, which has admitted 12 new members since 1999.
In what way can Turkey leverage its position within NATO to ensure greater stability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region?
DİRİÖZ: Turkey’s historical, cultural and economic ties to the MENA region offer a number of possibilities. Turkey is particularly well placed to reach out to this region through NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, two regional forums for consultation and cooperation that bring together nations from the MENA region, Europe and North America. Ankara can also lend its diplomatic clout to NATO efforts, as when former Foreign Minister Hikmet Çetin served as NATO’s first senior civilian representative in Afghanistan. Another contribution made by Turkey to practical cooperation with partners is the training of experts from the region in security sector reform, counter-narcotics and border security, through NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme.
To what extent has NATO’s security umbrella contributed to the rapid economic development Turkey has experienced over the last decade?
DİRİÖZ: Economic development is always influenced by various interrelated factors, not least by the efforts of business itself. Still, there is clearly a link between security and growth. Turkey’s 1952 accession to NATO has been accompanied, over the years, by increased stability and investor confidence. For decades Turkish firms have benefitted from investment in defence infrastructure and facilities linked to NATO membership. These companies now have the opportunity to participate in high-tech projects for the development of the alliance’s defence capabilities for the 21st century.
Security cannot be taken for granted, however, as evidenced by recent events. A concrete demonstration of NATO’s resolve is the recent deployment of Patriot missiles to protect and deter threats to Turkey’s territory.
What do you make of suggestions that Turkey’s foreign policy has become less aligned with the West?
DİRİÖZ: Turkey has been a NATO ally for six decades. For Ankara, as for all NATO members, the obligations and benefits of membership – political consultation among equals, collective defence and solidarity – remain cornerstones of national foreign policy. At the same time, the spread of democracy, expansion of world trade and the desire for improved international security in different regions of the world are bringing all nations and organisations closer together worldwide. By being an integral part of NATO, Turkey can be more effective in its relations with other regions, just as Ankara’s foreign policy investments here provide added value to its allies in the West. In short, Turkey is still a pillar of NATO security and NATO remains a pillar of Turkey’s security.
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