December 29, 2014
On December 2, the same day that the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a surprising gas deal during a press conference with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, the foreign ministers of NATO countries met in Brussels. The main points of their discussion included the working-out of the so-called ‘Readiness Action Plan’, which concerns the formation of a NATO rapid intervention force by 2016 and the transformation of NATO mission in Afghanistan. A video conference with the newly appointed foreign minister of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin, was also conducted.1
According to official NATO sources, the video conference with Klimkin (he could not come to Brussels because his appointment had to be confirmed in the Ukrainian Parliament) was supposed to affirm “strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity”. In that spirit, NATO foreign ministers also gave their approval for the establishment of trust funds directed to the training of the Ukrainian military.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was also there and voted in support of these decisions. However, in contrast to the countries represented by his fellow NATO foreign ministers, Turkey did not impose economic sanctions on Russia. This means that even before the announcement of the gas deal with Putin, Turkey broke the ranks with NATO and set out on a path that diverges from NATO’s commonly agreed foreign policy orientation, which, at this time, is decidedly anti-Russia. It appears that the Erdogan-led Turkish political elite does not share the vision of the “threat from the east” conveyed by the newly-appointed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 2
It is worth remembering that Turkey’s relations with the previous NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen were not particularly good either. Initially, Turkey even tried to block the appointment of Rasmussen. Turkish opposition centered around the way Rasmussen handled the issue of the inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which appeared in a Danish newspaper while he was the prime minister of Denmark, the issue of the broadcasts of the Kurdish-affiliated Roj TV in Denmark, and Rasmussen’s 2003 statement that Turkey would never become a full member of the EU.3 Still, later on, Turkey acquiesced to Rasmussen’s appointment. Some observers pointed to a possible back-room deal that facilitated the appointment of Turkish government officials to NATO posts. Obviously, this claim is difficult to confirm.
Now, however, the issues are much more serious. As NATO is pushed toward direct, possibly even military confrontation with Russia by the US- controlled ruling political elites in Poland and the Baltic states, which, at the same time, all hold historical grudges against Russia, it appears that Turkey is not willing to follow in lock-step. While economic reasons are highlighted, there is also a lot of political undercurrent.
Obviously, the Turkish president Erdogan has not forgotten the US attempt to make it difficult for him to win the presidency by, among many other things, financing his political nemesis – Fethullah Gulen.4 Still, negotiating a key geostrategic energy agreement with Putin, while the latter is seen as the biggest problem to the Anglo-American interests since Stalin, is an act of political courage. It is also very risky. In many quarters, Erdogan may be seen as “a traitor”. The infamous Gladio networks, kept up by NATO and CIA, may be activated again.
However, if Erdogan persists and opens a way to much tighter economic and political links with Russia and other countries of the BRICS group, we may see NATO facing the biggest crisis since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Erdogan’s stand may encourage other NATO countries, whose economies are already suffering heavily due to the sanctions against Russia, to rebel as well. A sudden storm started in Turkey may become a broader European hurricane and lead to the reconfiguration of the European security infrastructure. And, in the process, prevent another European war.
1. NATO Foreign Ministers discuss Allied security, Ukraine, Afghanistan at one-day talks
2. NATO Chief Warns Ukraine Risks Spinning ‘Out of Control’
3. ‘Rasmussen is an Unacceptable Name for NATO’
4. Turkey to seek cleric Fethullah Gulen’s extradition
Originally published by SOTT, December 5, 2014.