Ankara (GPA) – One of Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s top aides has said the country should consider leaving the Atlantic bloc.
Late last week, Turkey withdrew forty of their troops from a NATO exercise in Norway. The withdrawal was the result of both Erdogan and the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s names being listed as “enemies” during the simulated military operation.
Erdogan announced the blunder by NATO during a speech delivered to members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). After giving the news to Erdogan’s supporters, he ended his remarks by saying “There can be no alliance like that,” referring to NATO.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg made a statement shortly after the withdrawal who said NATO would like to “apologize for the offense that has been caused,” but that it was the fault of a civilian contractor hired by Norway. The contractor was terminated and Stoltenberg said his punishment was no in the hands of Oslo.
However, for Erdogan, this explanation didn’t hold up, and he accused his allies of “disrespectful behavior,” and said, “There are some mistakes that are done not by fools but only by base people.” He then went on to inform NATO, that despite Stoltenberg’s statement, “this matter cannot be covered over with a simple apology.”
While this kind of rhetoric from Ankara is nothing new, usually, in Erdogan’s own words, his statements are generally “only intended for domestic consumption by Turks.” This doesn’t seem to be the case this time, and it seems possible that Erdogan may be working his usual rhetorical hatred toward NATO into actual policy.
The official response to the Norway incident by Erdogan isn’t just said at rallies, but now is also parroted in the media by top figures in the government.
The first statement made was by Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, who said the “NATO drill scandal” is not just an insult to Erdogan and Ataturk but “an act of disrespect against the whole nation.” Bozdağ also recommended that NATO launch an investigation into the organization’s top chiefs, asking “Isn’t there a chain of command? Didn’t he have a commander?”
Should NATO take his advice, Bozdağ said that “Turkey would continue to monitor the investigation of the incident and would want NATO to ensure such incidents did not take place again.”
Bozdağ also noted that the methods used by the NATO employee were somehow even similar to those used by the FETO organization run by exiled xerox Fethullah Gulen. According to Bozdağ, “They [FETÖ] are using all their assets to harm Turkey, to create negative developments in the country. This was very similar to methods they use.”
Going a step further than Bozdağ, is Erdogan’s top aide, Yalcın Topcu who spoke to reporters earlier today. Topcu, rather than calling for an investigation, went a step further to question the need for Turkey’s membership in NATO.
Topcu’s view on NATO is crucial as a mouthpiece for the office of the president, and for all intents and purposes, this position is likely to cause NATO members to sweat about Ankara’s official position.
Skipping right past an investigation, Topcu instead insisted that “The presence of the great Turkish nation in this institution [NATO] has become questionable,” and that NATO has been “brutal and dishonorable” to Turkey. While this may be true, NATO has still had a vested interest in keeping Turkey – the second largest military in the bloc – moderately content.
This goal seems to have failed if Topcu’s statement is any indication since he feels the next logical step is that “The Turkish parliament must consider the issue of Ankara’s membership in NATO as soon as possible.”
Topcu went on to point out that “Turkey depends on other countries in the defense sphere thanks to NATO.”
It’s likely that last stamens set off some alarm bells in the west, where several nations have already voiced concern that as relations between Ankara and Washington crumble, Turkey has been looking to new partners in places like Tehran and Moscow.
Many analysts have been wondering how NATO-Turkish relations could continue with Turkey consistently growing more hostile and authoritarian as well as undercutting NATO operations such as the war on ISIS – which the Turks have funded.
Now it seems there may be an answer in sight to the question of “How does turkey fit into NATO?” The true answer, of course, is short and not what the western powers want to hear: They don’t.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.