Turkey pulls out of NATO exercise after Erdogan turns up on ‘enemy’ list

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Turkey pulls out of NATO exercise after Erdogan turns up on ‘enemy’ list

Turkey has withdrawn from a NATO exercise after the country's President was named as an "enemy" for the military drill – an indication of a rift between the western alliance and Turkey as leader Tayyip Erdogan faces increasing censure for violations of human rights and the rule of law.

Mr. Erdogan announced on Friday he was pulling Turkish troops from a North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercise in Norway after his name and that of Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, were included in what he called an "enemy chart" poster displayed for all to see.

A list of hypothetical enemies is generally posted during military exercises.

This comes as Turkey also finalizes a major purchase of Russian military hardware despite protests from the NATO alliance, and faces censure from Western countries over what critics call a slide into authoritarianism.

Top NATO brass taking part in the Halifax International Security Forum on Friday apologized for the "enemy chart incident" and played down the matter.

It nevertheless shines a spotlight on increasing tensions between Turkey and other member countries of NATO, a defence pact set up after the Second World War that has also been considered a league of democracies.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance's top civilian leader, said the alliance has taken action against the person who made the poster that put Mr. Erdogan on the list of enemies.

"That was wrong," he said. "The person that was responsible for this was removed immediately."

The poster incident might hold less significance were it not for Ankara's recent conduct. This past summer, acting against the advice of NATO allies, Turkey announced it was spending $2.5-billion to buy a missile defence system from Russia rather than any of the other 28 countries in the military alliance.

The development was widely interpreted as a sign Mr. Erdogan's government is drifting away from the NATO pact it joined more than 65 years ago.

Petr Pavel, the Czech general now chair of NATO's military committee, speaking in Halifax on Friday, was unable to name any other alliance member that has made a major purchase of Russian military hardware since 2014. That is when Moscow invaded and annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and began supporting pro-Russian rebels who have waged a war against Kiev in eastern Ukraine since – a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.

The Erdogan government is also facing censure and penalties from western nations over some of its other actions. Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that European Union leaders had agreed to cut financial aid that had been aimed at helping Ankara prepare for possible membership in the economic bloc. She cited the "absolutely unsatisfying human rights situation" in Turkey.

Turkey presents NATO leaders with a major dilemma because the country plays a useful role in the fight against terrorism.

Asked whether they believed Turkey will still be a member of NATO in five years, Mr. Stoltenberg and Gen. Pavel both played down Ankara's conduct.

"I don't have a crystal ball, but we see some democratic deficits in many countries that are members of NATO," Gen. Pavel said. "No country is perfect. Turkey is an important ally."

Mr. Stoltenberg said Turkey is important not least because of its strategic geographic location, with Europe on one side and bordering Iraq and Syria on the other, which puts it in a good position to frustrate or stop the movement of jihadists and their adherents attempting to transit to other countries.

"The progress we have been able to make in the fight against [Islamic State] is very much supported by Turkey," the NATO secretary-general said.

Asked about the allegations of human rights and rule-of-law violations levelled against Ankara, Mr. Stoltenberg said Turkey has suffered more from terrorist attacks than any other NATO ally. "Turkey has the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks," he said, adding that it also has the right to prosecute those behind the attacks. "This has to be done in accordance with the rule of law, and I have expressed that in my meetings in Ankara," Mr. Stoltenberg said.

Western governments and human rights advocates have for years called attention to what some describe as Turkey's descent into dictatorship.

A failed coup in 2016 prompted the Erdogan government to jail thousands of soldiers and fire or suspend 100,000 public officials and police officers. These include 28,000 teachers accused by Ankara of being supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, an influential foe of Mr. Erdogan.

Human Rights Watch, a rights advocacy group, says the weakening of safeguards against abuse in detention under the state of emergency declared by Mr. Erdogan "was accompanied by increased reports of torture and ill-treatment in police detention, such as beating and stripping detainees, use of prolonged stress positions, and threats of rape, as well as threats to lawyers and interference with medical examinations."

Turkey has prosecuted and jailed journalists, taken over media companies including the daily Zaman newspaper, shut down media outlets and carried out physical attacks and threats against journalists. Turkey has made the highest number of requests to Twitter of any country to censor individual accounts, Human Rights Watch said.
 

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It was intentional but why? Just because Turkey is going after inking a deal with Russia! Turkey did not make a fuss when the US pulled out the patriot system.
 

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It was intentional but why? Just because Turkey is going after inking a deal with Russia! Turkey did not make a fuss when the US pulled out the patriot system.
Definitely it was on purpose but what was the motive behind it?
 

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It was intentional but why? Just because Turkey is going after inking a deal with Russia! Turkey did not make a fuss when the US pulled out the patriot system.
It has many causes,the most important being the military ''help'' our allies are giving the YPG in Syria which caused the anti NATO stance of my government.
Two Norwegian officers,including one who is of Kurdish descent have caused the incident,both have been fired but this is not enough and unacceptable.
One incident can be done by one individual(Kurdish descent) but two incidents at the same event is called premeditated.
It doesnt matter if it was aimed at Erdogan or not,this will have consequences.
I just hope we dont leave NATO.
 

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What kind of alliance is this?

Turkey’s withdrawal of military officers from a drill of the Western defense alliance NATO on Nov. 17 has turned into a scandal.

The news was revealed by President Tayyip Erdoğan in an address to his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) officials in Ankara. He said he was informed by Turkish Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar - while Akar was on his way to attend the Halifax Security Conference in Canada - about photos of himself and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, that were shown in the drill as “enemy leaders.” Upon hearing this, Erdoğan said he ordered the withdrawal of 40 Turkish officers from the drill, named “Trident Javelin,” and said they would not return if there is no corrective action.

There were indeed corrective actions in the following hours. The Norwegian military said two officers, including one who is of Kurdish descent, responsible for the scandal were fired immediately. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also issued a formal apology to Turkey.

But the crisis is not likely to come to an end with such steps.

NATO sources say the Trident Javelin exercise was designed as a command post/computer-assisted exercise without troops on the ground, and was a unique training event for the command structure of the alliance. The drill, which was supposed to enhance preparedness against hostile measures, including possible ones from Russia, could not be completed successfully.

Amid the scandal, earlier on Nov. 17 the Defense News magazine reported a warning by a U.S. military official regarding Ankara’s intention to purchase a Russian S-400 air defense system. There are actually NATO-operated U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems temporarily located in Turkey at present - mainly to provide protection for the strategic İncirlik air base (where U.S. nuclear warheads are also kept). There is also a NATO-operated U.S.-radar for the global Defense Shield system, mainly to counter possible missile attacks on the U.S. and Europe stemming from the U.S.’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.

The U.S. official’s warning said that if Turkey goes ahead and buys the S-400 Russian missiles, its access to NATO defense systems could be restricted, which could also affect the F-35 enhanced jet fighter, of which Turkey is among the co-producers.

Turkey recently got into long-term negotiations for the joint production of French-Italian design Aster 30 air defense systems, which have NATO interoperability. But it wants the S-400s for short term needs, mainly because there is no guarantee that the U.S. Congress will approve weapons sales to Turkey even if Turkey decides to buy from the U.S. After all, a ban was imposed on the export of small handguns to Turkey after the bodyguards of President Tayyip Erdoğan beat up protesters in Washington in May 2017, while arrest warrants were also issued against the bodyguards.

President Erdoğan has said there was no problem when Greece procured Russian S-300 missiles around 20 years ago. But actually it was a problem for Athens, which could not be plugged into the NATO system because of this decision, and the S-300s are now rusting away in a military warehouse on the island of Crete. Ultimately, Turkey will have to pay $2.5 billion for Russian missiles that will not be able to be used in harmony with NATO and will probably see any Russian made plane or missile as a friend, rather than as a foe (including those that could come, for example, from Syria).

However, Turkey currently has more than one serious problem with the U.S., the locomotive force of NATO. These problems are causing a rift between the two countries, prompting both Americans and Turks to question the long-running alliance between their countries.

The U.S. partnership against the outlawed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) - which has been fighting against Turkey for the last three decades (and which is also designated as a terrorist group by the U.S.) - is just one of these problems. Another one is the residence in Pennsylvania of Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, accused of masterminding Turkey’s July 2016 military coup attempt. An Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab is in an American jail, accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran together with a Turkish public bank official, which also greatly angers Erdoğan and compounds problems. On the other hand, an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, is currently under arrest in Turkey accused of having links to the illegal network of Gülen. Meanwhile, the U.S. has restricted issuing visas in Turkey due to the ongoing arrest of two (Turkish citizen) employees of U.S. diplomatic missions in Turkey.

After the Truman Doctrine of 1947, Turkey became an important part of the Western alliance. But at present every unfolding event seems to be shaking this alliance. Turkey’s move away from the Western system - loosening its alliance within NATO and drifting from the European Union – will ultimately benefit neither Turkey nor the West.

Turkey has serious domestic problems right now, from its judicial system to media freedom. These have only gotten heavier under the state of emergency declared after the 2016 coup attempt. But antagonizing the situation by testing the country’s nerves is not likely to be helpful for this already problematic outlook.

Turkey, Murat Yetkin, NATO
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/murat-yetkin/what-kind-of-alliance-is-this-122614
 

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