By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity
During the Cold War, Turkey was on NATO’s front line facing the Soviet Union.
Today, Turkey is still a front-line state now facing the instability and turmoil stemming from the Middle East, NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller said in Istanbul Jan. 23.
Gottemoeller, who previously served as a U.S. undersecretary of state, spoke at the Turkish National Defense University.
And Turks have suffered, she said. Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist forces operating in Iraq and Syria have tried to use Turkey as a transit point and have carried out numerous horrific attacks in Turkish cities. Another terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, emanates from within Turkey’s borders, and has waged its bloody campaign for four decades. In fact, Turkey is the only NATO country with an active insurgency inside its borders.
“Your country has suffered a series of brutal terrorist attacks,” Gottemoeller said, “and I want you to know that NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism.”
Commitment to Collective Defense
Gottemoeller stressed to the Turkish officers that NATO is a political alliance in which 29 nations have come together in a common cause. “I like to say that NATO is one big family,” she said. “Together, we discuss the many challenges that we have. Together, by consensus, we decide on how to address those challenges, and together we reap the benefits of this enduring commitment to our collective defense.”
Turkey is an integral part of the alliance, she said. The contributions of Turkey since 1952 have been immense, she added, and she said she expects contributions in the future to be just as valuable. The Turks, for instance, used experience they gained in Kosovo to inform their missions in the Middle East.
Gottemoeller related that she had visited Turkey’s Center for Excellence for Defense against Terrorism in Ankara. “The center’s mission is to provide key decision-makers with realistic solutions to terrorism and counterterrorism challenges,” she said. More than 12,000 students from more than 100 countries have been through the center since 2005.
“Sharing your expertise with others who are also facing the threat of terrorism is just one way in which Turkey contributes to and through NATO,” Gottemoeller said.
Turkey has also been a stalwart ally in Afghanistan, where it has lost 15 soldiers. “Today, Turkey plays a key role as a framework nation for the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan providing more than 550 personnel, and I am pleased by the encouraging news that Turkey is considering an increased level of support to the Resolute Support mission,” she said. Turkey also helps to train Iraqi officers.
“These operations, missions and activities are vital to the alliance, to our security and to helping our partners achieve stability, and it is just a small example of what Turkey is doing inside this alliance,” she said.
But it is not a one-way street: NATO also contributes to Turkey, the deputy secretary general said. “The alliance has increased its military presence in recent years to help Turkey respond to a more demanding security environment,” she said. “For the past five years, at Turkey’s request, NATO allies have been reinforcing Turkey’s air defenses.”
Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States have contributed to the air defense mission. NATO has also provided airborne warning and control system surveillance aircraft to Turkey.
“Furthermore, we have increased our naval presence in the Black Sea area and in the eastern part of the Mediterranean,” she said.
NATO’s commitment to the safety and security of all 29 allies is unwavering,” Gottemoeller said. “Our collective defense clause, Article 5, is at the heart of our alliance: An attack on any one ally is an attack on us all.”
The alliance has adjusted over the years, and it is adjusting again. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and attacks in Ukraine required a new emphasis on deterrence. “Allies, including Turkey, have agreed on and implemented the most significant reinforcement of our collective defense since the Cold War,” she said.
The alliance is working to project stability beyond its borders, recognizing that “when our neighbors become more secure, then we are more secure,” she said.
NATO works with more than 40 partners around the world, from Jordan and Tunisia to Georgia and Ukraine, Australia and Sweden, Afghanistan and Iraq. “We work with a diverse network of partners to improve security and stability for all,” Gottemoeller said. “We draw on the experience that we have gained and lessons we have learned.
“For example,” she continued, “our experience in Afghanistan has taught us that training local forces is one of our best weapons in the fight against terrorism. That is a challenge that affects us all, and if we are training local forces then they begin to provide for their own security, and they begin to take up the fight against terrorism.”
The alliance is considering how its role might evolve within the global coalition by building up efforts to train Iraqi forces and increase the counterterrorism capabilities of partners, Gottemoeller said. The alliance is also improving ways of sharing information and intelligence, she added.
“We know all too well that terrorism is a foe that must be fought on many fronts and you know that very well here in Turkey,” she said. “It must be fought on many fronts and with many different strategies.”
Gottemoeller previewed the alliance’s summit, to be held in Brussels in July. “We will be bringing together the heads of state and government of all of the NATO member countries,” she said. “[Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan will be there meeting at that high level to discuss where we go from here.”
Terrorism will be front and center on the summit agenda, she said.
“How will we be able to do even more to project stability and fight international terrorism will be one of two top topics that the leaders will address,” she said. “And the second will be how will we further strengthen our deterrence and defense.”