The Turkish government took over the Zaman newspaper, a paper that has been critical of President Erdogan’s government. This is not the first time Erdogan has attacked the press and otherwise cracked down on voices that have opposed him. Turkey is a NATO member and must be held accountable by the rest of NATO for its actions. While NATO is primarily designed to act as a joint military force in the common defense of its member states, it also has the obligation to protect the basic principles of democracy that are being defended. One of the basic tenants of any democracy is freedom of the press. As an American founding farther, Thomas Jefferson, said "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." Has the time now come for NATO to reexamine its relationship with Turkey and decide if it is in the best interest of NATO for Turkey to remain a member.
There was a time that it made sense for Turkey to be a part of this alliance, when during the cold war it was the southern anchor and the only NATO country with a common border to the Soviet Union. This was also a time when the Turkish government was run by secularist. This did not mean that Turkey was a democracy in the western tradition but it was somewhat unique in the region and could talk to the west. Today however we see an implosion of both secular and democratic principles in Turkey. Beyond the freedom of press issue is the move by Turkeys ruling AK party to work with terrorist organizations such as ISIS and to go to war with a section of its own population, the Kurds. This last is most disturbing since it violates international law, most notable the probation on genocide. Let us make no mistake the attacks on the Kurds are nothing less than an attempt to wipe away a culture that is deemed inferior.
There is very little likelihood that NATO will make any move to remove Turkey. With a revanchist Russia on the rise and a confused situation in the Middle East the west is paralyzed into inaction. The main threat to the region is perceived to be ISIS and the Turks are allowing the US to use Turkish airfields to launched attacks while at the same time supplying ISIS with arms and equipment. Turkish reporters have been sentenced to death for revealing this last. A major supporter of terrorism is Iran, and Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met in Tehran with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss common interest and goals between the two countries as well as increase trade. With the recent deal between Iran and the west Turkey is hoping to triple it trade with Iran. An ally of Russia in the Syrian civil war Iran building a better relationship with Turkey can only be seen as counterproductive to NATO interest, yet NATO countries are also using the new agreement to increase trade with Iran so can do nothing to Turkey.
The Syrian Kurds under the PYD and its armed wing, the YPG, have been the strongest allies the west has in fighting ISIS in Syria. Turkey has attacked YPG positions in Syria calling them terrorist and part of the PKK. Instead of increasing support to the Kurds the US recently warned them not to support the PKK in Turkey even through there is no evidence this has happened. Inside of Turkey the Kurds have made great strides politically and have won at the ballot box. The AKP response was a new election to dilute the number of seats won and now have begun the process of removing Kurdish MPs. NATO has to see this for what it is, dictatorship.
With its military engaged killing its own citizens it is in no position to help NATO militarily should the need arise. With it actions against the press and its move to have a rubber stamp Parliament it is in no way a democratic country on par with the other member states. It long ago lost the Kemalist principle of its founding and its time it lost its place in NATO.
Paul Davis is a retired
US Army military intelligence and former Soviet analyst. He is a
consultant to the American intelligence community specializing in the
Middle East with a concentration on Kurdish affairs. Currently he is the
President of the consulting firm JANUS Think in Washington D.C.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.