Turkey's Membership in NATO 'a Cold War Relic, Much Like Alliance Itself'

© AP Photo / Geert Vanden WijngaertNATO country flags wave outside NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday July 28, 2015
NATO country flags wave outside NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday July 28, 2015 - Sputnik International
In his latest column for The American Conservative, veteran commentator Pat Buchanan warns that Turkish President Recep Erdogan may be trying to drag the US into a confrontation with Russia. Moreover, taking a look back at NATO's history, he suggests that Turkey's membership in the alliance, much like the alliance itself, is a Cold War relic.

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Outlining the danger that the Turkish leader may be "trying to draw the United States…into a confrontation with Vladimir Putin's Russia" over the war in Syria in his latest column on the situation in the Middle East, Buchanan points out that "a little history is in order" in explaining the dangerous situation which has emerged today.

Recalling that Turkey's accession to the North Atlantic Alliance in 1952 was "a ten-strike, putting NATO on the Dardanelles and Bosporus and on the southern coast of the Black Sea, right up to the border of Stalin's Soviet Union," the commentator noted that the reality today is that "the world that made Turkey such a strategic asset [back then] has vanished."

"Armenia and Georgia are no longer Soviet republics, but free nations. The Soviet Empire, the Warsaw Pact, and the Soviet Union no longer exist, and Balkan nations, as well as the Baltic States are members of the EU and NATO."

Furthermore, Turkey today, Buchanan points out, "is no longer the secular nation-state of Kemal Ataturk, but increasingly hearkens to the Islamic Awakening."

"In Syria's civil war," the analyst notes, "her behavior has not been what one might expect of an ally," with "the Turks [leaving] the door open for jihadists to join ISIS." What is more, Ankara has been "accused, by two Turkish journalists now facing life in prison, of shipping arms to ISIS" and of "permitting ISIS to move oil from the Islamic State into and across Turkey."

Buchanan writes that Russia, for its part, has charged "Erdogan's son with being involved in the black market trade with the caliphate."

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The reality, he notes, is that "instead of battling ISIS, Erdogan is fighting Kurds in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan and is threatening to attack Syria's Kurds if they cross to the west bank of the Euphrates. Ankara is also becoming dictatorial and repressive." Moreover, "Erdogan has dismal relations with Egypt and Israel and appears hell-bent on bringing down Bashar Assad in Syria, [whose] army remains the sole force standing between ISIS and Damascus."

Ultimately, what worries the veteran commentator is Erdogan's propensity to "escalate his clash with Assad's regime into a clash with Putin's Russia," which would "drag [the United States] into his war. And the longer this war goes on, the greater the likelihood of something like this happening."

"The operative premise of NATO," Buchanan recalls, "is that an attack against one is an attack against all. What do we do should Erdogan provoke a Russian attack on his aircraft, and then invoke Article V and call on all NATO nations to come to Turkey's defense against Putin's Russia and Assad's Syria?" Unfortunately, the analyst suggests, "Turkey's shoot-down of the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 makes this more than [merely] a hypothetical question."

And while, luckily, according to the analyst, "the Russians have indicated that they are not going to make this a cacus belli, Putin charges that the US was given advance notice of the flight plan of the Russian plane. Did we? Did we authorize, know about, or suspect Erdogan was planning to shoot that Russian plane down? This is no small matter. And Americans have a right to know."

Turkey's NATO Membership, Like Alliance Itself, is a Cold War Relic

Ultimately, the situation surrounding the downed Su-24 leads Buchanan to a geostrategic question: "The world of 2015," he points out, "is nothing like Truman's world of 1952 or Reagan's world of 1982. The adversary we confronted then, the Soviet Empire and the Soviet Union, has not existed for a quarter century. Why then does NATO, created to defend Western Europe against that adversary, still exist?"

"Why," he asks, "are we still committed to fight Russia not only to defend Germany, but Estonia and Erdogan's Turkey, and, if the neocons get their way, to be committed in perpetuity to fight Russia for Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Moldova, Ukraine, Crimea, Donetsk, and Lugansk [as well]?"

"If the history of the 20th century teaches anything," he writes, "it is that war guarantees all too often lead to war. But in this war against 'radical Islamic terrorism', who is the real ally: Erdogan, who has been aiding and abetting Islamic jihadists in Syria, or Putin, who has been bombing them?"

A veteran political commentator, columnist and writer, Buchanan is also the former White House Communications Director for the Reagan Administration, and a former Republican Party presidential candidate. 

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