Turkey joined NATO in 1952, becoming the 13th member of the North Atlantic Alliance three years after its creation.
The Turkish Patriotic Party’s deputy chairman has argued that Ankara may withdraw from NATO in five to six months. Ethem Sancak cited a whole array of problems, related in particular to Athens-Ankara ties and the NATO bid by Sweden and Finland, as well as latest polls indicating that 80% of the population believes the US to be hostile towards Turkey.
His remarks prompted the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to make it clear that Turkey leaving NATO is out of the question, at least for now.
So what role does Turkey currently play in the alliance and how plausible is a scenario of Ankara exiting NATO? Sputnik has the answers.
What is Ankara’s Role in NATO Missions?
Local media estimates that Turkey is among the top five NATO countries that makes “the most significant contribution” to the alliance’s missions and special operations.
Prior to the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, Turkey took part in the 2015-2021 Resolute Support Mission, being responsible for security and operation of the international airport in Kabul.
Greece Accuses Turkey of Undermining NATO’s ‘Cohesion’ by Making ‘Outrageous Threats’Between 2005 and 2007, Ankara supported the United Nations-African Union mission in western Sudan’s Darfur, which was launched under the auspices of the NATO program to support the African Union countries in the field of education and transport.
Currently, Turkey contributes to the NATO Mission in Kosovo (KFOR) and supports efforts to prevent illegal migration in the Aegean.
Also, Turkey plays an important role in the NATO mission in Iraq, providing refueling of aircraft with the AWACS radar detection system as part of efforts by the international coalition to combat Daesh*.
Retired US Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of NATO James Stavridis confirmed this information. stressing in an op-ed earlier this week that “the Turks had provided troops, aircraft and ships to every NATO mission for years — Afghanistan, peacekeeping in the Balkans, counter-piracy, cybersecurity and so on.”
“Under my command, they provided combat capability to the 2011 intervention in Libya, something other major allies chose to avoid. Every time I asked for something, they stood and delivered,” Stavridis argued.
Is Incirlik Base of Importance?
Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, constructed in 1955, played an active role in the implementation of NATO missions, both during the Cold War and afterwards.
During the First Gulf War, the facility served as the origin point from which coalition forces flew combat missions over northern Iraq. Later on, US-led coalition forces used the base for missions in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In late 2014, Turkey provided the base as a launch pad for the anti-Daesh coalition’s combat operations against the terrorist group.
Currently, Incirlik hosts the 39th Air Base Wing of the US Air Force, including approximately 1,500 US troops, as well as a spate of combat and refueling aircraft. In addition, 70 US B61-12 tactical nuclear bombs are reportedly stockpiled at Incirlik.
What is Turkey’s Stance on Sweden’s NATO Bid?
Meanwhile, latest developments have indicated that Turkey remains a NATO member to be reckoned with. On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Sweden should not expect Turkish support for its bid to join the bloc as the EU country’s right-wing activists burned a copy of the Quran in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm after receiving permission from the authorities.
Erdogan was echoed by AKP spokesman Omer Celik, who said that Turkey has nothing to talk about with Sweden on the NATO membership process now, and that the situation is “going backwards.”
On May 18, Sweden, along with Finland, handed over an application to join NATO to the alliance’s secretary general. At the moment, 28 of 30 NATO member states had already made a positive decision on the admission of the northern countries to NATO, with the exception of Turkey and Hungary.
Has US Congress Ever Looked to Expel Turkey From NATO?
Yes. In 2020, the US House submitted a resolution calling for Turkey’s exclusion from NATO, in a move initiated by House Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.
The Armenian National Council America said at the time that Gabbard accused Ankara of participating in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the side of Azerbaijan, closing the border with Armenia, and collaborating with Syrian militants associated with al-Qaeda** and Daesh.
According to Gabbard, all this runs counter to NATO policy, which calls for stable peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. At the end of the day, the adoption of the resolution never saw the light of day.
How Can Turkey Be Expelled From NATO?
It is safe to assume that the chances of Ankara being expelled from NATO are zero, given that the North Atlantic Treaty stipulates neither punitive measures for its member states nor a procedure for expelling any of them. It is a NATO member itself that can notify of its intention to terminate the contract.
Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, said on Wednesday that “the words of those who talk about the withdrawal of Turkey from NATO are extremely surprising.”
“There is no question of this. We are one of the countries that founded NATO. These people have no right to say such things.”
When Did Turkey Enter NATO?
With the second-largest army in NATO after the US, Turkey remains one of the oldest members of the alliance. Ankara’s NATO accession protocol was signed by then-Turkish President Celal Bayar on October 17, 1951. The country officially became a member of the alliance on February 18, 1952.
The North Atlantic Alliance, known as NATO, was created in 1949 by 12 countries, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the UK, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and the US. Right now, the alliance comprises a total of 30 countries.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State), **al-Qaeda , terrorist groups banned in Russia and a number of other countries