President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made his international debut at NATO as the leader of Turkey's new presidential system on Wednesday. The alliance leaders gave Erdoğan a very warm welcome and promised added momentum in the fight against terrorism in the south, with special emphasis on Turkey.
Flanked by Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu and the new Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, the former chief of staff of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), Erdoğan was the center of attention.
Scenes of President Donald Trump embracing Erdoğan, Erdoğan having warm discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Teresa May as well as other leaders hit the international media, demonstrating that Western leaders have realized that the democratically elected Turkish leader has massive popular support and is here to stay.
It is clear that the climate in Europe against the Erdoğan administration has started to change in a positive way. So far, so good.
That was reflected in the NATO summit communique, which put s
pecial emphasis on Turkey's security concerns and the ongoing threat of terrorism, especially on its southern borders.
"We remain concerned that Turkey has been hit three times in the last four years by missiles launched from Syria. We continue to monitor and assess the ballistic missile threat from Syria," the NATO declaration said. Pointing to Syria's inventory of short-range ballistic missiles, the declaration said the range of these missiles "covers part of NATO's territory and some of our partners' territories."
NATO also vowed to provide Turkey with "tailored assurance measures" aimed at guaranteeing the alliance's security. "Tailored assurance measures for Turkey to respond to the growing security challenges from the south contribute to the security of the alliance as a whole and will be fully implemented," the declaration said. "We have increased the strength of the NATO Response Force, and the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is ready to deploy on short notice," it added.
The fact that Turkey is preparing to take on a new and bigger role in the transatlantic alliance with its command of the VJFT in 2021 – along with France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and Britain – shows Ankara is strongly entrenched in Western defense; thus, the claims that Turkey is steering away from the West are nonsense.
Turkey has and will always contribute to the Western defense system with all its assets and resources; yet, unfortunately the attitude of some Western countries has been to keep Turkey at a distance, forcing Ankara to step back and reason with them. The efforts of some Western countries to oust Erdoğan have alienated not only the Ankara administration but also the Turkish people.
Let's hope this trend is now in the past and that a new chapter is set to begin.