As NATO's second-largest army, Turkey shares the alliance's burden and all its values, putting NATO at the center of its own security and at the same time being at the center of the bloc's security, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Friday.
Akar, along with senior commanders, followed the activities of the "Outstanding Observer Day" of the On Guard-2021 Exercise. Briefed at the Multinational Joint Warfare Center Command, where the exercise was carried out, Akar stated that we are passing through a period of increased risks and threats at the global and regional level.
Pointing out that the responsibility of international security and defense organizations is heavier than ever, Akar said: "NATO is an organization that has formed the basis of Europe's security since the Second World War. We believe that NATO, as the most successful alliance in history, is alive and active as it has always been."
Underlining the fact that Turkey has been a NATO member for nearly 70 years, Akar said: "While Turkey is fighting against Daesh, al-Qaida, PKK/YPG, FETÖ and other terrorist organizations at the same time, despite its preoccupation with the risks, threats and dangers in its region, it continues to contribute uninterruptedly to the alliance's exercises, force structure and staff. It does whatever it takes to protect NATO and Europe's borders against terrorism, smuggling and human trafficking. As NATO's second largest army, it shares the alliance's burden and all its values, putting NATO at the center of its own security and at the same time being at the center of NATO's security."
Akar stated that Turkey successfully fulfilled the duty of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) this year.
"Turkey will assume the naval element command of NATO in 2023 and 2028 with TURMARFOR, which will reach full operational capability from the beginning of 2022. We will also fulfill the 2025 Air Component Command as an ally with the Joint Air Component Command capability," he added.
Noting that important elements such as the Allied Land Command, Maritime Security Center of Excellence, Counter-Terrorism Center of Excellence and Partnership for Peace Training Center, Ballistic Missile Radar Field and Forward Operations Air Base are located in Turkey, these headquarters are the most important elements that make up NATO's military structure, Akar described them as indispensable components of the general understanding of defense and deterrence.
Stating that such exercises not only increase interoperability, but also contribute to the solidarity process, improve combat capabilities and strengthen the alliance's deterrence, Akar thanked those who contributed to the planning and execution of the exercise's execution process.
Turkey joined the military alliance of 29 North American and European countries in 1952. The country has also been providing permanent naval assistance to NATO missions in the Aegean Sea while leading regional initiatives, including the Standing NATO Maritime Group’s (SNMG) activities in the Black Sea region.
Turkey also hosts many NATO initiatives. There is a NATO headquarters in western Izmir province, an air base in southern Adana province, another one in southeastern Diyarbakır and a NATO Rapid Deployable Corps in Istanbul. It also hosts the AN/TPY-2 radar in the Malatya province as part of the organization’s missile shield project.
Apart from all these, in 2018 alone, Turkey contributed $101 million to the common funding of NATO. But despite the country’s commitment to the organization, it has not received the support it expects.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu recently said that Ankara is a strong NATO ally and fulfills its obligations. However, he criticized NATO, saying that despite Turkey fulfilling all its obligations as part of the organization, its defense needs are not always met.
Over time, siding with terrorists rather than Turkey became a pattern for many NATO member countries, particularly the United States. The U.S. primarily partnered with the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization, the YPG, in northeastern Syria to fight the Daesh terrorist group. Turkey strongly opposed the terrorist group’s presence in northern Syria and the formation of a terror corridor, which has been a major sticking point in strained Turkey-U.S. relations. Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally's security concerns.
Ankara has long objected to the U.S.' support of the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and terrorizes local people, destroying homes and forcing people to flee. While underlining that a country cannot support one terrorist group to fight another, Turkey conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.
NATO also failed Turkey in supporting the country from the destructive nature of the civil war in Syria. In 2012, Turkey asked that NATO Patriot missiles be placed on its borders to secure them. However, although the missiles were in Turkey for some time, before long, NATO countries took them back, leaving Turkey alone to defend itself.