Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ankara Carefully Monitors French Plans to Rejoin NATO's Military Command

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 26
February 9, 2009
Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Turkey, Military/Security
By: Saban Kardas

Recent discussions on France's return to NATO's military structures have highlighted the intricate links between Turkish-French relations on the one hand and their implications for Turkey's relationships with NATO and the European Union, on the other. Turkey is a full member of NATO and is negotiating accession terms for EU membership. Turkey's EU membership process has been stalled recently, and Ankara puts a large portion of the blame on obstacles created by EU-members France and Greek Cyprus. In particular, Ankara is irked by the French and Cypriot objections to the EU's efforts to open new negotiation chapters with Turkey (EDM, January 20).

Turkey's problematic relations with the EU may have negative repercussions for NATO-EU security cooperation. Paris has been pushing for strengthening the EU's military capabilities without undermining NATO's role in European security. For France, a greater European role in security and defense affairs would complement NATO's collective security responsibilities. Despite the EU's progress toward acquiring autonomous military capabilities, however, it still depends on NATO assets to carry out military missions.

Turkey supports greater European autonomy in principle, but Ankara is troubled by its exclusion from the decision-making mechanisms of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), the EU's security arm. Being the largest non-EU contributor to the ESDP, Turkey demands greater participation of non-EU NATO allies in the European defense initiatives. Ankara supports NATO's primacy in managing European security and objects to the development of EU-only capabilities that might undermine NATO.

In an effort to retaliate for the Greek Cypriots' objections to Turkish-EU cooperation, Turkey uses its position in NATO to prevent Greek Cypriot participation in EU operations utilizing NATO assets. Ankara maintains that since Cyprus does not have a security agreement with the alliance, it cannot have access to sensitive information. Sources argue that this situation "makes it difficult to work out detailed tactical arrangements between NATO and the EU. It is a potential burden on operation settings" (Hurriyet Daily News, February 2). [...]
Before departing for the Munich Conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told reporters that Turkey was still evaluating a French return to NATO. Babacan noted that Turkey would await clarification of whether a unanimous vote was necessary. Describing the situation of France as a unique case, Babacan added "the matter is more political than legal... The key concern here is for NATO to continue operating as a strong international organization. But, we will see how the French decision will be implemented... Here, the modalities of French participation are important, and we expect the French to present their modalities in the coming days" (ANKA, February 6).

Though maintaining Turkey's policy of ambiguity, Babacan avoided confrontational language. He gave indications that Turkey would prioritize alliance interests and go along with its NATO allies.
Nonetheless, even if a unanimous decision might not be required, political bargaining would be needed for the distribution of command posts. Given the high premium NATO attaches to political consensus among its members, France and the United States will have to work hard to bring Turkey on board.
The full article is here

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