The alliance must have a clear vision to meet new security challenges and a commitment to member support.
Turkey has been a strong ally of NATO since joining the alliance in 1952. We have always been at the forefront of meeting the challenges facing our common security. Our participation in missions of critical importance around the world and the reception of NATO strategic assets in our territory are a testament to our firm commitment to the alliance. Turkey has taken a strong leadership role in NATO missions to Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.
We believe that NATO is indispensable for the security of our nation and for peace in our region. As we make sure to contribute to NATO activities at the highest level, we also invest heavily in our national defense as a strategic priority. Our national defense spending is close to NATO’s goal of 2% of GDP, more than most alliance members spend. These investments have increased our national defense capacity in recent years and have contributed to the overall strength of the NATO alliance.
After the changing regional security dynamics of the last decade, it is time for NATO to update its strategic concept. NATO’s new strategic perspective must be broad enough, given the growing size of the alliance in recent years. However, it must also be clear and purposeful. Given the growing use of hybrid warfare capabilities, the challenges facing our alliance are more complex than ever. At the same time, preparing NATO for this new era is within our capacity.
A new concept must create mechanisms to deal with the differences between various NATO allies on various issues. It must also recognize the need to reconcile national priorities with those of the alliance in the midst of rapidly changing regional and global dynamics in recent years, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic. We have different national policies on issues like international terrorism, migration, human smuggling, cyber threats and so on.
It is clear that we will not see eye to eye on every issue. However, it must be a priority for NATO to reach a full understanding of the alliance to achieve a unified response. Our alliance should not only focus on identifying common enemies, but should come together around a common purpose that serves the national interests of all of us.
Reaching an understanding of all forms of terrorism, including far-right terrorism and Islamophobic attacks, and agreeing a strategy to counter it must be one of the top priorities.
We must also develop a more comprehensive security concept that includes human security in order to prevent humanitarian disasters and counter asymmetric attacks on our nations.
Turkey is willing to pay its fair share to ensure the collective security of our alliance. The burden-sharing should not be just about military budgets and contributions to NATO. It must also involve tackling the refugee crisis in our region. As a country hosting more than four million refugees, we expect a more constructive approach from our allies and a willingness to pay their fair share to meet this historic challenge.
In recent years we have received undue criticism of our national security requirements and strategic priorities. We welcome any constructive exchanges on issues related to our collective security. We believe that dialogue is always key to resolving differences between member states. As an example of this approach, we have offered to organize an international conference to resolve disputes in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, Turkey cannot be expected to undermine its national security and sovereignty to accommodate the unreasonable demands of some member states and the misperceptions about regional turmoil that Turkey has been facing for a decade.
After facing the threat of terrorism and regional instability, Turkey is able and determined to ensure its national security. However, we regret to mention that the support of our NATO allies on these fronts has been less than exemplary. We mention this not to highlight the already well-publicized frictions, but to emphasize the need for better NATO solidarity if we are to prepare for new emerging threats.
The pandemic has taught us that the challenges of the world cannot be tackled without strong international cooperation. NATO is a great example of this mechanism of cooperation and its past achievements cannot be overstated. Yet, just as we pledged to defend each other through a historic treaty many decades ago, we must be prepared to defend each other against common threats in the future.
For a more secure future, our alliance must use the national capabilities of each nation while presenting a well-integrated framework that addresses regional and global change. NATO can only be more effective in the coming years by recognizing member states’ national priorities and ensuring strong support in times of real need. Turkey has always been and continues to be willing to do its part.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.