In recent years, many Americans (and other nationalities for that matter) have asked the question of why Turkey is allowed to stay in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Created during the Cold War to balance power against the Warsaw Pact nations of the Soviet Union, NATO consists of America, Canada, and 26 European nations excluding a few such as Finland and Sweden.
For the most part, NATO members work within defined legal systems, promote democracy within their borders, and conform to international norms of what is considered proper behavior. Turkey has stood in stark contrast to other NATO nations as the Erdogan-led government pursues what some have called “neo-Ottoman” ambitions. Within Turkey, the government has been downright repressive, crushing dissent and arresting political rivals to Erdogan’s agenda. At home and abroad, Turkey has supported international terrorism. The links between Turkey and ISIS are well documented at this point as are the links between other Turkish proxies like Ahrar al-Sham. How can a member of NATO also be a supporter of not just Islamism but also of international terrorism?
With this in mind, how can a country like Turkey possibly be a NATO member? Furthermore, why is Turkey permitted to remain in NATO? This is especially interesting as after the United States enacted Article 5 in the NATO charter after 9/11 which states that an attack against one NATO nation is an attack against all, yet Turkey continues to provide material support to terrorists.
First, Turkey has the most powerful military in NATO aside from the United States. With about one million troops divided between active duty and reserves, the Turkish military plays an especially important role in their country’s politics and culture. In Turkey the military is often described as being the “guardians of the republic.”