Turkey’s vision for NATO in an era of global challenges

The alliance needs to have a clear vision to meet new security challenges and a commitment to member support.

The 2021 NATO summit will be held on June 14 in Brussels, Belgium, [File: Reuters/Francois Lenoir]

Turkey has been a stalwart NATO ally since joining the alliance in 1952. We have always been at the forefront of confronting the challenges facing our common security. Our participation in critically important missions around the world and hosting of strategic NATO assets on our soil are a testament to our continuing robust commitment to the alliance. Turkey has assumed strong leadership roles in NATO missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

We consider NATO indispensable for our nation’s security 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 defence as a strategic priority. Our national defence spending is near the NATO goal of 2 percent of GDP, more than what most alliance members spend. These investments have increased our national defence capacity in recent years and contributed to the overall strength of the NATO alliance.

In the wake of the changing regional security dynamics in the past decade, it is time for NATO to update its strategic concept. NATO’s new strategic outlook must be broad enough given the increasing size of the alliance in recent years. Yet, it must also be clear and purposeful. Given the increasing use of hybrid warfare capabilities, the challenges facing our alliance are more complex than ever. At the same time, preparing NATO for this new age is well within our capacity.

A new concept must create mechanisms to address the differences between various NATO allies over a number of issues. It must also recognise the need for reconciling national priorities with those of the alliance amid rapidly changing regional and global dynamics in recent years, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic. We have different national policies over issues such as international terrorism, migration, human smuggling, cyberthreats, etc.

It is clear we will not see eye to eye on every issue. However, it must be a NATO priority to reach an alliance-wide understanding for a unified response. Our alliance should not only focus on identifying common enemies but must come together around a common purpose that serves the national interests of us all.

Reaching understanding on all forms of terrorism, including far-right terrorism and Islamophobic attacks and agreeing on a strategy to counter it must be one of the top priorities.

We also must develop a more comprehensive security concept to include human security in order to prevent humanitarian disasters and to counter asymmetric attacks on our nations.

Turkey is ready to pay its fair share to ensure the collective security for our alliance. Burden sharing must not only be about military budgets and contributions to NATO. It must also entail confronting 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 readiness to pay their fair share in addressing this historic challenge.

We have received undue criticism in recent years regarding our national security requirements and strategic priorities. We welcome any constructive exchange regarding issues that concern our collective security. We believe that dialogue is always key to resolve differences among member states. As an example of this approach, we have offered to organise an international conference to resolve the 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 flawed perceptions vis-a-vis the regional turmoil Turkey has been confronting for a decade now.

Having faced the threat of terrorism and regional instability, Turkey is both capable and determined to ensure its national security. However, we regret to mention that the support from our NATO allies on these fronts has been less than exemplary. We mention this not to highlight the already well-publicised frictions but to underscore the need for better NATO solidarity if we are to prepare for the new, emerging threats.

The pandemic has taught us that the challenges of the world cannot be addressed without robust international cooperation. NATO is a great example of such a cooperation mechanism and its past accomplishments cannot be overstated. Yet, just as we have committed to defending one another through a historic treaty many decades ago, we must be ready to defend each other against common threats in the future.

For a more secure future, our alliance must utilise the national capacities of each nation while presenting a well-integrated framework that addresses regional and global changes. NATO can only become more effective in the years to come by acknowledging the national priorities of member states and reassuring them of robust support in times of real need. Turkey has always been and continues to be ready to do its part.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.