Ankara is playing with fire, interfering with NATO’s mission to deal with illegal immigrants
As latest news show, Turkey does not intend to stop the absurdity. AFP cited diplomatic sources saying Turkey denied access to its territorial waters for NATO ships dealing with migrants illegally crossing the Aegean Sea. NATO’s formal access request was suddenly denied.
It was Turkey, along with Germany and Greece, that initiated a NATO operation to seize smuggler’s boats. It started on 19 February: five NATO ships, along with Greek and Turkish coast guard and Frontex agency, are to stop boats, taking immigrants aboard and sending them back to Turkey. Germany controls the operation, with its replenishment ship Bohn as a flagship. The mission serves to reduce the flow of refugees to Europe, as its countries continue to suffer the migration crisis.
Turkey didn’t simply refuse access to its territorial waters. As the Greek TV channel Skai reports, Turkey banned German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen from landing on the Greek island of Lesbos. Her visit to the island, where she would record the situation with refugees and then fly to warship Bonn, has been sabotaged. This is not the first time when Turkey denies access to its waters; this time, however, NATO, the US and EU may have had enough.
Turkish authorities stated that the helicopter cannot land as the island belongs in a demilitarized zone, asking Rear Admiral Jorg Klein, the German commander of the NATO operation, "to go to Ankara to determine the area where (NATO) might deploy". Greek media have already blamed Turkey for counteracting the deployment of NATO vessels in the Aegean.
Turkey obviously has no interest in taking migrants back from NATO vessels. The question of finances is important here, too. As most Syrian and Iraqi refuges enter to the EU through Turkey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel puts high hopes for the solution to the migration crisis on this country. On 29 November 2015 the EU agreed to provide €3 billion euro to Turkey to stem the tide of refugees going to Europe. However, on 30 January die Welt reported Ankara’s plans to get more financing to deal with the crisis: it is now €5 billion instead of 3.
On 11 February, Turkish President Recep Erdogan threatened to open borders and kick migrants out of Turkey into Europe. He said Turkey has hosted above 2.5 million Syrians, which cost it $9 billion.
Turkey’s incitement in the Aegean shows Erdogan is not going to solve the migration crisis and is even ready to aggravate it. The U.S. thinks Syrian refugees are a weapon of Russian President Putin and Syrian President Al-Assad against Europe. These are the words of Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe. According to him, the Russian air force mass-bomb civilian targets, creating the wave of migrants to weaken Europe. It is the Turkish President that in fact uses such a weapon.
Turkey is ready to clash with NATO, Europe and even the U.S. A diplomatic scandal between Turkey and the U.S. broke out when Washington said they wouldn’t classify the Kurdish People's Defence Force as a terrorist organization. The Kurd question was the reason why Erdogan's chief adviser Seref Malkoc announced Turkey may deny the US the use of Incirlik Air Base where American planes are located.
Erdogan also calls into question the necessity of intergovernmental organizations, calling for the reform of the UN. “The world is larger than five countries,” Turkey’s leader said during his visit to Ghana, hinting at the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council – Russia, China, France, the US and UK – who hold veto power.
All this should make NATO and Washington carefully think whether Ankara is a loyal and safe ally. The Russian Su-24 jet shot down by Turkey brought the world to the brink of a Russia-NATO war. Not only does Ankara provoke conflicts entailing possibly serious consequences, but it also stands in the way of the alliance’s missions in the Aegean Sea and destabilizes the situation in Europe.
The North Atlantic Alliance was created to expand, and NATO’s founding treaty doesn’t imply the expulsion of its members. There are not any precedents for it. A country may only drop out voluntarily: according to Article 13, “after the Treaty has been in force for twenty years, any Party may cease to be a Party one year after its notice of denunciation has been given to the Government of the United States of America, which will inform the Governments of the other Parties of the deposit of each notice of denunciation”.
To exclude Turkey, a joint decision of the NATO Council is doubtlessly needed, which may serve as both a precedent and lesson for Turkey. Without allies’ support, Ankara will hardly act as recklessly as on 24 November in Syrian sky.