Candar: “Post Madrid NATO and the West’s Loose Cannon Turkey”

Candar: “Post Madrid NATO and the West’s Loose Cannon Turkey”
Update: 05 July 2022 21:23
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“Turkey failed to act as a western country at a crucial turning point,” says columnist Cengiz Candar

Madrid 2022 might turn out to be the most decisive summit NATO ever held. Issues from a new strategic concept to the official invitation of Sweden and Finland as member states have been tackled in what many analysts perceive to be a major success for the defensive bloc. Turkey, alongside Sweden and Finland, was in the spotlight following the signing of the “Trilateral Memorandum” that paved the way for the formal invitation of the two Nordic countries to the alliance.

In an article written for T24, columnist Cengiz Candar broke down the important aspects of the summit, its historic and political implications, and Turkey’s role in all of it.

According to Candar, it is “impossible” for Turkey to pursue a policy of balance between the West and Russia due to the new strategic concept that the alliance has agreed on. The concept contrasts starkly with the previous one drawn up in Lisbon in 2010. Back then, Moscow was considered a partner. In this one, the Russian Federation is considered to be the number one adversary of the alliance. This, Candar says, is the reason why Erdogan’s claim of continuing a policy of balance “is not valid now. Nor will it ever be.”

The veteran journalist sees two ways for Turkey to go after the Madrid Summit. Ankara will “either have to forsake its membership of the alliance or accept the Strategic Concept and acknowledge Russia as the most significant and direct threat to both its own security and the security of its allies." This would necessitate a realignment of Turkish foreign policy, he adds. 

Candar also highlights the importance of the inclusion of China in the new strategic concept. According to the columnist, NATO’s designation of Beijing’s actions as a “challenge to its interests, security, and values” effectively closes the door to “Eurasianism” in Turkey. “You will not be able to be a member of NATO and pursue a “Eurasianist” foreign policy without cost,” Candar says.

Sweden and Finland’s Membership Cannot Be Prevented

Candar defines the membership bids of Sweden and Finland as a “historic step.” He states that with Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine on February 24, President Vladimir Putin made the gravest military mistake of the 21st century. This mistake, Candar adds, turned the Baltic Sea into a NATO sea. The Russian President also “caused the conception of a new European Security Architecture and revitalized the Euro-Atlantic System.” Candar observes that this, in turn, brought the recalibration of NATO’s mission and role.

“Keeping all this in mind,” He asks, “does Turkey have the strength to prevent such a historic development? Could it prevent this massive development by uttering words like PKK, PYD/YPG, and FETO and emphasizing the threat they pose to its security?”

“Anyone with a sound mind can guess the correct answer to that.” He replies to his rhetorical question.

According to Candar, President Erdogan’s remarks about how Sweden and Finland are not members yet and how their membership is in the hands of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT) hold “little to no actual value.” He does not mince words when it comes to Ankara’s supposed veto power over Sweden and Finland, saying “Let us be realistic. You can’t hold NATO, a major Western collective defense system, hostage with a 29-against-1, even a 31-against-1 minority (counting Sweden and Finland).”

Candar states that through the Madrid Summit Declaration, NATO sends the message that the memberships of Sweden and Finland “will not be left to the discretion of a seemingly “dealbreaker” state or leader.” He references to article 18 of the Declaration which states:

Today, we have decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO, and agreed to sign the Accession Protocols. The accession of Finland and Sweden will make them safer, NATO stronger, and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure. The security of Finland and Sweden is of direct importance to the Alliance, including during the accession process.

Candar also explains in great detail how the “Trilateral Memorandum” signed between Turkey, Sweden, and Finland is in fact merely of symbolic importance. He refutes Erdogan’s claim that “PYD/YPG and FETO are listed in NATO documents as terrorist organizations.” Candar emphasizes that the Trilateral Document is not actually a “NATO document.” The memorandum was signed by a member state and two non-member states a day before the Madrid Summit. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who participated in the negotiations that led to the memorandum, did not sign the document. Candar says:

This can only be seen as a reference with diplomatically vague phrases like “legitimate security concerns” and “…properly addressed.” It should be considered as a compulsory payment for Turkey’s removal of its veto barring Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO. Almost like a “you must lose a fly to catch a trout” kind of situation.

He also reminds that the Trilateral Memorandum does not classify PYD/YPG or the Gulenists as terrorists. This description is solely reserved for PKK in the document.

No Extraditions from Sweden to Turkey

Candar also touches on the contentious issue of extraditions from Sweden and Turkey. He reminds that in Sweden only the judiciary has the right to decide on extraditions. This, he claims, renders any possible promises made by the Swedish government obsolete. Candar also states that both the Swedish law and the “European Council Convention on Extradition” prevents the extradition of individuals on military or political charges. So, for someone from Sweden to be extradited to Turkey, their actions must be considered a crime in both Turkey and Sweden. In the event of an individual being a Swedish citizen, extradition is not possible at all.

Having stated all these facts, Candar surmises that “neither the speculated 33 people nor the 73 individuals abruptly announced by Erdogan will not be extradited to Turkey.”

The columnist concludes his piece by making a critical observation. “We’re missing the most vital point of it all,” he says, “Turkey has failed to choose to act as a western country at a crucial and historic turning point.”