Turkey: A window into the eastern world for NATO

By Contributing Writer

By Austin Montgomery

After joining NATO in 1952, Turkey has become responsible for providing a key link between the western NATO members and the Muslim world.

With a population that is 98 percent Muslim, Turkey is also one of the only predominantly Muslim countries with a westernized democratic style. With long term goals ranging from integrating all of the western Balkan and Euro-Atlantic countries to providing government training for Afghani workers, Turkey also looks to provide mediation from countries like Syria and Iraq.

“Turkey’s responsibility in NATO is going through a change; it is transforming itself with globalization, Onur Sayin, Vice Consul to the Turkish Consulate said. “There are new risks such as the creation of weapons of mass destruction, regional disturbances and organized crime. The creation of this project is called “Soft Power.”

In a meeting with Columbia College Tuesday, Onur Sayin met with students from the Covering NATO Affairs class to discuss the current political and international standing of Turkey within NATO.

Never before has a country assumed such a pivotal role between the eastern and western world, with an economy ranked 17, Turkey has taken on the role of providing diplomatic support for surrounding countries such as, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since Turkey is one of the only major Eastern powers in NATO, it has been trying to advocate for the acceptance of Macedonia into the alliance.

“This is an outcome of our geographical location,” Sayin said. “Some of our neighbors are Syria, Iran, Iraq, so you can imagine how important an asset Turkey is for NATO. This allows NATO to reach such regions; this could include the war in Afghanistan and refugee support in Syria.”

During the Cold War, Turkey was asked to defend the surrounding countries from the Soviet Union, but today Turkey is playing more of a humanitarian role. The country has been providing 25,000 displaced Syrians refugees with places to stay, which is part of a project that is solely government funded to provide shelter for the refugees on Syria’s northern border.

According to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by being a predominantly Muslim country Turkey can also provide a key link to institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is paramount since a main goal of the summit is to find a solution to Afghanistan by 2014. Turkey has given service in the International Security Assistance Force along with training Afghani civilian government workers, which has helped war torn Afghanistan establish a democratic system

Aside from playing a key international role, Turkey also faces challenges of social change and reform, especially the treatment of the minority of the Kurds. This has been the main issue keeping Turkey from joining the European Union. But steps have been made, such as legalizing the Kurdish language, as well as recognizing relaxed border restrictions to Iraq may bring talks at the summit for prospective membership, Joanna Andrusko Editor of the Washington Review reported.

Another issue facing Turkey and its international standing is the relationship with Israel. Since last May, when a Turkish ship carrying aide for Gaza residents was searched by Israeli forces, diplomatic relations have drastically worsened.

Among the international community, Turkey is playing a large part in Eastern affairs, not only economically, but also socially by providing a platform of democracy in a region left divided politically and ideologically.