NATO’S Transformations and Turkey


Keywords: NATO, NATO-Turkey relations, post-hegemony, international security, NATO defence expenditure, NATO transition, NATO strategic concepts....


NATO’s consistent and transformative identity made it sustainable for a period of seventy years. During this time interval, NATO had to cope with various threats which tested its durability. During its historical voyage NATO has managed to reconstruct itself continuously; its security architecture, its strategic thinking, its institutional structuring, and its functions. Current issues within NATO notwithstanding, Turkey has consistently shown great commitment to the material and nonmaterial requirements, goals, and identity of the Alliance. Turkey’s policy of fostering cohesion within the alliance has helped it overcome past and current obstacles; Turkey’s historical commitment to NATO remains valid and should not be underestimated.

Keywords: NATO, NATO-Turkey relations, post-hegemony, international security, NATO defence expenditure, NATO transition, NATO strategic concepts.


As a regional security organization which operates globally NATO has long been operating in an unpredictable security environment with threats from all strategic directions; from state and non-state actors; from military forces; and from terrorist, cyber, and hybrid attacks. This problematic panorama will likely exacerbate in the foreseeable future. NATO’s performance has facedexternal challenges, challenges which in some cases have exacerbated internal tensions. In fact NATO’s external and internal issues are distinct but conceptually intertwined. As perhaps the longest lasting alliance in history NATO has proved to be adaptive in facing these twin challenges. Turkey’s role in this transition process is noteworthy, and so needs to be examined.

This paper scrutinizes changes in NATO’s institutional structuring. Here with the term ‘institutional structuring“ shared and collectively institutionalized norms, rules, ideas, beliefs, values, practices and identity are meant in the constructivist sense.2 Apart from this, power-based economic, military, geographic and other material structure are also considered primarily from a realist perspective.3 The article prioritises an elucidative approach rather than problem-solving endeavour for the granted or given issues. This approach may help to examine the most often-heard allegations regarding burden sharing, solidarity, consultation and the others.

In order for understanding the roots of NATO’s internal changes, first a conceptual framework of a security alliance is determined by way of main features and motives. An assessment of transformative historical changes in NATO’s identity which also defines the main internal areas of concern of the organization follows the first part. Turkey’s stance and interferences are also discussed here. The final section includes a conclusion based upon this argument.

The Concept of a Security Alliance4

The concept of security alliance goes back to the history of war. Thucydides’s (BCE 472-400) History of the Peloponnesian War and SunTzu’s (BCE 400-320) The Art of War distinguish as the earliest and most prominent writings on the subject. Although types and forms of security alliances vary in motive, function, action, interdependence, identity etc., their principal goal is to ensure political sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security on the basis of the collective military defence.5 Any ideal security alliance is expectedto have common threats, similar or harmonised interests, shared values to be protected, active participation in decision-making process and actions, and fair responsibility/burden share which requires additive, multiplier and interoperable military efficiency from the members for the sustainment of common goals and vision. Member states have always been more vulnerable to threats rather than the other ingredients of the alliance. For that, the primary functions of a security alliance are to deter, counter, dismiss threats, or repel aggressor by either containment or roll-back and retaliation. A security alliance fosters military capacity and economy of power for its members. An alliance promotes political, military, and to some extend economic and social consent among its members.

Alliances are living institutions subject to transformation. Alliances are open systems viewed from a structural functionalist6 tradition. They are composed of material and non-material inputs; a processing device with structural boundaries, roles, identity, functions and goals; and outcomes all of which operate in security surrounding. Functions vary as structures change [or vice versa], as do the behaviours of component units.7 The system’s effectiveness relies upon the main drivers’ transformative nature. Here the debate on the main drivers of an alliance as a system is considered through two key concepts; equilibrium or balance and “bandwagoning.“ These should be seen as complementary rather than competing concepts.

Equilibrium is generally argued on three concepts: balance of power, the balance of threat and the balance of interest. Classical realists Morgenthau and Thompson8 regard alliance as one of the four strategies of maintaining equilibrium or balance for states in an anarchic international environment the other three strategies are divide and rule, compensations and armaments. The founder of neorealist approach Kenneth N. Waltz, emphasized the concept of deterrence which only stronger states can enjoy.9 He also argues that the balance of power politics occur when two requirements are present: anarchic order and presence of states challenging for survival.10 Scholars like Stephen Walt, Thomas J. Christensen,11 Brain Healy and Arthur Stein12 did not completely reject but questioned validity of “balance of power“ by proposing the concept of “balance of threat.“ Taking into account the geographic proximity, offensive capabilities, and perceived intentions on alliance formation,13 Stephen Walt argues that the superiority of power does not necessarily pose threat to weaker neighbours, but perception on aggressive intent determine states’ behaviour.14 The commentary of Randall Scheweller -an advocate of neoclassical realism - broadens the threat-centric narrow base of balancing with the notion of common interests.15
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Continents ( 5 Fields )
 Contents ( 452 ) Actiivities ( 216 )
Africa 0 144
Asia 0 228
Europe 0 38
Latin America & Carribean 0 34
North America 0 8
Regions ( 4 Fields )
 Contents ( 173 ) Actiivities ( 51 )
Balkans 0 93
Middle East 0 59
Black Sea and Caucasus 0 16
Mediterranean 0 5
Identity Fields ( 2 Fields )
 Contents ( 175 ) Actiivities ( 71 )
Islamic World 0 146
Turkish World 0 29
Turkey ( 1 Fields )
 Contents ( 210 ) Actiivities ( 54 )
Turkey 0 210

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