Muharrem Nuri Birgi
(*) Published in the fpi Quarterly “Foreign Policy” Vol.3, No. 4
One of the most important realities brought forth by the Second World War and its aftermath is that unity of destiny and the identity of interest between the United States, Canada and Europe constitute a lasting geopolitical fact and precept. The term “Atlantic Community” is, therefore, an expression of this reality.
A near-sighted look at the frictions, which have been intensified from time to time during recent years, between some European powers and the United States may lead to conclusions contrary to this reality. However, ninety per cent of these frictions result from endeavours made not to destroy the Atlantic Community but to adapt it to various developing conditions. Yet, if errors accumulate, long-term aims shall have been sacrificed in favour of short-term appearances, and if the dangers are ignored, this process of adaptation may be replaced by explosions and divisions. Despite the strength of the logic ordained by geo-political realities, history contains many examples of deviations from the path of reality simply because of lack of wisdom.
The concept of the Atlantic Community has in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization found its most comprehensive and effective legal and political expression and military organization.
Within its overall political balance, Turkey has secured the support and cooperation required both for its development and security by basing its place in the Atlantic Community on legal foundations, through its membership in the Council of Europe and associate membership in the Common Market on one hand and through its entry into NATO on the other. Yet, a number of developments are taking place both within Europe and in the relations between Europe and the United States. In the face of these developments what is the present position of Turkey and the state of the foundations on which it has based its policy?
The principal points of these developments may be sketched as follows :
1 – The arrival, following the Second World War, at a point of maximum solidarity and togetherness in the Atlantic Community within the framework of NATO, from the military standpoint, and through the Marshall Plan, as well as a number of bilateral treaties, from the economic viewpoint.
2 -Then came a gradual attempt to show the cooperation with theUnited States and its military protection as an American domination over Europe, with the increasing frictions between the two shores of the Atlantic and the transformation of these frictions into a viscious circle through increasing economic and technological rivalries.
3The continuation of two divergent currents among the advanced European powers, one aiming at the realization of the United Europe and the other creating obstacles for this unity – due to economic rivalries and attempts at establishing political superiority – runnning parallel to, and interacting with the frictions and rivalries which I mentioned above.
For the Western powers, which had come out of the Second World War in a state of utter exhaustion, two vital necessities existed in all their gravity : to achieve an early economic recovery, and to reach the capability of resisting an invasion by Soviet Russia, the danger of which had become imminent. While all these needs were secured by the United States through NATO, the Marshall Plan and several bilateral treaties, the priceless value of this tremendous protection and assistance of the United States could not but have psychologically crushing, and even in certain respects irritating, aspects. However, so long as a fear for life, and economic exhaustion dominated the picture, this aspect of the matter was hardly felt.
The unprecedented economic and technological development of Western Europe and the success of Soviet Russia in transforming the Cold War, which carried with it the danger of a real hot war at any moment, into a form of detente, pushed the fear for life into the background (in many circles it altogether disappeared), and economic and technological rivalry began between the United States and the advanced European powers, which not only no longer needed American assistance, but had reached its level in many fields.
At the same time, a situation began to develop, of direct interest to Turkey. The attitude of highly advanced powers in Western Europe towards their developing European allies began to change. Time has shown that the principal factor leading the highly developed powers in Western Europe to firmly embrace their less developed allies within NATO, as far as possible under conditions of equality, was the fear for life created by the probability of an armed invasion by Soviet Russia. In actual fact, this danger of Soviet invasion has not at the present day been eliminated. But as I pointed out above, Soviet propaganda has, with an excellent knowledge of the weaknesses of the West, succeeded in wrapping the Cold War, which presented the danger of turning into hot war, with the cloak of detente. Today, no one can claim that any one of the NATO countries is facing the danger of becoming a victim of an armed Soviet invasion in a matter of days or months-and possibly years. Yet, the frightening scale of increase in Soviet arms, their establishment of naval superiority in all seas and their failure to end activities for creating division among the allies and particularly for separating Europe from America and for destroying every one of them from within, their failure to refuse to go beyond a certain point in both discussions for mutual arms reductions and for the establishment of security and their anxiousness to maintain at such points military and political superiority to the other side-in other words to weaken the other party – should be considered as evidences to dissuade everyone from claiming that the danger of Soviet invasion is over. Particularly those countries geographically in critical locations are compelled not to overlook the possibility that this danger may, all of a sudden, turn again into an armed invasion.
However, at this moment, particularly in highly developed western countries, the existing detente is considered by the majority as an irrevocable step towards peace. A large portion of those who are not so optimistic wish to believe that through untiring political pressure and leadership in setting a good example, and by establishing a political and psychological atmosphere of security, the arms may indeed be reduced some day; in other words, putting the cart before the horse, they wish to believe that instead of establishing security through a genuine disarmament, it would be easier to get the parties to drop their arms by creating an atmosphere of security through a number of promises regarding the observance of human rights, non-agression and friendship. In this miscalculation of the existing dangers and over-optimism, much influence is due to the younger generations which have not gone through the chilling experiences of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath, and who listen to the story of those days as if they are listening to a dull lecture of a pedantic professor.
All these have contributed, in the developed western countries, to pushing matters of defense into the background, and bringing economic and technological problems to the foreground. The situation being as it is, the highly developed western powers have started to play the part of a sort of first-class United Europe among themselves, throwing aside or drawing in their wake those who happen to be less fortunate in economic development.
The countries which have made great progress in commerce, industry, economy and technology certainly have problems to discuss and resolve among themselves. In fact, within the Common Market there are countries like «the Nine» on one side, and other associate members like Turkey which are candidates for full membership – countries which through their own volition have agreed to become full members after a certain period of time. However, the Nine have expanded the nature of their communion. There is today an institutionalized Nine. Their ministers or prime ministers meet officially not only to discuss economic matters but also to resolve political and military problems and to determine a joint basis for discussions with the United States on political and military matters.
To express it nakedly, those members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (including Turkey) which are outside the Nine are now faced with the fait acompli that a number of questions are either presented to the NATO Council in an already well-defined manner as predetermined by the Nine, or these could be put into execution even without consulting NATO. We hear that the Nine inform their NATO allies which are not among the Nine of matters they have discussed if and when they consider it appropriate. There is no need to stress that this can never be accepted as satisfactory.
If in the course of relations between Europe and the United States – which I will deal with a little later – there is a necessity for a number of prior consultations and preparations among the Europeans – not to establish a front against the United States but to enhance the existing cooperation – there is a Eurogroup within NATO formed for this purpose. This should provide a medium, and not a treaty within the treaty, for those European Allies who might wish to come together regularly to discuss the sharing of defense expenditures, manufacture of arms, etc., and naturally Americans and Canadians should be regularly kept informed. Why then have not the Nine considered this procedure adequate and why have they turned themselves into a separate institution? Here it becomes necessary to make an analysis of the French attitude.
France, even before de Gaulle, had considered itself as the leader of Europe. This claim has lead France to conflicts from time to time with Britain and Germany. Ever since de Gaulle’s advent to power, the French political scene has been dominated by the conviction that the prerequisite for establishing French supremacy in Europe was getting American hands off Europe. Even after de Gaulle’s death, in other words today, this continues to be so. This policy, which exceeds the potential of France, has made its most evident effect felt within NATO. The well-known de Gaulle statements, could be summed up as follows : “The North Atlantic Treaty and its organization, NATO, are separate things. I am staying in the Treaty, but I am withdrawing from NATO, that is, from the military organization and integration of the Treaty.” France has advanced a unilateral theory which is extremely hard to defend logically and legally. Without withdrawing its hands completely from the NATO military organization, i.e. by mainting contact through a number of observers and through other formulas, France has established a “national strike force” including nuclear arms but having a limited practical value. In defense of its action France argued openly or by implication that the United States could not be trusted; therefore one had to rely on national forces and that Europe should have a nuclear force independent of the United States. In reality, however, the membership of France within the military organization of NATO was not at all an obstacle to France’s developing a nuclear strike force of its own. In fact, Great Britain has a nuclear force which is at least as big as that of France, but Great Britain has not left the NATO integration. Moreover, while de Gaulle stated that Europe should have its own force he did not conceal that France would not agree to share its own nuclear force with other European countries.
My purpose is not to criticize the French policy but merely to state the reason why the «Nine» behave as if they have thrown NATO aside. Since, in order to reach a common position in a community, it is customary to reach an agreement on the basis of the maximum acceptable to the dissenting partner, the dominant view among the «Nine» has generally been that of France, which does not participate in the Eurogroup within NATO and which claims that since, where the United States is present its views weigh heavily, European issues should be discussed only in those parleys where the United States is not present. Recently a French paper, referring to the tightening of the rope by the French Foreign Minister almost to the breaking point on every occasion, stated that this might lead France’s allies to get used to acting eventually without France. Considering the position of France within the West European community, this guess may not be one hundred per cent true, but in certain matters, one may think, it is not absolutely wrong either.
Looking at the present state of the «Nine», quarrelling on almost every economic issue, anxieties of superiority and egotism making themselves apparent in political matters, one might think that such a community should not be highly effective and could in any case hardly replace the NATO Council. This would be a shortsighted conclusion and should not be an excuse for Turkey to remain outside the door of the «Nine» as far as political and military matters are concerned. Since Turkey is not yet a full member of the Common Market, it may not be possible for it to demand full participation in all meetings of the Nine. However, a sui generis practical solution can be found for its participation in discussions on such vital issues as defence, security, East-West relations, and the future of European unity. We are living in an age of empiricism and pragmatism; in politics a way out can always be found to every problem when there is a will. This problem, which is a simple one, should be no exception in this general atmosphere of pragmatism. Casting aside the doubts on the efficacy of the «Nine», there is a problem of principle : if we are a part of Europe and if we are a member of the Atlantic Community, all that this necessitates should be carried out. The problem is beyond being an issue of pride or prestige. It is a matter of serving the needs of our foreign policy and of our basic interests.
In saying this I fully realize that alongside what the «Nine» should do for us, we sould not forget that there are many things we also have to do. To become part of the community formed by the developed members of the Atlantic Community, which is the brain and main source of the present civilization where technology, industry, commerce and culture play an extremely important role, requires an early approach to their level of development. Otherwise, there are bound to be differences between us, and the effects of these differences will be felt at the most unexpected moments. It is hard to say that the present development and progress of Turkey represents the maximum of its potential. We have to mobilize, in a scientific and systematic manner, all our energy and means because the time is over for consoling ourselves by boasting of some results obtained here and there.
In this connection I wish to add my belief that considerations such as “does Turkey belong to the West or to the East? Turkey should choose one” refer not to the conditions of today but to those of the past centuries, because, with the elimination of sense of distance, comrnunication becoming a matter of moments, and civilizations interacting with each other, the division of the world into parts such as Europe, Asia, etc. has almost become meaningless in many respects. Today even the most fanatical states accept modern technology and the way of living composed by it. The only way for us is the one followed by almost all the countries of the world: i.e. to attain a level of industry, trade and culture which allows everyone in the country to benefit from prosperity. We believe that the most abundant possibilities and methods for attaining this are to be found in the Atlantic Community, of which we are a part thanks to the opportunity created by our geo – political position. We have to make up for the time lost without delay.
I would like to pass over now to the relations between Europe and the United States.
There is still not a unified European position, attitude or voice. As I pointed out above there is a French position which is unique and which can even be described as anti-European unity in some respects. Even within Benelux (Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg) sometimes different voices are heard. Although Germany and Great Britain have common points, they also differ in details.
Despite all these differences, in European countries – even including France in certain respects – and in the United States, there is a conviction that both sides depend on each other. !n the beginning of my article I stated that the Atlantic Community was a constant geo-political reality revealed by the Second World War. This reality creates the hope that certain frictions that now exist between the developed European powers and the United States have after all a ceiling; in other words, the rope may be tightened but it will not break. The fact that even France does not object to the stationing of American Military Forces in Europe and feels it necessary to state its attachment to the North Atlantic Treaty might be considered as a sign of hope in that respect.
Immediately after the Second World War, a sort of balance was established between the worn-out Europe and the United States, a superpower which played the role of a protective parent – a relationship between the protector and the protected. Now what is involved between the enriched group of European powers claiming a personality and the United States is a balance of partnership. The difference between the two situations can be reduced if realism prevails over mutual sensitivity. Then a trouble – free transition from one to the other would become possible. Furthermore, its status of super power gives United States a position of superiority vis-a-vis European powers, which are unable to unite and coordinate their energies, and the assessment of the measure of this superiority brings forth a number of highly delicate issues.
A review of the current points of friction would reveal that most of these are between the developed countries and the United States. In other words, these are not problems of direct concern to Turkey, but, without any doubt, in the long run these will a!so concern Turkey, or at least their effects will be felt by us.
It is remarkable that even the proposal made last year by Mr. Kissen-ger for a new Atlantic Declaration and for sharing the burden of NATO defenses, which interests Turkey highly, smells of the current frictions between the United States and developed countries, in fact, the idea of a new Atlantic Declaration aims at eliminating the poisonous effects of the current frictions by sharing the NATO defense burden with developed countries and treating NATO defense matters as a whole together with economic and monetary issues.
My purpose in pointing out some peculiarities of the situation is only to emphasize that due to our position, which is not in direct conflict with the United States, there would be very rare occasions on which we would find ourselves in a situation compelling us to take sides in the disputes between the two coasts of the Atlantic. By saying this I do not mean that we should stand aside. On the contrary, in many cases, particularly as regards the Kissinger proposal I mentioned above, we have always to be very active. There may even be a possibility for us to act as a mediator.
The frictions between some developed European powers or groups of powers should not lead us to a search of conscience by attempting to answer such questions as “whether we should prefer the United States to Europe or Europe to the United States”. The policy that suits Turkey’s interests best is the Atlantic policy, as a Europe without the United States or a United States without Europe will always represent for us a lame and crippled policy. Such a policy has two fields of application : one is NATO and the other our bilateral relations.
The policy which we have been following for many years now cannot be described otherwise. However, implementation of this policy has not been adequately fruitful due to a number of rather psychological complexes on our part.
I wish to conclude my article by enumerating these complexes :
5 — Generally our policy remains at the «defensive» level; i.e., we have generally found it convenient to prevent ripening developments or state our objections and work on the initiatives of others without making counter proposals of our own for the solution of the problems at hand.
It is possible for us to keep in step with the tempo of Western diplomacy, which is in continuous development, through a number of conferences, proposals, counter proposals, and official as well as unofficial contacts and communications, because we have enough men to succeed in this type of work if used properly.