Ankara lays down conditions for future NATO Secretary-General
    Experts weigh in on success of this move

    INTERVIEWS  20 February 2024 - 10:40

    Samir Ibrahimov

    Turkish authorities want guarantees from whoever succeeds Jens Stoltenberg as NATO Secretary General that there will be no restrictions on arms exports between North Atlantic Alliance countries, Turkish media reported, citing sources.

    They suggest that Türkiye has several demands to make of the incumbent Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who has expressed his desire to replace Stoltenberg, or any other candidate for the post, for his support of his candidacy. Specifically, "Türkiye wants Rutte to guarantee the inclusion of Ankara into the NATO-EU partnership agreements and the absence of defence export restrictions between alliance countries".

    According to media reports, the Turkish authorities have not yet contacted Rutte to discuss what's needed.

    Julianne Smith, the US permanent representative to NATO, said the alliance's new secretary-general is likely to be selected in the first quarter of 2024. Rutte's candidacy is under consideration, she confirmed.

    At the same time, Bloomberg's sources say Ankara favours Rutte's candidacy but has not yet privately endorsed it. No country has directly vetoed the Dutch prime minister's candidacy for the NATO top job, the news agency notes.

    Prominent Turkish experts spoke to Caliber.Az about what they think.

    Haydar Cakmak, a PhD political scientist, notes that NATO countries are only giving weapons to Türkiye on the condition that they are not used against the PKK.

    "This is worrying. What's more, some countries, including the United States, are insisting on not using them against Cyprus and Greece. This situation is alarming as well," said the professor.

    According to him, the US and major European countries do not want the Turkish Armed Forces to get stronger because Türkiye's power increases its effectiveness. They are unwilling to sell sufficient arms to Türkiye because its behaviour is not in line with the interests of Western countries.

    "But now the worst development for them has happened: Türkiye has begun to produce its weapons and to cooperate on technology with countries that the West dislikes, such as Russia and Pakistan. By raising the issue of arms procurement and co-production with NATO, Türkiye wants to say: you don't sell and cooperate with us, so you have no right to close supply routes," Cakmak believes.

    Iqbal Durre, political scientist, historian, Middle East expert, and associate professor at the Department of Foreign Regional Studies of the Moscow State Linguistic University, also commented on the issue.

    He noted that relations between Türkiye and NATO began to warm up during the NATO Summit held in Vilnius on July 11-12, after Türkiye made it clear that it would not interfere in new members joining the organisation (as we know, it happened).

    "As a result, as of today, Finland, Sweden and Canada have lifted arms sanctions against Türkiye.

    On the one hand, the sanctions have helped Ankara to develop its military production, but on the other hand, they're also harming Türkiye's ability to defend itself. That is why Türkiye is calling for an end to the practice of sanctions within the bloc, which has only allies. At first glance, this all sounds logical, as all members are in principle strategic allies.

    However, there is a nuance. To ensure that the practice of imposing sanctions is abolished, we first need to get rid of the political, if you like, ideological contradictions between NATO members, which I think is impossible.

    For this reason, I believe that any decisions can be taken on this issue, but they will be opportunistic in any case. Sanctions will be applied again in case of political disagreements.

    Events in the region show that the potential for Türkiye to disagree with some other members of the bloc is quite high. Therefore, the motives for Türkiye's demand are clear. But I think the issue will remain open for the reason I mentioned earlier," the associate professor believes.

    Political analyst and journalist Hakan Aksay said he believes Ankara's demand for a new secretary-general has a lot to do with the fact that Western countries, especially the United States, have recently sold a lot of weapons to Greece

    "Türkiye is always afraid of losing its military edge, or at least its arms balance with Greece and southern Cyprus," Aksay said.



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