NATO is struggling to maintain hegemony, but in many ways, it’s just as strong as ever. However, Turkey’s diverging interests from most of NATO may greatly weaken it.
There’s conflict within NATO, for several reasons. There’s tension between Turkey and the rest of NATO, currently because Turkey sees the greatest threat to their political project to be the Kurds.
There’s further conflict within the rest of NATO, primarily because Trump’s ambivalent disdain for NATO. Trump knows, likely has been told, by advisors, that preserving NATO is important, so he instead threatens other members to pay up more.
There’s also conflict because there are elements within NATO that want to shift focus from Russia to China. Realistically, NATO has the power and purview to do both, but Russia is still certainly the primary target.
There’s also another layer of conflict, because NATO’s primary project is forming a hegemonic, geopolitical bloc against Russia. However, France under Macron wants to reorient NATO into combating ‘terrorism’ (not ‘Kurdish terrorism’ though), and away from anti-Russia and anti-China.
About three weeks ago, Macron called NATO “brain dead”, which would have been fairly unprecedented even two years ago. More on that later though.
“Turkey is refusing to back a NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland until the alliance offers Ankara more political support for its fight against Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria, four senior alliance sources said.
“Ankara has told its NATO envoy not to sign off on the plan and is taking a tough line in meetings and in private conversations, demanding the alliance recognize the YPG as terrorists in the formal wording, the sources said.”
This isn’t just Turkey doing things haphazardly, or lashing out vindictively. This is Turkey knowing the tenuous nature of NATO and exploiting it with purpose.
It’s also not a coincidence that Turkey is holding up “a defense plan” in Eastern Europe – defense against Russia. Turkey has long had a tumultuous relationship with Russia, which remains tumultuous today, especially because of Russia’s support of Syria. However, Turkey has closer diplomatic and economic ties with Russia than any other NATO country, and doesn’t have an interest in “picking sides”.
This can be seen by the fact that Russia will soon activate a massive gas pipeline to Turkey, similar to the one Russia built to China, and the one Russia will soon activate to Germany as well.
Germany is, of course, a NATO member, and while Merkel is as anti-Russia as most of NATO, Germany as a whole generally doesn’t buy into the same level of russophobia, as say, the unprecedented levels in the US.
To illustrate how Turkey is exploiting NATO, here’s another Reuters article:
“Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Emmanuel Macron’s warning that NATO was dying reflects a ‘sick and shallow’ understanding, telling the French president ‘you should check whether you are brain dead’.
“Macron said in an interview three weeks ago there was a lack of strategic coordination between European allies on the one hand and the United States and Turkey, on the other. He has also decried NATO’s inability to react to what he called Turkey’s ‘crazy’ offensive into northern Syria.”
Turkey is, in many ways, trolling other NATO countries.
Not only is he mocking France and their closest allies in NATO by saying “nanny nanny boo boo you can’t catch me”, he’s also challenging Trump.
Trump accepted Erdogan’s monkey paw: he took whatever it is Erdogan gave him to pull out of Syria (I don’t think anyone knows exactly what Trump got from Erdogan – maybe a new hotel). Now that Trump got his wish, Erdogan is saying “Okay, now we not only have the Kurds by the balls, but you have to help us do it… or else we won’t play.”
As one more example, there’s some inter-NATO conflict between Turkey and Greece. Turkey recently agreed to a new maritime border in the Mediterranean with Libya, and Greece isn’t happy about it.
“Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the ruling conservative New Democracy party’s congress Sunday that NATO can’t remain indifferent when one of its members ‘blatantly violates international law’ and that a neutral approach is to the detriment of Greece, which has never sought to ratchet up tensions in the area.
“Cyprus, Egypt and Greece have all condemned the Libyan-Turkish accord as contrary to international law. The foreign ministers of Egypt and Greece, Sameh Shoukry and Nikos Dendias, discussed the issue Sunday in Cairo.”
Ultimately, what’s the impact on this splintering within NATO?
A lot of people may think NATO is beginning to crumble – and Macron agrees. That may be the case, but I wouldn’t be so hasty.
As NATO continues to admit new members, it’s only logical that parties within it will have diverging interests. That may cause conflict within the organization, but it also necessarily means NATO is getting bigger.
NATO has always been, among the many things it is, primarily a bloc that reinforces American hegemony. So as NATO grows, perhaps the competing interests in it signify the diffusive and disseminated nature of the US, as an empire in decline.
Ultimately, this doesn’t indicate much about the eventual future of NATO, but it does show that there’s inter-NATO conflict.
What it does indicate is that the US and their hegemonic bloc, has an increasing number of threats to their hegemony, and they have increasing amounts of members within that bloc that want that hegemony manifested in different ways.
I will keep my eye on NATO going forward.