Should Turkey be part of NATO?
That’s not the actual question our February resolution asks—it’s this:
Resolved: On balance, Turkey’s membership is beneficial to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The answer, NO. No, I’m kidding. YES. Or…both, and, ehh, hey! It’s a PF topic. Let’s dig in to this Turkey.
NATO is a military alliance, formed to counter the USSR, and now it sorta counters Russia although the need for this is certainly an open question, and some answers (a minority) suggest NATO is more of a threat to world peace than a balance.
o When we think about Turkey, the most important aspect is its military. Why? Cause NATO is a military alliance. If it was a culinary alliance, we’d be analyzing Turkish cuisine (which is a favorite hobby of mine). Other, non-military impacts may not be relevant (though in debate, its all up for debate).
Turkey sits at the geographic crossroads of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. That means several things:
o Geostrategically, it’s very important. Near to Syria and Iraq. Near to Iran. Near to Russia and their Black Sea fleet. Near to Europe.
o Competing interests—Turkey isn’t strongly allied with any country—rather, it has loose alliances with several groups, including the US/NATO and their arch-enemy Russia. It’s big and powerful and independent—it’s the seat, after all, of the once-great and mighty Ottoman empire.
o Other notes on geography: i. Turkey controls the straights of Bosphorus, the crucial channel between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. They control, therefore, Russia’s direct naval access to Europe. Ii. they control a lot of freshwater—the Eastern part of the country is the source of the Biblically-famous Tigris and Euphrates (the Garden of Eden is between these rivers).
Erdogan (pron: err-do-wan):
o A populist (us, the common folk, against them), authoritarian (tries to control everything) whose main motivation is to stay in power.
o He does many things to achieve this goal: political arrests, corrupt elections, military buildup (via campaigns in Syria).
o A key concept for the debate: authoritarian strongmen—modern kings— obviously have a massively weighted finger on the scales of history. And another: Erdogan isn’t the same thing as the Turkish military, much less Turkey itself.
key arguments: Aff
· The Turkish military is very strong.
o Bases: there are two Turkish bases that house NATO troops, including
o One that stores nuclear weapons (Incirlik).
o By troop number, and number of air and seacraft, Turkey is the #2 largest military in NATO.
o Drones: Turkey makes great & cheap drones, which some NATO states, and allies like Ukraine, use.
o Remember, its geography also makes it crucially important to global geopolitics.
· The Non-alliances: consider the world in which Turkey were not a part of NATO. Who else are they already rather close to that would love to be their strong military ally? The absence of stronger Turkish-Russian ties might be a major benefit to NATO.
key arguments: Neg
· The Turkish military is a liability:
o They’re allied with Russia, kinda.
o Erdogan, especially, seems to cozy up at times to Putin, another corrupt authoritarian strongman dictator.
o Are they gonna steal the nukes?!?
o S-400 purchase: Turkey recently purchased a highly-advanced anti-air system from Russia to shoot down planes and missiles. This is bad for NATO, because:
§ Turkey has now established a decades-long military relationship with Russia to repair and service this system.
§ The system can be used to gather info about, and potentially shoot down, NATO aircraft.
§ Turkey is now ineligible for the US’ advanced 5th-gen F-35 program—the US cancelled Turkey’s order for 100 of these jets after the S-400 purchase.
· Values: Turkey is opposed to key NATO values
o Human rights: Turkey engages in oppression of ethnic groups, namely the Kurds, who it has a long and tumultuous relationship with.
o Civil rights: the government has cracked down on free speech, free press, free internet, etc.
o Democracy: Turkey doesn’t have fair & free elections—in fact, there’s been large political purges aimed at ‘cleansing the ranks’.
o If you need to link this all to the military alliance, consider that these clashes of values make governmental relations between Turkey and other NATO countries very difficult—and you don’t want troubled alliances if war breaks out.
Find out more in my very long-winded 2-hour lecture on YouTube.