”1952-2022, 70 years of Greece and Turkey in NATO” was the topic of an ‘ATA TALKS’ webinar on 18 February. This online conference was organized by the Atlantic Treaty Association with the  Atlantic Council of Turkey. The guests speakers were Mr. Nicola de Santis, Head of the Engagements Section of NATO Public Diplomacy Division, Amb. Ioannis Alexios Zepos, Former Representative of Greece to NATO, and Amb. Tacan İldem, Former Representative of Turkey to NATO. The discussion was moderated by Mr. Theodossios Georgiou, President of the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation, Counsellor, and former President of the Atlantic Treaty Association, and Mr.  Mustafa Veysel Güldoğan, President of the Atlantic Council of Turkey. Ms. Monica Begovic, ATA Secretary

In his opening statement, Mr. Georgiou pointed out “public support is the most fundamental issue since public support guarantees the political will of the governmental signature to be a member of the Alliance. Public support requires an educated public, a public that understands the reason for being a NATO member and how this issue affects their lives”. As he mentioned “we in ATA, strongly believe that without recognition and public support NATO’s future could be at risk, not because there is no role and task for NATO, but because sufficient public recognition and support are essential requirements for the long-term survival of any organization in democratic societies. We Live in a world where legitimacy matters as much as power. This exactly was the mission of our ATA since its establishment in 1954 and continues until today”. Today, NATO is confronted by several defining challenges. Mr. Georgiou also analyzed the importance of the Madrid Strategic Concept. “The Madrid Strategic Concept next June will update and align NATO’s political and military directives to the new strategic concept after a decade of tremendous changes. This new Concept will reflect the new security environment, recommit our values, and reaffirm our unity, ensuring that our Alliance is fit for the future”. Concluding by saying that keeping the good memories of the past with the contributions of our speakers we want to take a look at the future.

Mr. Güldoğan, started by mentioning that both countries have had some common goals in terms of defense and security policies. During the last few decades, this has brought even bigger achievements. As he stressed, “Turkey and Greece were leading the emerging cooperation in the region thus guaranteeing the security. We can look at three case concepts in this regard, first of all is the growth of the organization both geographically and materially, second is the experience gained by working together, and third is guaranteeing the security in the region with all the experience gained”.

Mr. de Santis, in his presentation, explained that: “Greece and Turkey are two of the pillars of the cooperation in NATO. Their ambassadors have made history in the alliance not only because of their distinguished diplomatic careers for the leadership position that they occupied at the top level of the decision-making process of the alliance but also for their contribution to the strategic vision of the alliance, the revision of the strategic concept”.

He noted that NATO exists to protect its member’s countries so that they could protect their societies and that their democracies could flourish in a framework of security. As he stressed, since the beginning Russia was included in this security equation we see today. As he reminded since the establishment of the Atlantic operation council in November 1991, the strategic concept, Russia was the extended end of friendships with NATO. In December 1994, at the Brussels Summit, Russia was invited to participate in the Partnership for Peace, which had three key features to help build security in Europe. First, is the democratic control of the armed and security services and structures to democratically elected leaders. Second is the transparency of the defense budget, the defense budget in democracies is discussed in parliament where the opposition together with the majority will discuss how human and financial resources are allocated to promote the strategic concept of each. Last, the third aspect of the partnership is the possibility for countries to work together in this sense of partnership.

The example of Greece and Turkey is a great example of two countries that have contributed to the Alliance in different ways but have also stressed the importance of its political dimension.

ATA has been involved in this work in all NATO member countries and partner countries because promotes a better mutual organization, promotes an understanding of NATO, its values, and an understanding of our countries’ security policies.

Mr. Zepos pointed out that in 1952 the idea of joining the alliance between Greece and Turkey was very important to peace because along with the Marshall Plan and the Truman doctrine these allowed Greece to slowly rebuild and recover its balance after so many years of a very negative outcome.

According to him, “NATO played an important role in Greece as to providing security on the one hand and second into modernizing its armed forces which was a totally new way of doing things compared to the past. Over the years Greece participated in all of the NATO missions and operations”.

As he mentioned there have been a lot of talks about whether NATO is alive or clinically dead, “I think that the latest events in Ukraine and the reaction that NATO showed made proof to all, that NATO is still there, and wants to cooperate and find solutions, trying to build a steady and stable Europe. I think that the new strategic concept as its coming up and accepted in Madrid in June probably would be looking towards new security threats and new security challenges and ways to deal with them ”

Mr. Ildem congratulated the ATA for organizing this event, as he said: we need to have such events more often to create a better understanding in the public.

As he pointed out, “Ataturk and Venizelos were the pioneers of a new era for a friendly and good neighborly relationship between Greece and Turkey. Greece and Turkey have been contributing to NATO’s collective defense, operations and missions, and they both are trying their best to meet the requirements that are felt with the evolving secuırity environment”.

In the same line as Mr. Zepos, he touched upon the importance of the support the US gave through the Marshall Plan and the Truman doctrine.

“From a historical perspective, Turkey’s aspiration to join NATO cannot be strictly viewed as a necessity because of the territorial claims of the expansionist Soviet Union during the Stalin era. It ıs rather a reflection of its deliberate choice to have its place among the democratic family of nations. That is why Turkey became a founding member of the Council of Europe in 1949 that also paved the way for its membership at NATO”.

“Given the complex security environment that we are in, NATO, as a politico-military Alliance, should remain strong militarily, to become stronger politically and to adopt a more global approach. For the foreseeable future Russia, with its revisionist and aggressive pattern of behaviour that challenges the rules based international order and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations will remain to be the main sources of threat that Allies will need to address. China being a rising power with its economic heft and military might should be approached from a prism of both challenges and opportunities. With the use of hybrid concepts that include cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns, the line between peace and conflict has been blurred. This requires NATO to have a more global approach in addressing those threats and challenges that do not recognize any geographical boundary and for Allied nations to strengthen their societal resilience. Emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) can be a game-changer since potential adversaries and systemic rivals, both States and non-state actors, have access to EDTs. Therefore, maintaining NATO’s technological edge and putting innovation at the center of all NATO activities is of paramount importance. NATO should also make its contribution in areas such as the security implications of climate change. NATO should be used more as a unique and essential transatlantic consultation forum where the security concerns of any Ally could be discussed. The next NATO Strategic Concept to be adopted at the NATO Summit in Madrid will project a future-oriented vision to guide NATO’s activities in 2030 and beyond.”

Ms. Begovic, congratulated the organizers of the conference which as she said shows actually the partnership of Associations from two neighboring countries members of the ATA.

Please click on the link below to see the full event: