It would seem that the word “solidarity” doesn’t mean what it used to.

Turkey, a long-time member of NATO, invoked Article 4 of the Charter, which calls for emergency consultation of all 28 member states, in response to the Syrian downing of an RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft. While not as serious as Article 5, which is invoked in the defense of a NATO ally that has been attacked, Article 4 has generally been seen as a preliminary to discuss options short of armed response. Turkey had threatened to invoke Article 4 back in April, when a cross-border incident in a refugee camp left five people, including two Turkish officials, dead.

From the meeting in Brussels, all Turkey got was the expected condemnation and the assurances of NATO togetherness. Turkey may have been expecting little else. Which is a good thing. In the case of Turkey and Syria, NATO is contemplating no such thing as armed intervention, or intervention of any kind. Not least of which because of Russia’s stance and Putin’s support for Syria’s embattled Assad, combined with the general and embarrassing lack of credible capability demonstrated by NATO in Libya last year.

Despite a WAPO article with some speculation that NATO would consider sidestepping the UN and a certain Russian veto for real action against Syria, the chances of such a sidestep are virtually nil. Turkey knows that, Russia and Syria (and Iran) do, too. Making invocation of Article 4 a symbolic gesture by Turkey toward an increasingly impotent NATO, whose only action was to “condemn in the strongest terms”. I am reminded of one of my favorite Daffy Duck lines. “I will do everything in my power to help you. Which will be nothing!” The rather unimpressive response to Turkey’s Article 4 declaration bodes ill for any NATO member that might possibly wish to invoke Article 5, particularly if Putin and Russia wait in the wings.

Visegrad Group, anyone?



Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Foreign Policy, Hard Power, History, Maritime Security, Naval Institute, Navy

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  • No less a tepid response than Turkey’s response to Afghanistan where they were content to hang out in RC-Capital with caveat-laden forces making side deals with the locals to be left alone; content to let much smaller nations with much smaller armed forces such as Canada, The Netherlands, Denmark and others deploy relatively caveat-free manoeuvre (a little NATO spelling for you, natch) forces to the more dangerous parts of the country to do the wet work. Big Turkish Air Force show up in AFG? Notsomuch. Enough in safe places to garner some Staff positions and to get the flag up at the HQ, sure. Make a meaningful contribution relative to the size and capabilities of their armed forces? No.

    Turkey’s contributions to NATO operations in Libya? As expected. Look it up.

    If Turkey considered Libya a French, Italian, etc problem across the central Med – I am sure they can understand the perspective of the Continental NATO member about issues on the Turkish border with their small, poor, if not prickly former Ottoman province of Syria.

    Even on a good day – NATO will lean towards the least confrontational stance, which isn’t really a bad thing. What is the up-side of escalation? I can sure outline the up-side of deescalation.

    Why make things more heated with everyone when there are significant economic issues in the heart of the alliance and … as a sweetener … when there is a little alliance karma account that is out there as well … well … it is only natural.

    Whimper? Perhaps snicker?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Not advocating immediate NATO intervention with Syria.

    But two facts are plain:

    NATO will look to avoid any and all involvement, even if Turkey, who is a member, was attacked on any scale by Syria. Article 5 is entirely toothless, especially when it comes to their southern membership.

    You reap what you sow. NATO’s weakness and vacillation in times of crisis (Merkel off like a shot to St Petersburg to make sure the Russian gas stayed flowing when the Russians invaded South Ossetia and Georgia being but an example) have shown Putin exactly how impotent they are. And other neighbors as well. NATO is essentially powerless to even police their own front yards, and unwilling, to boot. Hence, the Visegrad Battle Group, which is entirely separate from NATO.

    No, it is a whimper. The snicker is from Moscow.

  • Brian Attaturk

    Dont be a useful idiot.

    Turkey today is not the secular land of Attaturk. It is Islamist.

    Over the past few years, Turkey has become a regional bully with the worlds 4th largest army.

    Islamist Turkey has turned against secular Turkey’s ally Israel and has provoked it with its so called “Peace Convoy” and organised demonstrations outside the Israeli Embassy.

    Islamist Turkey has renamed the “Turkish Republic of North Cyprus” to “Turkish Republic of Cyprus”. Perhaps a signal of intent now that Greece is broke.

    Islamist Turkey has now turned its sights on the world’s last secular muslim state Syria.

    Use your brain.


    I wouldn’t expect anything else from NATO. Several reasons, none of which revolve around lack of capability (although that is probably an issue as well).

    1. If the Turkish aircraft was in Syrian airspace (as was likely considering it crashed in Syrian territorial waters) Turkey really wasn’t attacked but was in fact the aggressor. Now normal procedures would be to warn the aircraft, send off interceptors, lodge diplomatic protests, etc., so the Syrian response seems, perhaps, a bit extreme (and it appears that the air defense commander might have exceeded his authority but we shouldn’t jump to judgement before all the facts are in). But, the RF-4 (now why would Turkey be flying a photorecon aircraft along the border to check their radar systems as opposed to say the specially instrumented aircraft that normally do that kind of work everywhere else in the world. But I digress…) was most probably in Syrian airspace despite Turkish statements to the contrary.

    2. Turkey is acting as a base for the insurgent group making attacks in Syria (it’s not really a Civil War since the opposition doesn’t control any territory nor has it really created an alternate government, so we should call it what it is). While I have no problem with that, don’t expect the rest of NATO (a defensive alliance) to back your power play in the region when it doesn’t really help them in the long run. As opposed to somewhere like Bosnia where there was a clear economic and social threat to Europe. Since Syria is not an oil exporter and any refugees are probably not headed to EU countries, don’t expect a lot of buy-in from places like France, Italy, Germany (“don’t interpret our vote against the motion as being against it” you have to admire the overwhelming desire to be on all sides), etc. Especially given the politics of guest workers.

    3. Turkey has been conducting cross border attacks in the region for an extended period as they deal with their own insurgency issues with the Kurds. Hard to argue that they can do it and not the Syrians don’t you think? Especially when your policy is to support said resistance groups as discussed in point 2.

    4. As noted, Turkey has not been a strong supporter of various other NATO actions, so why should any of the NATO countries go out of their way to help them? As URR mentioned, although my line of reasoning was clearly not his when making the statement, you reap what you sow.

    5. Greece is one of the NATO countries that would have to approve other action. Cyprus anyone? The US is another one, 4ID anyone? One line heard during after OIF was, “when a Turkish officer says no problem, he means for him”. So the US probably said, “You wan’t our help, no problem!

    So bottom line, the Turk’s certainly appear to be trying to excert greater influence in the region. That is not neccessarily bad and may even be a positive thing in the long run assuming they don’t try to relive the glories of the Ottoman Empire, but they really shouldn’t expect NATO to back their hand. Now if Syria (or Russia for that matter) was to invade Turkey (don’t see that happening but stranger things have happened), that would be article 5 and I expect NATO would respond accordingly (in the largely feeble manner that we have grown accustomed to, but still respond but then again what kind of attack are you expecting from Syria or Russia) because to not respond would risk losing all those cushy NATO staff billets. But having an photorecon aircraft shot down when it propably shouldn’t have been where it was in the first place is a whole different kettle of fish.

  • USNVO, I concur with most of your remarks. NATO doesn’t seem to regard Turkey with seriousness, and is too ponderous a body to move quickly. Ignoring them, might in the long run be a mistake. Turkey is a part of “honor/shame” tradition in a way, many in the West find alien, and they have long memories.


    J. Scott Shipman

    I don’t disagree, but the fact that no one in NATO wants to give unconditional support to Turkey when they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar should not surprise anyone, the Turks included. Now if the Syrians had fired a rocket barrage in to Turkey, that would be different.

  • Cap’n Bill

    Written paper and ink treaties from yesterday’s In Basket are difficult to locate in the harsh light of contemporary military strength and determination. “No Guts, No Glory” comes to mind.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Which begs the question (and to Attaturk’s comments above) “so why is Turkey still in NATO?”

  • Diogenes of NJ

    @USNVO –

    “Now if the Syrians had fired a rocket barrage in to Turkey, that would be different.”

    I doubt that you are implying that the Turks should exhibit the same restraint that the Israelis do when Katuscha rockets are fired into Israel from Lebanon or the Gaza; but I bet it would really spin up the Turks if anyone in NATO ever did suggest that.

    One side or the other in Syria might be planning to have a few of those Katuschas headed to Lebanon go off by “accident” near Reyhanli. As you said, stranger things have happened – bottom line, who benefits?

    – Kyon



    I would guess that Turkey is still in NATO because the historical reason it was in NATO in the first place. It has a border, both Maritime and Land, as well as a long adversarial history with the Russian Empire/USSR/Russian Republic. So being in NATO remains useful, after all, they probably don’t expect to have to actually do anything. And NATO has good geographical reasons to want Turkey as a member.
    However, just as the Brits did not get NATO participation in the Falklands or Oman, France didn’t get NATO participation in Algeria, the US didn’t get NATO participation in Vietnam, and Belgium didn’t get NATO participation in the Congo, Turkey won’t get NATO participation in Syria. Especially when they are acting in a way that actively puts them on a collision course with Syria. Specifically they are giving support and sanctuary to an armed insurgent group actively trying to overthrow the Syrian government and they are flying photorecon aircraft illegally in Syrian airspace.
    All that aside, if Turkey decided they did not benefit from NATO, I would expect Turkey to decide to leave NATO. Additionally, if Turkey begins to act in a way that threatens the rest of NATO, I would expect they would get the boot from the other countries.


    Diogenes of NJ,

    I expect that Turkey will respond if they are attacked. But even then, I would caveat my earlier statement by saying, if the Syrians made a rocket attack on an armed insurgent group that is being provided sanctuary by Turkey, I don’t think NATO would (nor should) do anything beyond what they did in this incident. An indescriminite attack, sure article 5, but a targeted attack on Syrian insurgents? Don’t see it. If you embrace the viper, expect to get bit. And I am equal opportunity on this. Had the Serbians launched a missile attack on the NATO airbases in Italy or Germany during the Kosovo fiasco, It would have been perfectly within their right as a sovereign nation and, at least in my opinion, it should not have triggered article 5.

    None of this is to say that I think the current regime in Syria shouldn’t be overthrown or has any value except as fertilizer. But if you are going to support one side, expect to be a target of the other and don’t come crying for help if you get smacked.

    As to your question, I would expect that if someone fires a few rockets into Turkey, I would look real close at anti-regime groups that are not tied to the Free Syrian Army before I decided it came from governmental sources. Because they would benefit far more then any other group.

  • Diogenes of NJ


    I agree with you about the anti-regime groups in Syria. I also think that the whole “Arab Spring” thing is just a means to an Islamic Caliphate end which could ultimately include Turkey.

    Just remember – you can’t spell Caliphate without hate – not too PC, but true.

    – Kyon

  • Andy (JADAA)

    I sincerely doubt there’s a NATO recce ROE that says you can violate another country’s defined national air space and expect to invoke Article 4 when you get your hand whacked for doing so. Don’t overplay your hand.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    The point being that NATO has a member for which they are not in the least prepared or interested in fulfilling the tenets of the charter, whether the reasons are seen as legitimate or not.

    This, I posit, will be the MO for NATO for the rest of its existence. They will continue to avoid intervention at all costs, and as their military capabilities continue to atrophy, they will be, if possible, even less relevant to containment of a resurgent Russia or even to policing their own.

  • Aubrey

    Syria is the same thing as Libya – not our problem. It is a local issue, for resolution by those directly affected. The US has no interests or business in either place. Period. For all those, umm, “fine people” who accused Bush of “imperialism” and “naked aggression”, Libya was a FAR more concrete example of the two. Any acts in Syria would be even worse.

    If Europe, Turkey or anyone else is worried, let THEIR forces do the work, and THEIR treasuries pay for it. No US interest, no US need….

    Oh, and to be o topic with where the thread has gone – NATO is basically a zombie alliance. Still shambling long after it clinically died.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “Zombie alliance”.

    I like that. Can I steal it and pretend I thought of it? 🙂

  • Actually, URR, we should ask Aubrey for a franchise license to use “Zombie alliance” when describing NATO, as it has a disturbingly accurate ring…

  • Nick

    Reports of NATO’s impending “death” are greatly exaggerated.

    The Western Alliance has had it’s ups and downs to be sure, but I wouldn’t be so quick to simply write it off. Pundits and naysayers are, IMO, to quick to assume that the ship’s course cannot be righted. NATO will continue to evolve. Article 5 is still a powerful symbol of the Allies collective resolve to defend themselves, defense cuts & budget issues not withstanding.

    I personally subscribe to the view that NATO is worthwhile and is a cornerstone of both our collective secutiry and world security. Does is need some work? You betcha. Will it be hard? Yes. Does that make it any less worthwhile? NO!

    Declinism is all the rage these days about the United States & Europe, but this trend tends to pop up from every other decade or so. In the 1970’s, folks speculated that the US was a declining power, Europe fractured, and the Soviets were on their way to the top. Not exactly how events panned out, as I recall. 😉

    So to sum up my thoughts: NATO needs some repairs and revisions, but it is still relevent and extremely important.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I will believe it when I see it.