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Food for Thought


Excerpt from Permanent Representative (F) of Turkey to the United Nations and to NATO, Ambassador Ümit Pamir’s Interview with Daily Hürriyet

GRF Member, Permanent Representative (F) of Turkey to the United Nations and to NATO, Ambassador Ümit Pamir’s interview was published in the daily Hürriyet on November 21, 2017

Please find below the excerpt from Permanent Representative (F) of Turkey to the United Nations and to NATO, Ambassador Ümit Pamir’s Interview with daily Hürriyet on November 21, 2017.


As Turkey’s Former Permanent Representative to NATO, how do you interpret the latest crisis which erupted after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and founder of the modern Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, were depicted as “enemies” during a command post exercise?

I think that the last incidence should be seen as a major case of recklessness.

Do you think this was recklessness at the corporate level?

No, I think this was an accident, a personal misbehavior. I don’t think any official would suggest doing this to “give Turkey a message.” If it were the intention, they would have preferred a different channel.

Can you explain the internal proceedings of NATO when conducting scenario-based war games?

These are called “command post exercises.” There are also live exercises. Such drills are carried out to test NATO’s preparedness and capabilities in the face of a threat mentioned in the scenario. They are attended at all levels by the civilian and military authorities of member countries. Respective committees examine the scenarios and study the input from all parties. The scenarios then arrive to the North Atlantic Council, where they are finalized. Apart from this, member states can inject their free inputs within the parameters of the scenario. When necessary, instructions are sought from the highest authorities in the capitals.

You have been citing so many procedures. Considering all these processes, how could such a scandal erupt or such an accident take place?

It’s out of the question that something like this could be part of the scenario. As I mentioned before, I think it was part of the input of a freeplayer.

Who could be behind this?

It is possible that the person behind this was not a friend of Turkey. He might have thought, “There must be people within NATO who dislike Turkey, let’s see how they will react.” They may also have thought that “anti-American, anti-Western quarters in Turkey would be provoked to react forcefully. Thus, this vicious circle would further escalate tensions.”

What do you think about Turkey’s response?

Turkey rightfully insists that necessary investigations are carried out, and that those responsible are brought to account for their misdeeds. Nonetheless, we should not attribute too much importance to the actions of a stupid individual. This incident should not be exaggerated in the domestic political arena either. We must remember that we are one of NATO’s 29 stakeholders.

What would have happened if Merkel or Macron were put on that enemy chart?

I assume that they would also interpret it as an isolated incident carried out by a hostile individual. They would think that the person behind it is either crazy or deranged. Nonetheless, they would still insist for NATO mechanisms to be put into action and for those responsible to be punished. But they wouldn’t have interpreted it to mean that NATO is against them.

What about Trump; what would he do?

It is very difficult to predict Trump’s reaction. As you know, even Americans are yet unable to do so. He could even reiterate his previous statement on NATO being “obsolete” and say, “I told you so.”

NATO’s famous Article 5 on the principle of collective defense considers an attack against one Ally as an attack against all Allies. Turkey had a horrific experience on July 15 during the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Do you think NATO’s response was appropriate?

Member countries probably perceived it as part of Turkey’s internal affairs. They have condemned the incident, as it is in violation of democratic principles. However, each state did so individually, instead of issuing a joint statement under the NATO label. NATO would not decide on matters such as this.

But was this not a threat against a country?

No, it was seen as an internal matter. The North Atlantic Council would not take a decision on an issue such as this.

Nowadays, everybody in Turkey - including the government and the opposition - is blaming NATO. How did such a strong public opinion take shape?

  At this juncture, some in Turkey behave as if not being against NATO is unpatriotic. The latest incident was an irresponsible act, and it must be thoroughly investigated – that far is certain. But unfortunately, in Turkey, some powerful NATO countries are equated with NATO.

Are you trying to say that the United States is not the same as NATO?

  Of course not. It will be correct to say that the US is NATO’s most influential member. But this is not to suggest that whatever the US says or does is the rule. We are a country which follows, like other NATO countries, a national policy on a number of issues – and rightfully so. But we cannot accuse NATO for everything when we are in fact frustrated with the United States. Some in Turkey tend to see things through the lens of conspiracy theories as a consequence of the Treaty of Sèvres, which aimed at dividing Turkey. Because of this traumatic experience, some circles in Turkey are still suspicious that this approach persists in some Western minds. But we should also think about how we are perceived by the West. Did we achieve a functioning democracy, full respect for human rights, freedom of press? I think we sometimes find it easy to mitigate our own shortcomings by hiding behind conspiracy theories.

What have so far been the benefits of being a NATO member?

The Turkish Armed Forces had substantial support on a wide range of issues, from the organization of military units and the training of the armed forces to acquiring an improved vision of the world. It also greatly enhanced the wartime capabilities of Turkish armed forces. Turkey is also the country that had benefited the most from NATO’s infrastructure funds.

Has it contributed to our standing in the Middle East?

Our neighbors, Syria, Iran and Iraq, perceive us to have more weight within the region for being a NATO member. I am sure that countries that were previously wary of Turkey may now be rejoicing, as an anti-NATO posture has been gaining traction in Turkey.

Would our ties with the West suffer if we were to leave NATO?

Today, our relations with the Council of Europe and the European Union are not very bright. There was this idea about whether we could do something with Russia, Iran and China – look how they are doing now. Considering their GDP per capita, they are not faring any better than us.

If you were still Turkey’s permanent representative to NATO, what course of action would you follow?

I would advise caution to both parties. I would want the incident to be investigated seriously and thoroughly; for those responsible to be uncovered, and for necessary action to be taken against them – even if they turn out to be mentally unstable. I would ask my government to evaluate this incident as the attempt of a deranged individual rather than a serious matter. I would prefer not to have this incident used as a domestic political tool. I would say that such an approach would play into the hands of those factions that would hope to exploit this issue.

Let’s imagine that Turkey indeed left NATO...

There are a number of conditions that need to be fulfilled in order to join NATO. These include the status of a country’s armed forces, its structure and its commitment to shared values. There is no article on how to leave NATO – which is essentially a club of countries that share a common worldview. You can leave whenever you want to leave. However, if, in the course of time, you feel alienated, you can end up questioning why you continue to be a part of the alliance in the first place.

Is Turkey alienating itself?

 From time to time, we act as though we are not a member of NATO. In fact, we put in a lot of effort to join NATO. I fear that we would be made fun of for wanting to leave NATO when many countries are trying to get in.

In the last analysis, do you think Turkey would leave NATO?

No. If it did, it would be like a ship navigating without a compass.

You are saying that it won’t, but let’s assume that it did – what would happen then?

 First of all, Russia would rejoice and applaud this decision. Our value would diminish, even in the eyes of Russia. We would not have the same standing that we have today. Middle Eastern countries would say that now, we have become more like them. Those who aren’t fond of us would be very glad. To be part of an organization and to contribute to forming and shaping its policies is a great advantage. In the last analysis, being called a NATO member state is a matter of prestige and influence.

How do you think this issue will be resolved?

 We will not leave NATO. Turkey has such a geopolitical importance that NATO cannot afford to let it go either.

Please visit ( for the original interview.