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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
The State Of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Publication: Analysis
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Has Exposed A Critical Vulnerability In NATO -- Turkey

POST NOT DONE

In the early days of the protest movement in Syria, most of Syria's neighbors were hesitant to take sides. Since nearly every Middle Eastern nation had to contend with its own "Arab Spring" protests to greater and lesser degrees, none of them were eager to either publicly support a protest movement for fear of encouraging the phenomenon, nor were they interested in championing the crackdown against a protest movement for fear of further angering their own populace. Of course, there has always been some tension between Syria's Assad regime -- run by a minority Alawi sect (a sect of Shia Islam) -- and its Sunni neighbors who have resented Syria's alliance with both Hezbollah and Iran.

The bottom line for most countries in the Middle East, including Israel, is that they value stability more than anything. Previous to 2011, each country in the region had learned to deal with regional tensions and power struggles, which is one reason why so many countries in that region fear, for example, an Iranian nuclear weapon -- it would inject uncertainty and instability in a region that, while far from harmonious, has learned to avoid chaos.

But by late 2011 a crisis was brewing in Syria as Assad's crackdown against domestic dissent turned from a police operation to a military one. By the end of the year, more and more of Assad's soldiers were refusing to kill civilians and were defecting, the refugee crisis was beginning, and Syria's neighbors began to panic. The Arab League scrambled to negotiate ceasefires with the Syrian regime -- ceasefires which were immediately broken. Assad's defectors began to capture entire cities. By early 2012 civil society was breaking down, lawlessness (though not yet terrorism) was beginning to settle in to some areas of the country, and Syria's neighbors were warning their Western allies that the crisis could destabilize the region.

In June 2012, one of Syria's neighbors was signalling that they had had enough. After a series of heated statements and border incidents, on June 22 the Syrian regime shot down a Turkish F-4 reconnaissance jet on the Syrian border. Following this event, Turkey invoked Article 4 of the NATO treaty -- signalling that it was under threat and requesting an emergency meeting of all NATO members. Though Article 4 is less potent than the more-famous Article 5, which requires all NATO allies to come to the aid of any other member that is under attack, Turkey was sending a strong message -- what was happening in Syria was a national security threat, and one that required the fullest attention of its NATO allies.

Article 4 is rarely invoked. In fact, between NATO's formation in 1949 and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Article 4 has never been invoked once. But as perhaps the best symbol of the times we live in, since 2003 the article has been invoked five times -- four times by Turkey. Turkey invoked Article 4 in 2003 to ensure that it was protected from Saddam Hussein as the US mission in Iraq was underway. In 2012, Turkey invoked the article twice, and it again invoked Article 4 in 2015 as concerns about ISIS were mounting.

All of this is alarming for long-time NATO watchers. First, it indicates that Turkey is in perhaps the most precarious strategic position of all NATO allies, as the nation that stands between the Middle East and Europe, but also a nation with close proximity -- but no shared physical border -- with both NATO and countries which have historically been NATO's adversaries -- Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah's Lebanon. Thus, it is a NATO country that is both closer to danger and further away from aid.

But the distance between Turkey and the rest of NATO is not just about geography.  The administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used force to put down domestic dissent, filtered the internet, engaged in highly-sectarian politics in its power struggles with the Kurds, and has a questionable and complicated relationship with ISIS, a group that has conducted attacks against the state in Turkey while simultaneously receiving some support from across the Turkish border.

At the same time, Turkey's geographical position is the very reason why it is an important ally. During the Cold War, Turkey was a vanguard against the Soviet Union, defending then as it does not the Bosphorus Straits -- the thin separation between Europe and the Near East which feeds the Black Sea into the Aegean and Mediterranean. Turkey has also been in a unique position for intelligence-gathering purposes, and its territory can and has served as a land base for NATO in perhaps the world's most volatile region. 

The NATO alliance's most p


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