by Tom Rogan, National Security Writer & Online Editor Washington examiner
In order to be credible, a defensive military alliance requires the common confidence of its members that, should one member be attacked, other members will provide it with decisive support. Whatever other interests they may have with the United States and its NATO allies, it is now obvious that Turkey and Hungary cannot fulfill this expectation. Both nations should be suspended from the alliance.
While there would be legal complexities involved in any suspension, it would be possible. Moreover, action toward suspension might itself induce significant changes in Turkish and Hungarian policy.
The most immediate cause for Turkey’s suspension is its obstruction of Finland and Sweden in their effort to join NATO. Turkey suspended related talks on Tuesday in response to Swedish protests, which have seen the burning of a Quran and an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The most immediate cause for Hungary’s suspension is the kowtowing of its Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Incidentally, Hungary is the only other member state yet to ratify Finland and Sweden’s accession.)
Suspension isn’t a step that should be taken lightly. Via its position at the Mediterranean entry point to the Black Sea and its proximity to Middle Eastern energy reserves, Turkey has long been a key NATO ally. As with Hungary, Turkey will hopefully one day restore NATO’s confidence. Still, an examination of the NATO treaty outlines where both nations are in breach of their obligations.
- Under the treaty’s Article 2, a member commits to “contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions.”
Neither Orban nor Erdogan is “strengthening their free institutions.” On the contrary, both leaders have expanded state media dominance at the expense of truly free discourse. Both have cracked down on dissenting minority voices, politicians and activists, and nongovernmental organizations. Erdogan has thrown hundreds of journalists in prison, some simply because he says they insulted him.
- Under Article 3, a member commits to “maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”
Erdogan has shredded this commitment with his purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, which is specifically designed to destroy NATO air forces. Doing so, Erdogan weakened NATO’s credibility and endangered its aircrews.
Orban has shredded this commitment with his embrace of Russian intelligence activity and his undermining of European sanctions imposed on Russia. Those sanctions support NATO security by imposing costs for Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and thus deterring the Russian leader’s further aggression.
- Under Article 8, a member “undertakes not to enter into any international engagement in conflict with this Treaty.”
Turkey has broken this pledge with the aforementioned S-400 purchase and Erdogan’s demand that Sweden abandon its free speech laws and extradite people without regard for due process. Of equal note are Erdogan’s threats toward fellow NATO member Greece, his wars of conquest in Syria, and his military support of Azerbaijan against Armenia. Yes, Turkey has legitimate grievances with regard to Kurdish terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. But Erdogan’s fetish for indiscriminate bombings is unacceptable.
Hungary has broken this pledge with its undermining of European sanctions and Orban’s service as Xi and Putin’s viceroy/servant boy within NATO and the European Union.
To emphasize, an alliance has no value unless its members retain shared trust. Under Orban and Erdogan, Hungary and Turkey can no longer command that trust within NATO. Until that changes, they must be separated from this alliance in which they now do more harm than good.