Sunday

15th Dec 2019

Turkey veto clouds Nato party in London

  • Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to eat with Nato leaders at royal banquet (Photo: nato.int)

Turkey's veto of a Nato defence plan is just normal pre-summit games, Lithuania has said, as Western leaders meet in the UK.

"I don't believe they [Turkey] are blocking anything against the Baltic states. They have their own security concerns ... it's more about the interests of Turkey," Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius told EUobserver from London on Monday (2 December).

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  • Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius (centre, left-hand side), with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg (centre, right-hand side) (Photo: nato.int)

"As usual, countries are trying to discuss [summit declarations], trying to get maybe something less, or something more," he said.

"We'll find a solution," he added.

"Frankly, I think military authorities already know what they need to do in preparation [on the ground], so they [Turkey] are not infringing on that ... but it is very important that these plans are kept updated," the Lithuanian minister also said.

He spoke after Turkey threatened to veto a Nato plan on how to repel potential Russian aggression in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

Turkey did it to push Western allies into saying that a Kurdish militia in Syria, the YPG, whom Turkey recently attacked, were terrorists.

But the US has refused to do so, even though it earlier allowed Turkey to launch its attack.

"The message to Turkey ... is we need to move forward on these [Russia] response plans and it can't be held up by their own particular concerns," US defence secretary Mark Esper told the Reuters news agency also on Monday.

"Not everybody's willing to sign up to their [Turkey's] agenda. Not everybody sees the threats that they see," Esper added.

Linkevicius and Esper spoke on the eve of Nato's 70th anniversary meeting in London.

The British queen will first eat with leaders, including US president Donald Trump and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a banquet in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

The 29 leaders will also restate their treaty vow - "one for all and all for one" - on Wednesday, amid wider talks on Russia, China, and military spending.

"It's something we're saying all the time, when it comes to Article 5 [the Nato treaty clause on mutual defence], it's really our commitment and we'll stick to that," Linkevicius noted.

His optimism was earlier matched in Estonia.

"I have no doubt about Turkey's commitment to Nato, including our region's common defence," Estonian foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu said last week, according to Lithuanian news website LRT.

"There are all sorts of disputes and discussions, but these have nothing to do with Turkey's opposition to the Baltic states and Poland," Estonian defence minister Jüri Luik added.

Banquet

But Tuesday's banquet might see sparks fly if Erdogan sits next to French president Emmanuel Macron, whom he recently called "brain dead ... sick and shallow".

And name-calling aside, Erdogan's invasion of northern Syria marked deeper splits among the queen's guests.

Erdogan is carving up Syria with Russian president Vladimir Putin and has bought Russian instead of US air-defence systems.

Trump has also dismayed Europe by abandoning a nuclear non-proliferation treaty on Iran and UN peace plans for Israel and Palestine.

"Heading to Europe to represent our Country [sic] and fight hard for the American people," he tweeted from Washington on Monday.

"Since I took office, the number of NATO allies fulfilling their obligations more than DOUBLED, and NATO spending increased by $130B! [€118bn]", he added, alluding to earlier US rows on Nato spending.

But for his part, Nato's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, also played down divisions.

"I very often refer to everything from the Suez Crisis in 1956, to many other crises ... and the discussions we have today about, for instance, the situation in northeast Syria," he said in Brussels last week.

"But the strength of Nato is that despite these disagreements, we have always been able to unite around our core responsibility: one for all and all for one," he added.

Russia

Russia and China would dominate Wednesday's talks, Stoltenberg indicated.

"We don't see any imminent military threat of Russia against any Nato country, but what we see is a strategic challenge," he said.

Russia was "deploying missiles capable of reaching European cities within minutes, and missiles which are nuclear capable," in violation of a 1987 accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, he noted.

"We are not going to mirror what Russia is doing, so we have no intention of deploying land-based nuclear missiles in Europe," he said.

But "for the first time in our history we have combat-ready troops in the east of our alliance," he added, referring to Nato battalions in the Baltic states and Poland.

"Nato helped to end the Cold War without a shot being fired on European soil", the Norwegian politician recalled.

China

But Russia was not the West's only "strategic challenge", he said.

"We also see the fundamental shift in the global balance of power with the rise of China," Stoltenberg warned.

"Allies need to take into account China's significant military modernisation, its increased presence from the Arctic to the [Western] Balkans and in cyber space, and its major investments in our infrastructure," the Nato chief said.

Opinion

Nato at 70: not 'brain dead', but needs shot in arm

There is a significant risk that Nato will be weaker and more divided after the London meeting than it was before. What was supposed to be a low-key celebration of the 70th anniversary takes place against multiple crises.

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