Dr. Ali Bilgin
: NATO’S Transformations and Turkey


NATO’s consistent and transformative identity made it sustainable for a period
of seventy years. During this time interval, NATO had to cope with various
threats which tested its durability. During its historical voyage NATO has
managed to reconstruct itself continuously; its security architecture, its
strategic thinking, its institutional structuring, and its functions. Current
issues within NATO notwithstanding, Turkey has consistently shown great
commitment to the material and nonmaterial requirements, goals, and identity of
the Alliance. Turkey’s policy of fostering cohesion within the alliance has
helped it overcome past and current obstacles; Turkey’s historical commitment
to NATO remains valid and should not be underestimated.


Keywords: NATO, NATO-Turkey
relations, post-hegemony, international security, NATO defence expenditure,
NATO transition, NATO strategic concepts.



As a regional security organization which operates globally NATO has long been
operating in an unpredictable security environment with threats from all
strategic directions; from state and non-state actors; from military forces;
and from terrorist, cyber, and hybrid attacks. This problematic panorama will
likely exacerbate in the foreseeable future. NATO’s performance has
facedexternal challenges, challenges which in some cases have exacerbated
internal tensions. In fact NATO’s external and internal issues are distinct but
conceptually intertwined. As perhaps the longest lasting alliance in history
NATO has proved to be adaptive in facing these twin challenges. Turkey’s role
in this transition process is noteworthy, and so needs to be examined.


This paper scrutinizes changes in NATO’s institutional structuring. Here with
the term ‘institutional structuring” shared and collectively institutionalized
norms, rules, ideas, beliefs, values, practices and identity are meant in the
constructivist sense.2 Apart from this, power-based economic,
military, geographic and other material structure are also considered primarily
from a realist perspective.3 The article prioritises an elucidative
approach rather than problem-solving endeavour for the granted or given issues.
This approach may help to examine the most often-heard allegations regarding
burden sharing, solidarity, consultation and the others.


In order for understanding the roots of NATO’s internal changes, first a
conceptual framework of a security alliance is determined by way of main
features and motives. An assessment of transformative historical changes in
NATO’s identity which also defines the main internal areas of concern of the
organization follows the first part. Turkey’s stance and interferences are also
discussed here. The final section includes a conclusion based upon this

The Concept of a Security Alliance4

The concept of security alliance goes back to the history of war. Thucydides’s
(BCE 472-400) History of the Peloponnesian War and SunTzu’s (BCE 400-320) The
Art of War distinguish as the earliest and most prominent writings on the
subject. Although types and forms of security alliances vary in motive, function,
action, interdependence, identity etc., their principal goal is to ensure
political sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security on the basis
of the collective military defence.5 Any ideal security alliance is
expectedto have common threats, similar or harmonised interests, shared values
to be protected, active participation in decision-making process and actions,
and fair responsibility/burden share which requires additive, multiplier and
interoperable military efficiency from the members for the sustainment of
common goals and vision. Member states have always been more vulnerable to
threats rather than the other ingredients of the alliance. For that, the
primary functions of a security alliance are to deter, counter, dismiss
threats, or repel aggressor by either containment or roll-back and retaliation.
A security alliance fosters military capacity and economy of power for its
members. An alliance promotes political, military, and to some extend economic
and social consent among its members.


Alliances are living institutions subject to transformation. Alliances are open
systems viewed from a structural functionalist6 tradition. They are
composed of material and non-material inputs; a processing device with
structural boundaries, roles, identity, functions and goals; and outcomes all
of which operate in security surrounding. Functions vary as structures change
[or vice versa], as do the behaviours of component units.7 The
system’s effectiveness relies upon the main drivers’ transformative nature.
Here the debate on the main drivers of an alliance as a system is considered
through two key concepts; equilibrium or balance and “bandwagoning.” These
should be seen as complementary rather than competing concepts.


Equilibrium is generally argued on three concepts: balance of power, the
balance of threat and the balance of interest. Classical realists Morgenthau
and Thompson8 regard alliance as one of the four strategies of
maintaining equilibrium or balance for states in an anarchic international environment 
the other three strategies are divide and rule, compensations and armaments.
The founder of neorealist approach Kenneth N. Waltz, emphasized the concept of
deterrence which only stronger states can enjoy.9 He also argues
that the balance of power politics occur when two requirements are present:
anarchic order and presence of states challenging for survival.10
Scholars like Stephen Walt, Thomas J. Christensen,11 Brain Healy and
Arthur Stein12 did not completely reject but questioned validity of
“balance of power” by proposing the concept of “balance of threat.” Taking into
account the geographic proximity, offensive capabilities, and perceived
intentions on alliance formation,13 Stephen Walt argues that the
superiority of power does not necessarily pose threat to weaker neighbours, but
perception on aggressive intent determine states’ behaviour.14 The
commentary of Randall Scheweller -an advocate of neoclassical realism -
broadens the threat-centric narrow base of balancing with the notion of common

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