Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that an “armed attack” on a NATO member “shall be considered an attack against them all” and that all parties to the treaty must join in to “restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” Left unspecified is what happens when a NATO member itself launches an “armed attack” on a non-member, as happened Tuesday when Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber near the Syrian border.
Naturally, there are conflicting claims about whether or not the Russian craft was in Turkish airspace. Even if it was, no one seems to be buying the idea that it was “attacking” Turkey. But Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan edges toward such a position on the basis that the Russians are fighting Syrian rebels, some of who happen to be ethnic Turkmen — “our brothers and sisters” — and who may not necessarily be affiliated with the Islamic State.
If Russia responds tit-for-tat, and if Turkey successfully invokes Article 5, NATO members could suddenly find themselves in a shooting war born entirely of their own hubris. Turkey should never have been admitted to NATO in the first place, and both its membership and the existence of NATO itself have long outlived any possible value they might once have had.
First of all, Turkey is not situated on the North Atlantic. Nor on any other part of the Atlantic. Nor anywhere NEAR any part of the Atlantic. Picture the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce recruiting businesses in Denver. Yeah, sort of like that.
Secondly, Turkey has little in common with other NATO members or with “the west” in general. Erdogan is a tinhorn Islamist authoritarian whose regime persecutes political dissenters, treats it as a crime to even mention that a hundred years ago his predecessors systematically murdered 1.5 million Armenians, and only materially supports NATO actions when doing so provides cover for suppressing the nationalist aspirations of Turkey’s (and Iraq’s, and Syria’s) Kurds.
Thirdly, while the 45-year Cold War needn’t imply future enmity between Russia and the US or western Europe’s NATO nations, the Russians and the Turks have been at each others’ throats for nearly 500 years now with few breaks and no end in sight. Sooner or later, they’re going to go to war again. The benefits of having Turkey in NATO are mostly illusory. To the extent they aren’t, they’re not worth the risk of getting “Article Fived” into that war.
If America’s political leaders are interested in truly peace, they’ll withdraw the US from NATO or, at the very least, move to expel Turkey from NATO. But America’s political leaders AREN’T truly interested in peace, are they? Happy Thanksgiving.