Speech by the H.E. Mr. Duray Polat, Turkish Ambassador to the Republic of Latvia
Photo by LATO
September 15, 2006.
Cesis Secondary school.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thanks for having me here today. To address such an energetic, young and interested crowd within the context of an useful and interesting Public Diplomacy project is all the more exciting and honouring. I am particularly grateful to the Latvian Task Force and LATO for allowing me to benefit from this opportunity. In the eve of an important NATO Summit due to take place in Riga soon, it is a real pleasure for me to take part in the series of such events. The decision to hold the coming Summit on Latvian soil only 2 years after her accession to the Alliance clearly demonstrates NATO’s vision of values, as well as the prestige that Latvia has rightly earned in such a short time.
I recall the words of Her Excellency the Madam President, Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga at the last NATO Summit in 2004 held in Istanbul. She said, “Sitting here as a representative of Latvia around this round table, with you, representative of the other nations, I feel safe and secure and I can say so in the name of my people. That sense of solidarity, of mutual support is crucial to us. We have known what it means to have our country erased from the maps of the world and our flag disappeared from the international scene. We are back, we would like to stay back and we thank you for accepting us in your midst. We look forward to the security that NATO provides; and for us it is not theoretical, it is not illusionary, it is very real.”
In fact at the beginning of this new century, 61 years after World War Two and 16 years after the Cold War, we still face a number of serious challenges to our liberty, and to our security -the emergence of a new, lethal breed of terrorism; the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling in the hands of irresponsible regimes of individuals; and “failed states” that cause instability in their own region and well beyond. And we are faced with the difficult question of how to respond to these risks and threats- and how to secure our liberty.
And this is exactly why NATO still assumes a major role in response to these risks and threats to be able to secure our liberty.
I would now like to briefly concentrate on the Turkish Involvement in NATO.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, Turkey made the historic choice of siding with the free world and stood up against communism and Soviet expansion. This policy was crowned on 18 February 1952, with Turkey’s accession to NATO. Since then, NATO has been the cornerstone of Turkey's defence and security policy. Even at the height of the Cold War, Turkey remained a staunch member of NATO in a volatile region bordering the Eastern Bloc. She made a substantial contribution to the security and defence of the Alliance in general and of Western Europe in particular by guarding the Alliance’s southern flank. Having the longest border with the former Soviet Union, Turkey was responsible for defending one-third of the Alliance's land frontiers against the Warsaw Pact. Meanwhile, Turkey also endeavoured to help decrease tensions between the Eastern and Western blocs.
At present, a founding member of the UN, member of NATO and all leading European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, Turkey actively pursues a policy geared at enhancing friendship and cooperation in her region and beyond.
- Turkey is a net contributor of security in this volatile region. Developments within Balkans, Middle East and Caucasus have direct implications for Turkey and oblige her to be prepared to deal with possible contingencies, as has been the case since the end of the Cold War. As such, she has been an active participant in NATO-led peace support operations, as well as to those undertaken by other leading international organisations, such as the United Nations and the European Union. As a requirement of her geo-strategic location, Turkey currently maintains largest armed forces among European allies and is runner up to the USA within NATO. A total of 1206 Turkish troops participate in NATO or NATO-led operations. Overall, within NATO, Turkey is the second country after the US in terms of land forces, (%17,5), fighter (%10,5), reconnaissance (%22,5) and cargo aircraft (%20) contributions, and the fifth country with regard to mid-site navy combatant contributions.
- While NATO, particularly after the 9/11 events, has already made a substantial contribution to the struggle against terrorism, efforts are still under way to better equip the Alliance in countering this threat. Turkey has been and will continue to be among the leading countries in this respect. Along with participating in all of the collective efforts of the Alliance, Turkey also seeks to contribute to the formation of a common understanding in the fight against terrorism.
- Turkey supports the idea that NATO’s door should remain open to European democracies willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership. Based on this attitude, Turkey has been strongly supporting the “open-door” policy of NATO from the very beginning. In this regard, Turkey welcomed the accession of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia to NATO as of 29 March 2004, which constitutes the largest-ever enlargement of the Alliance and believes that it will further contribute to the consolidation of security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region as a whole. Accession of these new members will also be instrumental in achieving our common goal of a free and united Europe. Enlargement should strengthen NATO’s capabilities, thus enhancing the security of both the Alliance and the new members. In order to further consolidate peace and stability in the Balkans, the integration of the regional countries in the Euro-Atlantic structures is highly important.
- As a sign of its willingness to contribute further to Alliance solidarity, Turkey hosted the NATO/EAPC (Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council) Summit which was held in Istanbul on 28-29 June 2004. Istanbul Summit constituted the first major NATO event at the level of Heads of State and Government after the Alliance’s enlargement of 29 March 2004.
The NATO Summit was held with the participation of 46 countries which are members of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) and the EAPC. Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro also attended the Summit as observers. NATO-Russia Council (NRC) and NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) meetings were also held at the margins of the Istanbul Summit. Approximately 6000 participants, half of which are members of delegations and the other half are media members participated in the Summit.
In summary, Turkey considers NATO membership as a vital security umbrella and verification of its strong link to the West and its values whereby she can play a significant role commensurate with its weight as a major security actor for the sake of peace and stability around the world.
Security is related to the concept of self-preservation which is of a three-fold nature: ensuring the survival of the population; protecting territorial integrity and preserving the basic identity of a nation, as shaped by political, economic, social and cultural traits. National security and collective security are the two main interrelated pillars of the general concept of security. In an era defined by globalization, the current security environment with more complex threats has further strengthened this linkage and confirmed that security is truly indivisible. If the threats we face are more complex, so our response must be more comprehensive. A modern security policy must be based on a strong determination to uphold our values. It must also include a willingness to actively promote those values with political, economic and other means – as well as preparedness to protect them- with military means if necessary. And the new security environment demands a new level of cooperation between international organisations.
In this respect NATO has a big part to play. The Alliance has long ceased to be a static, “Eurocentric” organisation, geared exclusively, towards deterrence and defence. Since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has become a very flexible, political and military instrument, which we can use wherever our security interests demand it. That enormous potential is far from being exploited. That is why Turkey, like many of her allies, is convinced that –well over half a century since its creation- NATO will continue to play a major role in protecting and promoting our liberty, and our security.