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NATO must offer Turkey military support in Syria crisis

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It is also not in NATO’s interests to disappoint the country with the second largest army within the alliance. Perceived failure to live up to its alliance obligations will further weaken public support for NATO within Turkey. Europe and the United States can’t afford a rift with what some describe as the only functioning Muslim democracy in the greater Middle East – a country with unmatched geostrategic, economic, and cultural value in the region.

What can NATO do for Turkey?

Too much attention has been focused on the question of invoking Article 5, the alliance’s mutual defense clause. Even during the many crises of the cold war, Article 5 was never invoked.

In fact, the only time it has been exercised was after the 9/11 attacks against the United States. As tangible evidence of alliance solidarity, NATO sent seven radar aircraft (Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS) with crews from 13 NATO countries to help patrol American skies.

Apart from this isolated case, the transatlantic alliance has successfully overcome crises without invoking Article 5. This is because NATO members have many options to support and reinforce one another without having to turn to the mutual defense clause. These options should be considered now.

For example, before the US-led coalition invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003, Turkey requested a meeting with its allies, under Article 4 of the NATO treaty, to discuss how the alliance could help Turkey deter an attack from Iraq. Article 4 allows any member to request consultation when, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence, or security is threatened. After what NATO politely described as an “intense debate,” the alliance approved Operation Display Deterrence which deployed “precautionary defensive measures to ensure Turkey’s security.”

These measures included sending four AWACS radar aircraft and five Patriot air defense batteries, as well as equipment for chemical and biological defense. Over all, NATO members deployed more than 1,000 “technically advanced and highly capable forces” to support Turkey during the Iraq conflict.

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