1952-2022, 70 years of Greece and Turkey in NATO

“1952-2022, 70 years of Greece and Turkey in NATO” was the topic of an “ATA Talks” webinar on February 18 with a special and highly knowledgeable guest speaker, Mr. Nicola de Santis, Head of the Engagements Section of NATO Public Diplomacy Division, Amb. Ioannis Alexios Zepos, Former Representative of Greece to NATO, and Amb. Tacan ildem, Former Representative of Turkey to NATO. The discussion was moderated by Mr. Theodossios Georgiou, President of the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation, Counsellor, and Former President of the Atlantic Treaty Association, and Mr. Mustafa Veysel Güldoğan, President of the Atlantic Council of Turkey. Mrs. Monica Begovic, ATA Secretary General, made a brief intervention. This online conference, organized by the Atlantic Treaty Association with the help of the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation GAAEC and the Atlantic Council of Turkey, attracted many participants from around the world.

In his opening statement, Mr. Theodossios Georgiou mentioned that “NATO’s relationship with the Mediterranean and the Istanbul Initiative countries is currently at a remarkable level. He also recognized the significance of these two organizations because, as a result of their relationships, they have made significant contributions to their countries’ and the world’s diplomacy. He also expressed his willingness, under the leadership of Mr. Mustafa, to continue our cooperation.

Mr. Mustafa Veysel Güldoğan, started by mentioning that both countries have had some common goals in terms of defense and security policies. During the last few decades, this has brought even bigger achievements. As he stressed, “Turkey and Greece were leading the emerging cooperation in the region, thus guaranteeing security.” We can look at three case concepts in this regard: first of all, the growth of the organization both geographically and materially; second, the experience gained by working together; and third, guaranteeing the security of the region with all the experience gained.

In his presentation, Mr. de Santis stated that “Greece and Turkey are two of NATO’s pillars of cooperation.” Their ambassadors have made history in the alliance not only because of their distinguished diplomatic careers and the leadership position that they occupied at the top level of the decision-making process of the alliance, but also for their contribution to the strategic vision of the alliance, the revision of the strategic concept”.

He stated that NATO exists to protect its member countries so that they can protect their societies and allow their democracies to thrive in a secure environment. As he stressed, since the beginning, Russia has been included in this security equation we see today. In December 1994, at the Brussels Summit, Russia was invited to participate in the Partnership for Peace, which had three key features to help build security in Europe. First, the democratic control of the armed forces and security services and structures under democratically elected leaders. Second, the transparency of the defense budget: the defense budget in democracies is discussed in parliament, where the opposition and the majority will discuss how human and financial resources are allocated to promote the strategic concept of each. Last, the third aspect of the partnership is the possibility for countries to work together in this sense of partnership.

The example of Greece and Turkey is a great example of two countries that have contributed to the Alliance in different ways but have also stressed the importance of its political dimension.

ATA has been involved in this work in all NATO member countries and partner countries, to promote a better mutual organization, an understanding of NATO and its values, and an understanding of our countries’ security policies.

Mr. Ioannis Alexios Zepos pointed out that in 1952 the idea of joining the alliance with Greece and Turkey was very important to peace because, along with the Marshall Plan and the human doctrine, it allowed it to slowly rebuild and rediscover its balance after so many years of a very negative outcome.

According to him, “NATO played an important role in Greece as far as providing security on the one hand and modernizing its armed forces, which was a totally new way of doing things compared to the past.” Over the years, Greece has participated in all of the NATO missions.

As he mentioned, there has been a lot of talk about whether NATO is alive or clinically dead. “I think that the latest events in Ukraine and the reaction that NATO showed are proof to all that NATO is still there and wants to cooperate and find solutions, trying to build a steady and stable Europe.” I think that the new strategic concept as it comes up would probably be looking at the “new security threats and the new security challenges.”

Mr. Tacan ildem congratulated the ATA on organizing this event, saying that such events should be held more frequently to improve public understanding.

As he pointed up, “Ataturk and Venizelos were the pioneers of a new era for a friendly and good neighborly relationship between Greece and Turkey. “Greece has contributed a lot to NATO’s efforts, as has Turkey, and they both are trying their best to meet the requirements.”

In the same vein as Mr. Zepos, he mentioned the importance of US support through the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrines.

“My view on Turkey’s inspiration for NATO membership was not out of necessity; it was also a deliberate choice for Turkey to stand up to the expansion of the Soviet Union.” That is why Turkey, as a founding member of the Council of Europe in 1949, naturally wanted to be part of NATO.

“NATO, in accordance with the principle of the Secretary-General, must definitely remain. We also incorporated this idea into our report to keep NATO’s military strong.” “We must strengthen NATO politically; NATO is a politically military alliance, and the political dimension must be strengthened.”

Mrs. Monika Begovic congratulated the organizers for the conference, which, as she said, actually shows the partnership of associations from two neighboring countries that are members of the ATA. She also mentioned that NATO’s open-door policy to new countries is its strength.