Ankara, Turkey. Fresh off his White House tour and feeling teflon after his consolidation of powers victory, Turkish President Erdogan is out to tell NATO how to run its ship, as he comes down hard on Austria in a key NATO vote.
Turkey is blocking NATO co-operation with Austria, slowing the alliance’s partnership activities with 41 countries. It is payback time, as Turkey is angry with Austria for trying to block its bid to join the European Union.
An American General in the White House, says that heightened tensions between Turkey and Austria had essentially blocked NATO co-operation with the government in Vienna for the past year. The veto was affecting all the Western alliance’s partnership activities, which include several ex-Soviet states.
The Turks are in NATO, providing the most military muscle after the US, while Austria is not. But Austria co-operates closely with NATO, and has more than 400 troops serving in Kosovo. With the US shopping for up to 25,000 plus troops for an Afghanistan deployment any friction is unwelcome. To be clear, Austria condemned the Turkish veto, calling it “irresponsible”.
NATO plans a meeting for Thursday, at the 28-nation alliance’s Brussels headquarters.NATO officials said the main topics would be the fight against terrorism, and fairer burden-sharing, including sending more troops in to help on America’s occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq, and possibly Syria-according to Israeli sources.
This year President Donald Trump has criticised NATO members who fail to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. Besides the US and UK only Poland, Greece and Estonia currently meet that target. Trump had promised to remove the US from NATO in campaign 2016, but like virtually his entire platform, the promise has simply been a lie to get elected.
Meanwhile back at the ranch-Austria’s Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil lambasted Turkey for its veto. “I strongly condemn Turkey’s course of action in Nato. It is irresponsible behaviour against Austria and strengthens my position that Turkey is very far from being part of the EU, In this, Turkey is endangering the security interests of Europe. The blockade has a long-term impact on the peace missions in the Western Balkans.” Doskozil clipped.
NATO officials said the alliance was “not ending its co-operation with Austria”. “We greatly appreciate its valuable contributions to our shared security. We hope the bilateral issues between Austria and Turkey will be solved as quickly as possible,” Jens Stoltenberg said.
The Austrians should not take the action personally as Erdogan has also struck out at Germany, the Netherlands and Greece. NATO is planning to reform its partnership activities – such as training and de-mining – so that agreements are signed with partner countries individually, rather than on a collective basis.