To be credible, a defensive military alliance requires the shared confidence of its members that, if one member is attacked, the other members will provide decisive support. Whatever other interests they may have with the United States and its NATO allies, it is now clear that Turkey and Hungary cannot fulfill this expectation. Both nations should be expelled from the alliance, writes Tom Rogan in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner.
Although as he points out there would be legal complications, an expulsion would be possible. Moreover, action towards suspension may cause significant changes in Turkish and Hungarian politics.
The most immediate reason for Turkey’s expulsion is the obstruction of Finland and Sweden in their bid to join NATO. Turkey suspended the talks on Tuesday in response to Swedish protests, during which a Koran was burned and an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hung upside down. The most immediate reason for Hungary’s expulsion is its Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (By the way, Hungary is the only other member state that has not yet ratified the accession of Finland and Sweden).
Suspension is not a step to be taken lightly. Through its location at the Mediterranean’s entry point to the Black Sea and its proximity to the Middle East’s energy reserves, Turkey has long been a key NATO ally. As with Hungary, Turkey will hopefully one day restore NATO’s confidence, Rogan says. However, an examination of the NATO treaty outlines the circumstances in which both states are in breach of their obligations.
According to Article 2 of the treaty, a member undertakes to “contribute to the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening the freedom of its institutions”.
Neither Orbán nor Erdogan is strengthening the freedom of institutions. Instead, both leaders have strengthened their control over state media at the expense of real freedom of speech. Both have suppressed the dissenting voices of minorities, politicians and activists and NGOs. Erdogan has jailed hundreds of journalists, some simply because he says they insulted him.
According to Article 3, a member undertakes to “maintain and develop its individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack”.
Erdogan broke that commitment by buying the Russian S-400 air defense system, which is specifically designed to destroy NATO air forces. In doing so, Erdogan weakened NATO’s credibility and endangered its aircraft.
Orbán has fragmented that commitment by embracing Russian intelligence activity and undermining European sanctions imposed on Russia. These sanctions support NATO’s security by imposing a cost on Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and thereby deterring further aggression by the Russian leader.
According to Article 8, a member “undertakes not to enter into any international commitment contrary to this Treaty”.
Turkey broke that commitment with the aforementioned S-400 purchase and Erdogan’s demand that Sweden change its free speech laws and extradite people without due process. Equally notable are Erdogan’s threats to Greece, mercenaries in Syria and Azerbaijan’s military support against Armenia. Yes, Turkey has legitimate grievances regarding Kurdish terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. But Erdogan’s fetish for indiscriminate bombing is unacceptable.
Hungary broke that commitment by undermining European sanctions and Orbán’s service as Putin’s regent/servant in NATO and the European Union.
As Rogan notes, an alliance has no value unless its members maintain mutual trust. Under Orban and Erdogan, Hungary and Turkey can no longer have that confidence in NATO. Until that changes, they must separate themselves from this alliance in which they are now doing more harm than good.