On June 24, following Syria's downing of a Turkish Air Force reconnaissance jet, the Turkish government called for a NATO treaty Article 4 consultation.
Article 4 says NATO allies will "consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security" of any NATO ally is threatened.
An Article 4 consultation sends several grim diplomatic signals. In Turkey's case, it demonstrates that Ankara believes the complex security threat it faces requires alliance action. Syrian military attacks are only one facet of the threat. Terrorist attacks are another. So is a war with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's firmest ally, Iran. Syrian disintegration into warring neighborhoods, following a collapse of the Assad regime, is another serious security threat, one that would require a long-term NATO commitment to nation rebuilding.
So it is fair to ask if Turkey is genuinely preparing to retaliate. And does Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, really mean it this time when he invokes NATO's commitment to mutual defense?
Syria's dirty war has certainly spawned chest-thumping theatrics. For a year and a half, Erdogan and other NATO leaders have berated the Assad regime. In August 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama explicitly called on Assad to relinquish power. "For the sake of the Syrian people," Obama said, "the time has come for President Assad to step aside." Assad, however, remains in power, murdering the forsaken Syrian people, despite Obama's "calculated diplomacy" and a U.N.-backed peace-less peace plan.
Turkey has examined its legal options for military intervention in Syria. The Assad regime has arguably violated the 1998 Adana Agreement, which stipulated that Syria "will not permit" activity emanating from its territory that jeopardizes "the security and stability of Turkey." In April, Erdogan mentioned NATO's Article 5 after Syrian security forces fired across the Turkey-Syria border and wounded four people in a Turkish refugee camp. Erdogan said, "NATO has responsibilities to do with Turkey's borders, according to Article 5."
Article 5 enshrines NATO's mutual defense commitment. It was designed to deter an attack by the Soviet Union on West Germany by guaranteeing Moscow it faced war with every NATO nation if its tanks crossed the intra-German border. And it worked.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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