Posts Tagged ‘nato’


President of Turkey on their economic & foreign policy priorities

Wednesday 20 June, 2012

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey.  Here’s a summary of his address:

Turkey is expanding it’s diplomatic forces by opening 21 embassies in Latin America, 34 in Africa, & more.  Turkey has the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world, trailing only China, with GDP tripling & trade volume quadrupling in the last decade.  Turkey joined NATO in 1952, but is it merely an ally of NATO?  They must balance the freedom granted its citizens with the rights given to those citizens.  It’s geography/location make Turkey a center of trade, literally as well as figuratively.  They have only recently reached out to countries in their own region to build bridges with them & have been quite successful @ it.  Many democratic reforms started in 2003 which enhanced human rights & the rule of law.  Have the Turks been too ambitious & independent?  It depends on how you see the values of the free world.  It’s in the interest of everyone to change in the right direction.  Turkey was elevated to the 3rd level of the G20.  Diplomatically, Turkey is most active in Syria & Yemen, where they are in touch with the opposition as well as those in power.  Dictatorships & democracies don’t change easily.  The highest priority is cooperation within the region.  They have no choice but to pursue a solution.  Turkey has a large assistance program for Afghanistan, opening hospitals, etc.  Afghanistan’s future lies in the hands of its own people.  Turkey gets along well with the US, & seeks a diplomatic multiplier in cooperation in the Middle East.  Turkey will be the President of the G20 2015-16.

Turkey must reform constantly.  Here are some of the reforms which are needed:

  • become more investment & trade-friendly
  • address the budget deficit that’s 1.4% of GDP & public debt that’s 39% of GDP
  • strengthen banks, which have already been growing @ 9%
  • create  jobs, on par with 4M the last 3 years
  • bring predictability to policy choices
  • new incentives for investment
  • increase productivity with vocational training (after the visit in Chicago, he’s off to Silicon Valley)
  • strive to become a virtuous power with mutual cooperation towards common goals, recognizing the value of partnerships,  & not by imposing things on people


  • Gül believes a 2-state solution is rational & realistic for Israel & Palestine
  • Women should be included in democracy, in Morocco & elsewhere
  • As Turkey approaches it’s 100 year anniversary, their vision for scientific infrastructure is to be 1 top 10 economy by 2023, therefore economic development must mobilize an R&D focus, indicated by an increase from 70 to 170 universities in the last 10 years
  • Turkey participated on behalf of NATO in evacuations of Libya with 2 ships & 6 planes
  • domestic violence exists in Turkey & the media loves to cover it, but it’s no worse than in other places

NATO Summit follow-up

Thursday 24 May, 2012

As the 50+ heads of state have left Chicago following the recent NATO Summit, I guess it’s safe to comment on it now.  Here’s what I picked up from McCormick Place, site of the summit.  Obviously, the principal topic & challenge was how quickly to pull out of Afghanistan.  Budgets are declining slowly & the EU isn’t yet spending it’s goal of 2% of GDP on military (1.6%), which can be done by pulling up the Baltic state members to get them interoperable with other members.  The Afghans need to learn that the level of corruption there is unacceptable & they need to solve the problem by themselves.   The people I heard from were cautiously optimistic.  Kabul is now relatively safe with only 6 violent crimes/100K people/year.  While it’s not as good as Europe’s 1/100k/year or the US @ 5/100K/year, it’s far better than 50/100K/year in Latin America or 150/100K/year in Caracas, VZ.  As I understand it, NATO has 4 goals over the next 2 years:

  1. protect the local Afghan civilians & bring their number of casualties down
  2. figure out what’s the right balance between diplomatic & military action.  I understand 8M students are now in school in Afghanistan, vs. only tens of thousands under the Taliban.  Infrastructure needs to be established.  Medical care has increased from 10% coverage under the Taliban to 60% now & needs to continue to improve.
  3. communications with local Afghans needs to improve
  4. obviously, train Afghan security forces, in great quantities, (up to 350K, I heard), & with quality as well.  Supposedly the military has an 80% approval rating & police a 70% approval rating.

As I understand it, the US will wind down from 90K troops there now, (& 40K other foreign troops), to 4K in 2014.  This also will have spillover effects, i.e. on how to deal with Pakistan & other neighbors.  We need roads to the sea get our stuff out of Afghanistan, so we need to repair our relationship with Pakistan.

On other fronts, Iran has missiles that can reach European capitals, so they are a threat.  NATO is implementing @ 1st a sea-based defense system that will expand to a land-based system in Poland & Romania with Turkey hosting the radar component.  The Balkans could still be an issue.  Those countries are now members of NATO, but tensions still exist.  There’s a little nervousness about Russia, but they are no longer hunkered down behind a wall.  NATO has been successful in Libya & against pirates, but cybercrime is a growing concern, to the tune of $2TR/year.  The threat is high & preparedness is low, & that’s a bad combination.  NATO wants to work with the private sector on this 1.

Increasing education in Afghanistan is a priority, especially given the 25% literacy rate for 25-30 year olds.  NATO needs more innovation to enhance it’s missile & defense systems.  They are now moving from joint operations with other military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) & developing inter-agency relationships with Dept. of State & Agency for International Development, to creating public-private partnerships.  Smart power, rather than swinging around our military might will be the key to success.  The bedrock of NATO is article 5, which states that an attack on 1 member is an attack on all members.  This has only been invoked once, following 9/11.  Read it sometime.  It’s a short, simple document that says a lot.

My surprise is that no one is talking about China as a rising military power.  The Chinese are building up their naval forces in the South China Sea & even claiming territories in the Indian Ocean, mostly to secure trade routes & gain access to resources.  The Chinese are also gathering more troops near a disputed border area with India.  I understand that the countries a little bit west are the most immediate concern, but at some point, they’ll have to sit down with the Chinese & work out a hopefully amicable agreement on how to defend the world peacefully.


Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs on NATO

Tuesday 16 September, 2008

Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s minister of foreign affairs, came to Chicago (he didn’t even visit Washington, D.C.)  @ this event NATO’s past, present, & future:  a view from Europe sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  Pan (Mr.) Sikorski put Russia’s passive era-ending excursion into Georgia into perspective.  Although it’s still unsure whether this is a remote crisis or a pattern, Russia refuses to be subjugated to anyone, & that new threat needs to be addressed.  If the problems in Georgia are copied in the Ukraine, (a Russian “artificially-created” state, he claims), to protect ethnic Russians, then we have a real problem.  Poles are slavs too, but don’t feel a kinship with Russians.  Despite the fact that the US hasn’t really reacted to the events in Georgia, NATO needs to rearm as a military organization, complete with intelligence operations.  Gasprom needs to be regulated by regulators in the EU, just like Microsoft is.

Q&A revealed-the Poles are threatened once/quarter by the placement of weapons in Kaliningrad by the Russians, in response to hosting NATO missiles on Polish soil.  They hope to rid Poland (Europe?) of nuclear weapons in the next 5 years in reaction to present nuclear threats.  Otherwise, NATO’s reaction could lead to an unattractive spiral escalation of retaliations.  Russia should now be considered a competitor rather than a partner & we need to recognize we can no longer influence Russian internal politics. The EU needs to send more troops into Afghanistan, defend Georgia & the Ukraine.   The developed countries need to teach Russia how to develop its economy. Russia has the advantage that its neighbors are weak, so they dominate that periphery.

I spent 7+ months in Poland & feel that I know it fairly well.  What concerns me most is the small Russian-controlled peninsula of Kaliningrad tucked in along the Baltic Sea between Poland & Lithuania.  This small part of Russia directly abuts Poland & is akin to Cuba’s proximity to the U.S., & hence could have the risk of a European Bay of Pigs.  That & the EU needs to better regulate oil coming in from Russia so that they are not held hostage economically by political whims out of Moscow.  Russia’s power is fueled by oil money, so Europeans diversifying their sources of oil would lessen their dependence on Russian oil.