NATO Awaits as Turkey Considers Joining ISIL Fight

By Sarah Sicard

NATO is in a wait-and-see mode on the question of whether it would come to the assistance of member nation Turkey as the Islamic State terrorist group pushes up against its border with Syria, one of the organization's top generals said Oct. 2.

The Turkish parliament is planning a vote on whether to deploy troops to its vulnerable border with Syria, but at this stage, the Turkish authorities have not addressed this issue, Danish Army Gen. Knud Bartels, chairman of NATO Military Committee, told Washington, D.C.-based reporters.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is facing many challenges in the coming months with the rise of the Islamic State and continued tensions with Russia. The alliance is prepared to address a number of possible situations that may arise, he said. 

As for whether Turkey will act to address threats from the Islamic State by infringing on the sovereignty of another nation, in this case Syria, he added, "It is a Turkish decision ... and that is where it stands."

Bartels deflected a series of questions about what other nations may do when facing threats to their security, citing that it was not his place to say.
In the case of Russia and the Ukraine, he mentioned only Russia's history, and how that might offer a clearer picture of how the crisis in Ukraine may unfold.

"I do not know what the Russians are going to do," he said. Though he said a Russian "exclave" might be possible, where the Russians may "create a situation reminiscent of what happened in Georgia."

"Sad as it is, this is primarily an issue to be addressed by the Ukraine," Bartels said. "I am not in a position where I can allow myself to express views on how the Ukrainians should handle what they are facing."

He added: "I will just stick to three facts. The first one is Georgia 2008 — so that's six years ago — and nothing has changed; two: Crimea has been the next, and [it was] integrated into the Russian

Federation, which is a breach of the sovereignty of a nation … and three: I've seen quite substantial evidence that has been provided as to Russian support to separatists in the Eastern part of Ukraine."
If history is any indicator of what may happen in the Ukraine, "I'm afraid that the Ukrainian crisis, or the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis, will be there for a long time," he said.

Despite concerns of continued Russian aggression and a history of disregarding sovereignty, Bartels cited the statements of Air Force Gen. Phillip Breedlove, European Command and NATO commander, who said Sept. 15 that a stable Europe requires Russian partnership.

"Russia is where Russia is, and it will remain where it is," he said. "Not only do we have to deal with a potential threat from Russia, we will also have to find a way of staying good neighbors with Russia."

In the event that any conflict arises, whether by ISIL, Russia or any other threat, "The allies are ready to act accordingly when the necessity arises," Bartels said.
For now, NATO as an organization has not taken a stance on ISIL or the situation with the Ukraine, though many of the allies have made separate decisions to act economically, militarily or politically, he said.

"The allies stand shoulder to shoulder, not in the way we did during the Cold War, because the situation was… different, but here we stand shoulder to shoulder," Bartels said.

Topics: Defense Department, Homeland Security

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