Former defense chief: Turkey NATO position is blackmail

Ants Laaneots (Reform).
Ants Laaneots (Reform). Source: ERR

Reform MP and former Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) commander Ants Laaneots has called actions by Turkey over military assistance to the Baltic States a type of blackmail.

Turkey, a NATO member, has said it will not back NATO's defense plan for the Baltic States and Poland until the alliance gives it more support in its fight against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria.

This represents blackmail by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Laaneots said.

"This is Erdogan's blackmail. I believe that NATO management must decide something here," he said.

Four senior alliance sources told newswire Reuters on Wednesday that Turkey is refusing to back a NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland until the alliance offers Ankara more political support for its northern Syria fight.

However, according to BNS, Laaneots also said that decision making within NATO based on unanimity among member states, evidenced by Turkey's recent actions, is wrong

The former defense chief told daily Postimees that he has expressed dismay in the past at decision-making in NATO being carried out on the basis of unanimity.

"I have previously argued and fought against the fact that there is the principle of consensus within NATO. This is a completely wrong approach," Laaneots said, according to BNS, noting that since there are 29 member states in NATO at present, getting the approval of each country is difficult.

Laaneots added that the issue of consensus has been brought to the table in the past, but not moved further than discussion stages.

"In certain situations, this makes the alliance weak, ultimately," Laaneots said, adding he also favors a majority vote: "This has been talked about a lot, as unanimity has made NATO powerless," he added.

Biltateral relations involving NATO states would be another solution, Laaneots felt.

"Bilateral relations have also been practised, where countries which have some kind of problems and do not see the support from all member states, ask for so-called direct support," Laaneots said.

"Estonia has solved things like this before," he added, though no concrete examples were reported.

NATO has seen other recent challenges, including comments from French President Emmaneul Macron that the alliance was "brain dead".

There are four NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroups in each of the three Baltic States and Poland. Estonia's eFP Battlegroup is U.K.-led and based at Tapa, east of Tallinn. In addition, NATO Baltic air policing, which predates the Warsaw Summit of 2016 which the battlegroups sprang from, is based at Ämari air base and at Šiauliai in Lithuania.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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