Turkish ex-major returns NATO decoration over Erdogan & Ataturk ‘enemy’ depiction in drill
Zafer Oguz received a NATO medal for his 2010 tour in Afghanistan, where he served as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission. The military engineer retired a year later. Now he decided that he should return the decoration in protest, he told Turkey’s state Anadolu Agency.
“Until the incident, I exhibited the medal in the best place in my house, inside a frame. Later [after the incident] I decided that this certificate and medal did not belong to my house anymore, but to NATO. So I sent them to Turkish Land Forces Command to be delivered back to NATO,” he was cited as saying. He added some of his fellow officers may follow his example.
He was referring to an incident during NATO's Trident Javelin exercise in Norway last week. During the computer-assisted exercise, Turkish founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was shown in a “hostile leader list.” The name and portrait of Turkey’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were used during a simulated “enemy collaborator” chat during the same exercise.
On Friday, Turkey withdrew 40 troops from Trident Javelin over what it took as a smearing of its leadership. NATO apologized for the incident, which it blamed on a Norwegian civilian contractor, who was reportedly involved in preparing the exercise and was dismissed for the anti-Turkish stunt. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the contractor’s actions did not represent NATO’s values. Similar statements came from Norway’s Defense Ministry.
Turkish officials have since reiterated their anger over the incidents, but dismissed speculation that it may call into question Turkey’s membership of NATO. Erdogan stated that a simple apology from the alliance leadership was not enough, while Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said that the incident “should not be swept under the rug.”
Turkey’s relations with NATO have been increasingly strained over the past few years as Ankara and other Allies argued over issues not directly related to missions of the defense block, and occasionally affecting military missions. For instance, a row with Berlin resulted in a withdrawal of German troops from the Incirlik Airbase in July, stopping reconnaissance flights over Syria.
NATO also expressed concerns over the Turkish purchase of a Russian-made S-400 air defense system, which, the alliance said, compromised the compatibility of Turkish weapons systems with those of the rest of the NATO. Turkey’s irritation over the criticism apparently spilled into a publication by Anadolu of an infographic showcasing the system’s capabilities against with US-made aircraft and missiles as potential targets for the Turkish S-400.