By Serife Cetin and Vakkas Dogantekin</p> <p>BRUSSELS (AA) - Founded in Washington on April 4, 1949, with 12 founding members, this Thursday the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is marking 70 years of the alliance, currently boasting 29 members, including longtime pillar Turkey.</p> <p>Headquartered in Brussels, now NATO is preparing to welcome its 30th member, the recently renamed North Macedonia, which signed an accession protocol in February. </p> <p>NATO, which defines its main objective as securing the independence and security of the member countries through military and political means, is perhaps best known for its Article 5, which commits its members to collective defense. </p> <p>Under Article 5, "the Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all."</p> <p>To date, the article has been invoked precisely once, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.</p> <p> </p> <p>- Boost its effectiveness</p> <p>During the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s military might and expansionist policies triggered debates about NATO’s effectiveness in the face of increasingly complex security threats.</p> <p>When the threat perception changed as a result of the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early ‘90s, NATO allies made significant reductions in defense spending.</p> <p>But Russia's unlawful annexation of Crimea in 2014 showed that threats to the alliance had not disappeared.</p> <p>With this prod, at their 2014 Warsaw summit, alliance members committed to allocate 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to defense expenditures. </p> <p>After fall 2016, U.S. President Donald Trump's oft-repeated accusation that alliance members are failing to pay for their fair share may also have played a role in increasing the budget for collective defense. </p> <p>According to current NATO data, the allies have spent an additional $41 billion on defense since 2016.</p> <p> By the end of the year, this figure is expected to rise to $100 billion.</p> <p>In 2018, the defense expenditures of seven members of the alliance topped 2 percent of their GDP.</p> <p> </p> <p>- Updated alliance</p> <p>The alliance has taken notable steps to modernize itself, especially in 2018.<br>
At the 2018 summit in Brussels, NATO took important decisions to adapt and modernize its command structure in a bid to enhance the allies’ responsiveness and deterrence capabilities, especially against potential threats from Russia.
By 2020, NATO is expected to keep 30 mechanized battalions, 30 air combat fleets, and 30 combat ships ready to serve in 30 days or less with the contribution of all allies.
Aiming to play a more active role in the fight against terrorism, NATO's training mission in Iraq is considered an important step.
With more than a hundred drills in 2018, and Trident Juncture standing out as one of the largest, NATO still has an active and powerful militarily.
A total of 50,000 soldiers, 250 aircraft, 65 ships and 10,000 vehicles took part in Trident Juncture, which was held in Norway and is considered the largest and most comprehensive exercise since the Cold War.
– New member states
Another tool that NATO uses to increase its effectiveness is its open-door policy.
Under this policy, any country seeking membership in the alliance must be geographically in Europe, governed by democracy, and "have the capacity and will to contribute to the security of the Euro-Atlantic region."
Along these lines NATO is on track to expand with the accession of North Macedonia after all the member states sign the accession protocol. Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ukraine also want to join NATO — all in the face of fierce Russian opposition.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has described NATO as "the most powerful and successful alliance in history."
Stoltenberg ties the alliance’s success to its being adept at "adapting to change".
Although its effectiveness has long been debated, NATO continues to exist even after 70 years in an era of military alliances with short lifespans.
– Turkey's journey and effectiveness in NATO
Ever since its joined NATO in 1952, NATO has played a key role in Turkey’s security and contributed to its integration with the Euro-Atlantic community.
Turkey has successfully fulfilled its responsibilities in defending the common values of the alliance.
Turkey also supports NATO’s transformation efforts by making substantial contributions to the NATO Response Force.
A force command at high readiness level is established in Istanbul.
Within the new NATO command structure, the air command in the Aegean province of Izmir will be replaced by a land command.
The “Partnership for Peace Training Center” was created in 1998 within the Turkish General Staff in an effort to contribute to training and interoperability efforts.
Turkey also believes that a constructive dialogue between NATO and Russia is important for Euro-Atlantic stability and that the NATO-Russia Council provides the necessary forum.
Turkey, with its EU membership perspective, believes that the integration of all Western Balkan countries is important and thus supports the membership of interested countries in NATO, in particular North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
With the understanding that European security cannot be dissociated from Mediterranean security, Turkey also supports enhancing relations with Gulf countries through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
* Writing by Vakkas Dogantekin