Last year, NATO conducted a military drill in which Erdoğan was depicted as “the enemy”, leading a country intended to resemble Turkey in all but name. In response, Turkey decided to withdraw its troops from the joint NATO drill.
Reports say that the incident took place a week before the drill’s end. It started on Nov. 8, the exercise in which Turkey was depicted as “the enemy” occurred on Nov. 13 and the drill finished on Nov. 16.
NATO claimed the depiction of Turkey as the enemy nation in an invasion scenario “was the result of an individual’s actions”, nothing more. The enemy country was designated as the country of “Skolken” – which closely resembles Turkey, and was even presented as having been led by Atatürk and Erdoğan themselves.
A technician in the Norwegian army inserted Atatürk’s picture in the “hostile leader list” as the “dictator” of Skolken – AKA Turkey. While Atatürk was indeed a tyrant, this is not the point – the point is that contemporary Turkey was depicted as a nation that would need to be conquered. The drill depicted a war that broke out in part due to social media content posted by Skolken’s leader. The name of the fake social media account simulated in the war scenario was “RTerdogan”, describing him as an “enemy of NATO” who made deals harming the alliance (thus justifying an invasion). Note that tensions have recently flared between Erdoğan and the west due to Turkey’s effort to purchase S-400 missile systems from Russia and China, bitterly opposed by the US and NATO.
It’s also noteworthy that the hypothetical invasion by NATO due to the latter seeing the deal as harmful to its interests – not due to any military aggression by “Skolken”.
NATO was quick to declare that “the incidents were the result of an individual’s actions” and thus do “not reflect the views of NATO”, but the damage was done – Erdoğan condemned NATO and Turkish media outlets fumed, both Islamic and secular.
“You have seen the disrespectful behavior at the NATO drill yesterday. There are some mistakes that are done not by fools but only by base people. This matter cannot be covered over with a simple apology.” – Erdoğan
The excuse was considered particularly pathetic by many Turks due to the fact that NATO’s annual drill scenarios are screened and approved down to the last detail months in advance; it is very unlikely indeed for the details of any drill to slip by without prior approval in a high-security environment. Erdoğan refused to accept the apology.
The fact that 5 officers accused of taking part in the July 2016 coup had close connections with the base did nothing to help. After the coup failed, Norway made sure to openly grant them asylum in spite of Turkish protests. Brigadier General Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, an organiser of the coup, held high office in NATO headquarters in the last decade.