Turkey: Desperately Seeking Solutions

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July 15, 2021: Turkey is trying to barter its way out of its various disputes with NATO in general and the United States in particular. In return for halting efforts to buy or use Russian military equipment and offering troops to keep the main Afghanistan airport, outside Kabul, functioning after all other NATO forces have left, Turkey wants a free hand against Greece over maritime disputes that also involve the illegal presence of Turkish forces in Libya. So far NATO is united in support for Greece against Turkey on this and getting the Turks out of Libya. Turkey needs some kind of compromise regarding NATO because that is one opponent they cannot beat.

July 13, 2021: In Afghanistan the Pakistani-backed Taliban made it official that they consider Turkish troops remaining in Afghanistan a hostile act. At the same time the Taliban welcomed the presence of more Chinese economic activity and guaranteed the Chinese immunity from any Islamic terrorist violence.

July 12, 2021: In a series of high-level meetings Turkey and France have agreed to a diplomatic “reset.” The two NATO nations have several serious policy differences in Africa, with Libya the most critical dispute. In Libya Turkey backed the GNA (Government of National Accord) in Tripoli and France backed the Libyan HoR (House of Representatives) based in Tobruk and controlling most of Libya. France claimed Turkey violated the arms embargo. Despite the recent unification of the GNA and HoR as the GNU (Government of National Unity) the situation remains fragile and for the GNU to work and national elections held the Turkish forces must withdraw. France continues to call for the withdrawal of Turkish forces in Libya. France also argues that the offshore resources deal Turkey signed with the GNA violates several international treaties.

In Afghanistan the Taliban threatened to attack the 500 Turkish troops as “foreign invaders” even though they are Moslem. The Turks ignored the Taliban threat, which was the worst possible answer for the Taliban. While the Turks are on good terms with Pakistan, they not play well with Islamic terrorists who attack them. Moreover, the Turks are coming to Afghanistan in order to improve relations with NATO, not the Taliban.

July 11, 2021: Turkey is urging Greece to avoid making “provocative moves” in the Mediterranean should resolve their differences in bilateral discussions and not rely on third parties. Greece recently accused Turkey of being provocative after Turkey announced president Erdogan will visit the Turkish statelet on Cyprus on July 20.

July 10, 2021: The Turkish Defense Minister met with his American counterpart to discuss an emerging plan for Turkey to operate and protect Kabul Airport once U.S. forces withdraw. At the moment Turkey has around 500 to 600 troops in Afghanistan. Most of them are there training Afghan security forces, meaning they have a non-combat NATO mission. However, some Turkish troops are serving at the international airport. The airport is about 60 kilometers south of Kabul. There are rumors that Turkish troops might take on a larger mission than just the airport. The unanswered question is what does Erdogan want in exchange for providing security after the U.S. leaves. It appears negotiations between Turkey and the United States will continue. Protecting the airport is key to maintaining a credible strategic presence in Afghanistan. (Austin Bay)

July 9, 2021: Turkey is the world’s second largest donor of humanitarian aid. In 2020 Turkey donated $8.04 billion in humanitarian aid, which was about 26 percent of all humanitarian aid. The United States is first, spending $8.9 billion. Germany was third with $3.7 billion.

July 8, 2021: July 8, 2021: Greek diplomats are making another concerted effort to prevent the sale of modern German submarines to Turkey. Germany has agreed to sell Turkey six of the new Reis model submarines.

Turkish missile manufacturer Roketsan is producing an anti-radiation (radar seeking) missile. Data on the Akbaba (Vulture) are classified, but the Turkish Air Force intends to buy the missile as a replacement for the U.S.-made AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). Via frequent upgrades, the AGM-88 has been the leading HARM system since it was introduced in 1985.

July 6, 2021: Four Turkish F-16s and their support personnel have deployed to Poland’s Malbork Air Base. The Turkish jets are part of a NATO Air Policing mission. The Turkish jets will help the Polish Air Force defend NATO airspace.

July 3, 2021: Latvia indicated it may purchase one of Turkey’s sturdy unmanned aerial systems (drones). Ukraine and Turkey have already purchased Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 systems. Reportedly Latvia was impressed by the drones’ success in Azerbaijan in Fall 2020.

July 1, 2021: The United States has added Turkey to the list of countries it believes permit the use of child (under 18) soldiers. This is the first time the U.S. has put a NATO ally on the list. The U.S. is not accusing Turkey of directly employing child soldiers. The U.S. believes a Syrian opposition group Turkey supports, the Sultan Murad Division, uses child soldiers. The Sultan Murad Division is largely manned by ethnic Turkmen who consider some sixteen- or seventeen-year-old boys old enough to fight. In medieval armies the average age was often 17 and since assault rifles became cheaply and widely available in the 1990s, arming younger teenagers has become more common for irregular forces of local defense militias.

June 30, 2021: Russia stated that Turkey has made definitive assurances that the new Canal Istanbul is being built to make it easier for commercial ships to transit the Bosporus. The canal will not change agreements governing the passage of foreign naval vessels. Russia has been very concerned that the new canal will breach the 1936 Montreux Convention that regulates the passage of naval vessels through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits. The 45-kilometer- long canal will connect the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, bypassing the narrowest portions of the strait that connects the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Canal Istanbul will provide a faster and safer passage for larger ships, which Russia fears could include the ability to evade the terms of the Montreux Convention that limit the tonnage of warships nations not bordering the Black Sea have moved through the Bosporus and limit foreign ship visits to 21 days.

June 29, 2021: Turkey’s defense minister visited the Central Asian state Kyrgyzstan and said that maintaining the largely (90 percent) Turkic Kyrgyzstan’s “political stability” is a Turkish priority.

June 28, 2021: In response to new covid19 virus variants, Turkey has stopped all airline flights and direct travel from Bangladesh, Brazil, South Africa, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

In raids conducted throughout the capital (Ankara), Turkish police arrested 26 people allegedly linked to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Police later said they had identified 30 suspects (28 Iraqis and two Syrians.)

June 27, 2021: Turkish Aerospace (TUSAS) announced that its newest T625 Gokbey twin-engine medium helicopter prototype successfully completed a 40-minute-long test flight. The helicopter is yet another indigenously developed and manufactured Turkish combat system.

June 26, 2021: President Erdogan laid the first brick of the Sazlidere Bridge, one of six viaducts crossing the new Canal Istanbul. Erdogan is facing intense criticism within Turkey for building the canal. There are environmental concerns. Also, passage through the Bosporus is free. Canal Istanbul will charge a fee.

June 23, 2021: Turkey once again said that it is willing to secure Kabul’s airport. Diplomats speculated that one reason Turkey is considering taking on the mission is that it has angered so many key NATO allies and this is a way to placate them. Another explanation is making the rounds – Turkey wishes to extend its own influence in Central Asia. There are several ethnic Turkic nations in the region. There were discussions in 2019 that the Taliban might consider a Turkish presence in Afghanistan if it was operating outside of NATO.

June 18, 2021: Turkey announced it is suspending activation of the Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. The S-400 equipment will remain “packed and inactivated.” The suspension comes in the face of heightened U.S. economic and political sanctions. The Air Force is very concerned because the bad relations with the U.S. included Turkey being removed from the F-35 consortium and barred from buying the F-35. Senior Air Force officers regard suggestions that Turkey buy Russian jets as being unrealistic. The politicians making the suggestions do not understand that Russian aircraft will require massive and very expensive changes to Turkish Air Force maintenance, repair and service operations. The new Russian have been seen operating in Syria as have Israeli and American F-35s. The American aircraft are still superior and arch-enemy Greece is getting at least 24 of them, and soon.

June 16, 2021: Turkey’s KuzeyStar shipyard has agreed to build a very large floating dry dock for Russia. The dry dock will operate in a port on the Barents Sea near the Arctic Circle. No Russian shipyard met the Kremlin’ design requirements and price. The contract is really a testament to Turkey’s highly competitive shipbuilding industry.

June 15, 2021: President Erdogan signed an agreement that pledges Turkish support for Azerbaijan if it is attacked. “The Shusha Declaration” (signed in the Azeri town of Shusha) commits Turkey to protecting Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Armenia condemned Erdogan’s visit to Shusha, which was a major battleground in last year’s conflict.

June 14, 2021: Turkey will need “diplomatic, logistic and financial assistance” from the United States if Turkey were to leave troops in Afghanistan to protect Kabul’s airport. Turkey would also like to see Pakistan and Hungary provide forces for a new post-U.S. Afghanistan mission.

 

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