Author Topic: Turkey  (Read 91607 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Turkey purges its air force
« Reply #250 on: February 17, 2020, 02:03:48 PM »
Turkey Nearly Killed Off Its Own Air Force
by Michael Peck
The National Interest
February 10, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/60437/turkey-nearly-killed-off-its-own-air-force
           

 Fighter pilots aren't cheap. The U.S. Air Force estimates that training a new pilot to fly a plane like the F-35 costs $11 million. And that doesn't count the priceless experience of a veteran pilot who has been flying for years. That's why the U.S. Air Force is willing to offer half-million-dollar bonuses to retain experienced fighter pilots.

So a nation that throws its fighter pilots in jail is not just wasting money, but also an extremely valuable resource. Yet in the name of politics, Turkey's government has purged its air force so badly that it can barely fly its F-16 fighters.

The trouble began on July 15, 2016, when members of Turkey's military "allegedly" launched a coup to topple the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The word allegedly is used for a reason. Despite being pros at overthrowing civilian governments (with four successful coups between 1960 and 1997), the 2016 effort was laughable. Soldiers attempted to isolate Istanbul by erecting roadblocks on the Bosporus Bridge—but only blocked the lanes in one direction. YouTube video showed soldiers with Leopard tanks surrendering to police and civilians. As Erdogan was flying back to Istanbul from vacation, two Turkish Air Force F-16s had his aircraft in their sights—but failed to shoot it down.

And the vaunted Turkish military was supposed to be NATO's Cold War southern bulwark against the Soviets? If so, it's a wonder that the Kremlin never seized the Bosporus.

All of which had skeptics wondering whether the coup was actually a false-flag operation by the Turkish government, aimed at providing (or provoking) an excuse to quash secular Turkish generals and covert followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen. Either way, the coup fizzled in less than an hour, and then Erdogan's government took its revenge.

Numerous senior and field-grade officers were purged. More than 300 F-16 pilots were dismissed. This defanged the Turkish military as a political threat, and strengthened the increasingly authoritarian rule of Erdogan and his neo-Ottoman Justice and Development Party, which has imprisoned many journalists. But it left a gaping question: who would be left to fly Turkey's jet fighters?

With war raging in Syria, and Turkish forces grabbing parts of northern Syria, Turkey's military is keeping busy (including an F-16 that shot down a Russian plane over Syria—the Turkish pilot who did it was one of those purged). It hardly seems a propitious time to decimate your pilot cadre.

The Turkish government has been looking overseas to make up the shortfall. However, Washington has rebuffed a request to send over U.S. flight instructors, though Turkish pilots are receiving basic flight training in the United States. Turkey has also sought assistance from Pakistan—which also flies F-16s—though training Turkish pilots could violate U.S. arms export rules. In a sign of desperation, "the Turkish government has issued a decree that threatens 330 former pilots with the revocation of their civil pilot license, unless they return to Air Force duty for four years," notes an Atlantic Council report.

"It is unclear how the decision to compel a return to service will impact unit morale," the report added.

Now, enter Russia—a traditional enemy of Turkey for centuries, and one of whose jets was shot down by the Turks over Syria. Yet Turkey is seeking to buy Russia's S-400 long-range anti-aircraft missiles, which only ratchets up tensions between Washington and Ankara over Syria and other issues.

Turkey has also signed an agreement with Franco-Italian missile maker Eurosam to develop a long-range anti-aircraft missile. And why is Turkey suddenly so interested in surface-to-air missiles? "In aftermath of 15 July, with the operations against the Turkish Armed Forces, there was a reduction in the number of F-16 pilots, creating a need to develop our air defense," said Turkish analyst Verda Ozer. "This is the reason for the S-400 purchase."

But even the S-400 wouldn't totally solve Turkey's air defense travails. "Since the Russian S-400 system cannot be integrated into NATO infrastructure, it cannot be used to protect against missile defense," Ozer notes. Hence, Turkey needs two systems: the S-400 to shoot down hostile aircraft, and a Eurosam weapon to intercept ballistic missiles.

Perhaps it would have been easier not to get rid of those F-16 pilots.

Michael Peck, a Middle East Forum writing fellow, is a defense and historical writer based in Oregon. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, WarIsBoring, and many other fine publications.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Turkey, US, Russia, and Syria
« Reply #251 on: February 19, 2020, 10:39:24 AM »


February 19, 2020   View On Website
Open as PDF



    Erdogan Talks Tough but Proceeds With Caution
By: Hilal Khashan

Shortly after Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister of Turkey in 2003, his minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, said Turkey would embark on a “zero problems policy” with its neighbors. His remarks came after Turkey had pursued European Union membership for years to no avail.

Even before Erdogan’s Justice and Development party, or AKP, rose to power, Turkish prime ministers in the 1990s realized that Turkey stood no chance of becoming part of the European Community. In 1997, Turkish Prime Minister and leader of the Islamist Welfare Party Necmettin Erbakan founded the Organization for Economic Cooperation, which included eight Muslim countries, after seemingly giving up on EU membership. Even secularist prime ministers like Mesut Yilmaz and Tansu Ciller gave up hope of ever joining the bloc, and their skepticism appears well founded. In 2002, former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing said many European politicians privately believed that “Turkey must never be allowed to join the EU.”
 
(click to enlarge)

Turkish leaders have instead chosen to pursue stronger relations with Turkey’s Middle East neighbors. In 2009, Bashar Assad said he considered Turkey Syria’s best friend; Erdogan responded by recognizing Assad as a brother. In 2010, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi awarded Erdogan his international prize for human rights. After the 2011 Arab uprisings, Erdogan believed that Turkey’s moment had arrived with the rise of Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria. He believed his country was on a path to economic success in the Middle East. When things didn’t go as he planned, however, Erdogan refused to adapt his policy toward the region.

He continued to behave as if Turkey had regained its Ottoman grandeur. In 2014, he built a $615 million presidential palace, and in 2018, he acquired a $500 million presidential plane as a donation from Qatar. Former friends turned into adversaries, save for a couple of exceptions like blockaded Qatar and Libya’s beleaguered Government of National Accord in Tripoli.

Erdogan’s neo-Ottomanism alienated him from Egypt after the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Turkey’s ambitious objectives also alarmed United Arab Emirates leaders, who feared the rise of political Islam, and Saudi leaders, who did not forget the destruction of the first and second Saudi states in the 19th century at the hands of the Ottomans and their allies.

But perhaps the most significant challenge to Turkey’s plan to boost its position in the Middle East came from Russia, a major economic partner for Turkey. The two countries support opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Libya, though their engagement in these conflicts is driven by very different goals.

Russia’s Libya policy is pragmatic and driven by economic interest. After Gadhafi’s regime collapsed in 2011, Russia lost contracts worth $10 billion. Western support for the GNA fell well short of what the UAE, Egypt and the Saudis were giving to Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the opposition Libyan National Army – and Russian President Vladimir Putin seized on the potential opportunity to win lucrative post-conflict contracts by offering Haftar much-needed support. Mercenaries from the Kremlin-associated Wagner Group played a decisive role in pushing GNA forces to the gates of Tripoli. However, had the GNA prevailed against Haftar and promised Russia significant reconstruction deals, Putin could have switched alliances and instead supported the GNA. After all, unlike Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, Russia does not have a real issue with the GNA’s maritime deal with Turkey, which revamped existing economic zones in the Mediterranean. So even though the Turkish SADAT security group has sent some 2,400 members of the pro-Ankara Syrian National Army to fight alongside the GNA, the divide between Russia and Turkey is not over Libya. Rather, it’s over Syria.

In Syria, Turkey’s vital national interests do not sit well with either Russia or the United States. The lingering issue between the U.S. and Turkey pertains to the fate of Syrian Kurds. In October 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump warned Erdogan against pushing the Kurds too hard. In a letter addressed to Erdogan, Trump said he did not “want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy” should Turkey refuse to protect the Kurds during an offensive in northern Syria. Erdogan understands geopolitics and knows he cannot go far in challenging U.S. regional policy without compromising Turkey’s national interest, which vehemently opposes cross-border linkages between Kurds in Turkey and Syria. The U.S. seems to have come to terms with Turkey on this sensitive issue.

Similarly, Erdogan understands Turkey’s history with Russia and is wary about military escalation. After all, the Ottoman Empire’s decline in the Balkans and North Africa was ushered in by the Russian Empire’s victory at the Battle of Stavuchany in 1739 and the subsequent Russo-Turkish wars in the 19th century. In 1853, Russian Czar Nicholas I named the Ottoman Empire the “sick man of Europe.”
 
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Erdogan does not want a military confrontation with Russia or the Russian-backed Syrian army. Rather, he wants a political deal with Russia, even though he does not trust Putin. Turkey’s involvement in Syria is not popular at home, even within the AKP. And Erdogan also knows that Russia does not want to get bogged down in another drawn-out war, as it did in Afghanistan during the 1980s, which is why Moscow’s participation in the Syrian conflict has been limited to providing air support to the Assad regime.

But Turkey lacks real options to stop the fighting in Idlib. Erdogan will fight in Idlib only to the extent that Putin allows him. He realizes that he has to settle for the establishment of a demilitarized zone along the border to accommodate refugees fleeing Idlib, and he is not willing to jeopardize Turkish interests elsewhere for the sake of victory in northern Syria. Turkey’s economic prosperity is not contingent on seizing Idlib, but it is reliant on cooperation with Russia. More than 7 million Russian tourists visit Turkey every year. Turkey’s nuclear energy program depends heavily on Russian technical expertise and support. The TurkStream natural gas pipeline, which runs from Russia to Turkey, is vital for the country’s economic development. Erdogan wouldn’t allow his anger over Russia’s violation of the Sochi and Astana agreements, which called for de-escalation in Idlib, to obstruct his vision for Turkey. The Syrian regime’s territorial gains following its offensive in Idlib that started in April 2019 and resumed in December are irreversible. The Turkish army can still control the border area, allowing Syrian Arabs to form a buffer zone between themselves and the Kurds. Assad is amenable to such a move because Idlib’s population is not central to his model for a post-conflict Syria.

Putin did not launch Russia’s intervention in Syria to try to end the conflict. Instead, he wanted to make Russia the dominant military power and decisive political player in Syria – and he has succeeded in doing so. Just like in Libya, Russia has economic interests in Syria. In 2018 and 2019, Russian rail transport, agriculture, heavy equipment, hydrocarbons and construction companies were key participants in the Damascus International Fair. And Turkey likewise has economic interests there. It has an opportunity to join in Syria’s reconstruction if it can come to an accommodation with the Syrian regime, which is only a matter of time.

Turkey’s opposition to the Syrian government has therefore become counterproductive. Turkey is an ascending regional power that needs to make peace with its neighbors and focus on economic development instead of aggrandizing power. Russia, however, aspires to play a leading role in the construction of a new security order in the Middle East. Nostalgic about its Soviet past, Russia refuses to accept its status as a regional power and wants to engage the U.S. as its equal. So while Erdogan uses a lot of rhetoric about trying to restore Turkey's former glory, his approach to the Middle East will be more pragmatic.   




Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Turkey, Russia, and Syria 2.0
« Reply #252 on: February 20, 2020, 11:10:10 AM »
   
Daily Memo: Turkish Operations in Syria
By: GPF Staff

A Turkish offensive? Reports of clashes between pro-Turkey rebels and Syrian government forces in Nayreb, located south of the city of Idlib, have raised concerns that a Turkish offensive in Syria has begun. After Turkish soldiers and allied militias exchanged fire with Syrian regime forces, airstrikes – possibly Russian – killed two Turkish soldiers and forced the others to withdraw. Syrian commanders and several Turkish news agencies have already confirmed that an “operation” is underway. For weeks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Turkey would launch an operation by the end of February unless Russian and Syrian forces withdrew to lines outlined in the 2018 Sochi agreement, and that it would attack anything it considered a threat. After Turkey rejected Russia’s offer to create a humanitarian corridor along the Turkish-Syrian border in Idlib, Ankara had been exploring its options before it makes a decisive next step. There are unconfirmed rumors, for example, that it asked NATO to conduct “preventative flights” over Idlib to stave off more Russian air operations.

Even so, discussions over Idlib continue. Ankara and Moscow are still debating the possibility of continuing limited cooperation through joint patrols in the northwest. And hosts of the Astana talks – Turkey, Iran and Russia – plan to meet in Tehran in March to discuss a solution.

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Turkey unleashes migrants at Greece
« Reply #255 on: March 01, 2020, 08:02:37 PM »
I have been underlining the issue of the 3.5+M Arab refugees in Turkey for a while now.  As related in the FUBAR thread, Turkey now has reason to unleash some of them as a form of practical extortion to get help against the Russians.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8061905/EU-high-alert-30-000-migrants-Turkeys-border-Greece-Bulgaria.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490

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D1: Turkey-Greece
« Reply #256 on: March 04, 2020, 09:22:09 AM »
Two more Turkish soldiers died in Syria today and right before Turkish President Erdogan departs for new ceasefire talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Moscow, AP reports today from the Turkish capital.

To date, Turkish-Syrian fighting in NW Syria has killed 58 Turkish troops over the past month," AP writes, "including 33 soldiers killed Thursday in a single airstrike."

And on Europe's doorstep, "Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades Wednesday morning to repulse a push by migrants to cross its land border from Turkey," AP reports separately today from Turkey's far northwestern border, near Bulgaria.

Bigger picture: "More than 10,000 migrants have been trying to breach the border since Turkey said last Thursday it would no longer abide by a 2016 deal with the European Union to halt illegal migration flows to Europe in return for billions of euros in aid," Reuters reports from the Greek island of Lesbos. "EU leaders on Tuesday pledged 700 million euros to help Greece handle the migrant crisis and urged Turkey to hold up its end of the 2016 accord. They fear a repeat of the 2015-16 migrant crisis, when more than a million migrants came to western Europe via Turkey and the Balkans, straining European security and welfare services and boosting support for far-right parties."

And by the way: "Greece's sea border with Turkey has also come under pressure," AP adds. "In the past few days, hundreds of people have headed to Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast in dinghies… Greece sent a navy ship to the island of Lesbos Wednesday to house more than 400 of the new arrivals. Tension has mounted with some local residents on the island, where the main migrant camp is massively overcrowded." More here. And The Wall Street Journal's Ahmed Deeb has some arresting images of the migrant journey across Turkey, here.





Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Cease fire with Russia weakens Turkey's influence in Syria
« Reply #257 on: March 06, 2020, 06:34:12 AM »


A Cease-Fire With Russia Appears to Shrink Turkey's Influence in Syria
4 MINS READ
Mar 5, 2020 | 21:00 GMT
The Big Picture

Turkey and Russia have different strategies in Syria, and they've come up against each other in Idlib province in the country's northwest. Turkey has now faced a serious Russian-backed campaign to retake the province and is scrambling for options to preserve its influence there — and keep its entire Syria strategy from unraveling.

See The Syrian Civil War

By agreeing with Russia to enact a cease-fire in northwestern Syria starting at 12 a.m. March 6, Turkey appears willing to sacrifice significant territory held by the rebel forces it supports to ensure that violence stops as soon as possible. In doing so, Turkey is setting up Russia and Syria for their next offensive in Idlib province with no real solution in sight for refugees in the area. The deal is designed to allow the de-escalation process between Turkey on the one side and Russia, Syria and Iran on the other to begin in earnest and to reduce tensions between Turkey and Russia in Idlib.

The initial details of the cease-fire announced March 5 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin indicate that Turkey will accept a reduced sphere of influence in Syria, as the current front lines will become the new demarcation zones between the two sides and a demilitarized "security corridor" will cut through a significant portion of the rebel-held territory along the M4 highway. Joint patrols by Turkish and Russian troops are to guarantee the M4 highway corridor's de-escalation, which is set to be 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) deep to the highway's north and south.

From a military perspective, the security corridor along the M4 highway drastically affects the ability of rebel forces supported by Turkey to defend the city of Idlib and areas to the south of it. The rebel-held city of Jisr al-Shughour even falls entirely within the corridor. Rebel forces will no longer be able to build out defensive positions in-depth, something that has helped them to slow and even push back against the most recent Syrian government offensive. If and when fighting were to resume in Idlib, government forces will be able to rapidly advance into this demilitarized security zone, as well as areas to the south of it that will become untenable because of this agreement. As such, the cease-fire has allowed Turkey to protect a portion of rebel-controlled Idlib temporarily, but at a cost to its future sustainability.

Even as its military benefits are questionable, the deal is a diplomatic success for Turkey, albeit a limited one.

Even as its military benefits are questionable, the deal is a diplomatic success for Turkey, albeit a limited one. Turkey increasingly was finding itself having to take greater and greater military risks to deter Syrian advances, including a drone campaign against Syrian government forces. With this cease-fire, Turkey can begin to return its relationship with Russia to a more stable level, and Turkey's working ties with Russia in Syria's northeast, as well as over other defense matters, appear to be uninterrupted, at the moment at least.

As for Turkey's future relationship with Europe, there may be little change in Ankara's current refugee strategy. Turkey is under domestic pressure to ease its refugee share, and with no military reversals in Idlib, some Idlib refugees will continue to push into Turkey for fear that this cease-fire delays rather than prevents future advances by Damascus. Turkey is likely to continue to use Syrian refugees as leverage against Europe to gain new support in the face of this ongoing challenge.

Finally, Turkey's relationship with the United States appears unaltered, with little direct U.S. support for Turkey expected in Idlib. Rhetorical support was forthcoming, but even as Ankara called for no-fly zones and military equipment (specifically U.S. Patriot missile systems), Washington showed little inclination to involve itself in Syria further, setting up Russia as the more valuable partner for Turkey.

Crafty_Dog

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Don't expect a Turkey-Russia War in Syria
« Reply #258 on: March 06, 2020, 12:31:57 PM »
Don't Expect a Turkey-Russia War in Syria
by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
March 6, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/60536/turkish-syrian-conflict

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Stratfor: Turkey provoking another Migrant Crisis?
« Reply #259 on: March 07, 2020, 07:39:28 AM »
Is Europe on the Cusp of Another Migration Crisis?
Adriano Bosoni
Senior Europe Analyst, Stratfor
Emily Hawthorne
Middle East and North Africa Analyst, Stratfor
9 MINS READ

Mar 6, 2020 | 19:28 GMT

A photo of refugees and migrants waiting in line to receive blankets and food near the Greek border in Edirne, Turkey, on March 5, 2020.

Refugees and migrants wait in line to receive blankets and food near the Greek border in Edirne, Turkey, on March 5, 2020. Thousands have flocked to the border since the Turkish government announced it would allow migrants to cross into Europe on March 1.

HIGHLIGHTS

There is a high chance that a migration crisis in 2020 results in a situation similar to the one that unfolded in 2015, with Greece again bearing most of the weight of the migration influx.

But unlike five years ago, Germany will be more willing to protect the European Union's external border and less interested in accepting a large number of migrants.

Turkey will also be more willing to weaponize the country's landmark migrant agreement with the European Union to secure additional diplomatic and financial help from the bloc.

On March 1, Turkey announced it would no longer enforce an agreement with the European Union to prevent migrants from entering the Continental bloc. Since then, tens of thousands of migrants have been trying to enter Greece from Turkey, fueling fears of another looming migration crisis in Europe. In response, the Greek government has increased security at its borders and announced that no asylum requests would be accepted for a month — though it's far from certain whether Greece will be able to contain a continued flood of migrants at its doorstep. Unless Turkey changes its position in the coming weeks, there's a good chance Greece's sea and land borders will once again become the hottest access point for Europe-bound migrants. But unlike the crisis in 2015, Athens will find even fewer EU countries willing to help lift the load this time around.

The Big Picture

Because of its weak economy, Greece is not the final destination for most migrants. But in 2015, many migrants either ran out of resources to keep moving north to wealthier countries in Europe or they found that other transit countries, such as Serbia and Hungary, had closed their borders. While a new migration crisis will likely repeat some of these patterns, several new developments over the past five years will also play a significant role in shaping how a new crisis could unfold in the coming weeks.

Turkey Lights the Fuse

At the heart of the unfolding new migrant crisis is Turkey's willingness to gamble its landmark migrant agreement with the European Union. Turkey's struggling economy is having a direct political impact on the popularity of its government, and Ankara knows it might ultimately prove unable to ward off a Syrian and Russian incursion into Syria's Idlib province. The popularity of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) also risks waning amid increasingly angry and cash-strapped Turks, who see the country's large refugee population as partially to blame for their grievances. This was made clear by the country's 2019 local elections, in which the AKP suffered sizable losses among urban voters living in closest proximity to refugees. This, combined with the economic headwinds Turkey has experienced since 2015, has created an even more hostile environment in Turkey for refugees. And in 2019, Ankara imposed tighter residency restrictions on refugees.


Against the backdrop of these mounting economic and political threats, an increasingly desperate Ankara has shown that it's willing to breach its migration agreement with the European Union to secure more support from the bloc. Specifically, Turkey wants more money to help provide for the refugees and migrants it is currently hosting, and more EU diplomatic support in its offensive against Syrian and Russian forces, including support for a no-fly zone and long-term refugee resettlement in northern Syria (which Germany has already given support for, but cannot provide alone). Ankara knows that threatening to scrap the existing migrant agreement can help force Brussels to fall in line. And should the March 5 cease-fire between Turkey and Russia fall through, Ankara will be even less likely to remove this lever of migrants as leverage in its EU negotiations.

Similarities to the 2015 Crisis

A new migration crisis would likely repeat some of the patterns of the previous crisis, including:

Greece's lack of capacity. Greece has very limited room to deal with new migrants and is likely already nearing its capacity.

Around 74,600 asylum seekers reached Greece last year, the highest number in the European Union. Some 42,000 of them are trapped in migrant camps in the islands, as Athens does not allow them to move to the mainland until their legal situation is cleared. Reports from the ground say that most migrants are crammed in facilities that are being used well beyond their capacity. In recent months, migrants have protested in some of the islands, particularly in Lesbos, which is home to some 25,000 asylum seekers.

Closed borders along the Balkan migration route. In 2015, many migrants found that countries along the so-called Balkan migration route to Northern Europe, including Serbia and Hungary, had closed their borders. Should another crisis unfold in the coming months, countries like Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia (which are not in the European Union) are likely to again close their borders in an attempt to block the migration route. Hungary, which is an EU member, may also do the same if migratory pressure increases significantly.

More money, less action out of Brussels. Under the European Union's current migration rules, migrants have to apply for asylum in the country where they first enter the bloc, which Greece has long argued unfairly places the burden on them. But a systematic, blocwide effort to distribute migrants across the European Union remains unlikely, as countries in Northern and Eastern Europe will reject any move to alter these rules. If the crisis worsens, and if the number of arrivals in Greece and other countries on the bloc's external border increases, we are instead more likely to see bilateral agreements, under which countries like Germany would accept small groups of migrants in an attempt to ease the pressure on Greece. Brussels, meanwhile, will likely continue to throw money at the problem as it has done in similar situations in the past. And indeed, we've already seen a bit of this, with the European Commission announcing it was sending Greece 700 million euros ($791 million) to help maintain the recent influx of migrants, as well as extra personnel from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (also known as Frontex) to help protect Greece's borders.

Differences From the 2015 Crisis

In addition to these similarities, there are also some important differences that will shape how a potential migration crisis would unfold in 2020 compared with the crisis in 2015:

Stricter EU asylum policies. Some migrants will now have a harder time requesting asylum in 2020 than they did in 2015, especially those who have been in Turkey for years and cannot really claim to be running away from extreme hardship. While this could weigh negatively on some migrants' cost-benefit analysis of whether to attempt crossing into EU territory, the flow of attempted crossings in recent days shows that for thousands of migrants the risk is still worth taking.

If there is an influx of "new" asylum seekers, that is, people who are currently in Syria and have been displaced because of recent events in Idlib, they may have a better chance of successfully obtaining the refugee status, but it will still be hard. In January, Greece introduced new asylum rules that make the application process faster, which also has the goal of making deportations faster — though Athens will probably continue to struggle to enforce deportations, and many of the migrants whose asylum requests are rejected will probably remain in Greece and live in legal limbo.

If Turkey continues allowing migrants to flood its border, Greece could again become the epicenter of Europe's next migration crisis.

Germany's skepticism around asylum seekers. While Germany may accept a few migrants from Greece, it probably will not open its borders as it did five years ago. Germany reacted to the 2015 migration crisis by welcoming around a million asylum seekers into the country, which, in the long run, has weakened the popularity of Chancellor Angela Merkel and contributed to her decision not to seek reelection in 2021. Germany's open-door policy in 2015 also contributed to the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which has become the main opposition party since the country's 2018 general election. Germany's reaction to a new immigration crisis would, therefore, probably be different this time around. In fact, the German government has been posting tweets in Arabic, Farsi, English and German saying that Berlin supports Athens' recent efforts to protect the bloc's external borders, which is basically meant to discourage migrants from trying to enter the European Union.

Instead of taking in migrants, Germany is likely to support granting additional resources, money and assistance to Greece to help protect the border with Turkey. Berlin will also reach out to Ankara to try to keep the migration agreement in place, and even propose cooperation on issues such as establishing a no-fly zone in northwestern Syria. Finally, Germany will increase pressure on Russia to de-escalate the conflict in Syria. In this, the problem for Germany is that it has very limited influence on Moscow, a key actor in the war, and has little to offer to Turkey other than EU funds and diplomatic support.

Impact on Italy

At least during an early phase of a new migration crisis, Italy is unlikely to be significantly affected, as its weak economy will make it a less attractive final destination for migrants entering the European Union from Turkey compared with more financially secure countries such as Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Instead, the main threat for Italy is events in Turkey encouraging migrants in other parts of the world to try to reach the European Union. If this happens, migration routes that have been relatively calm in recent years could be reactivated, such as the Libya-Italy route.

In mid-2017, Italy reached a deal with the Libyan government to have the Libyan coast guard begin intercepting migrant boats in exchange for money, resources and training. But this deal is fragile for two key reasons:

Human trafficking organizations who transport migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to Libya, and then to Italy, may decide that the conditions are ripe again to resume their operations, which could overwhelm Libya's weak and fragile government.
The current Libyan government may also decide that a new migration crisis in Europe is a good opportunity to ask Italy for more money and resources in exchange for keeping their agreement in place.

A significant surge in the arrival of migrants would happen at a very difficult time for Italy. The country is expected to have very low economic growth in 2020, and the impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak could put it in a recession. Authorities in Rome recently announced a stimulus package to deal with the economic impact of the outbreak, but an immigration crisis would create additional problems for Rome's already strained coffers. At the same time, the Italian coalition government is fragile, and the opposition League party, which has a strong anti-immigration stance, is polling strongly. An early election in Italy within the context of a recession and immigration crisis would certainly increase the chances of the League winning the vote and accessing power — an outcome that would further spook financial markets and investors' already shaky confidence, given that some League members have pushed for Italy to leave the eurozone.


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Can Turkey defeat Russia in Syria?
« Reply #262 on: March 11, 2020, 09:03:37 AM »
Can Turkey Defeat Russia's Army in Syria?
by Michael Peck
The National Interest
March 10, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/60553/can-turkey-defeat-russias-army-in-syria

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GPF: Turkey further unleashes Arab refugees on Greece
« Reply #263 on: March 11, 2020, 09:11:32 PM »
Turkey stands pat. Amid mounting pressure from Europe, Turkey is remaining firm on its refusal to close its border to refugees headed to Europe, a move that the EU said violated the 2016 migrant agreement between Ankara and Brussels. Turkey said that until the EU updates the agreement to meet its expectations on visa-free travel, increased financial assistance and an improved customs union, it will leave its border with Greece open to migrants and refugees. And it appears Turkey may be escalating the border dispute with Athens. A video posted on social media by a correspondent for Germany’s Bild newspaper showed a Turkish Coast Guard vessel ramming a Greek Coast Guard ship off the coast of the Greek island of Kos. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly defended the move, saying that Turkey has taken the moral high ground in defending refugees’ rights and saying, “They will run away and we will chase them. That’s how it will be from now on.” In two other incidents on Wednesday, Turkish special forces reportedly fired across the border over a Greek military vehicle and two Turkish F-16s flew at low altitude over the Evros land border.

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Re: GPF: Turkey further unleashes Arab refugees on Greece
« Reply #264 on: March 11, 2020, 09:33:27 PM »
Why is Turkey still in NATO?


Turkey stands pat. Amid mounting pressure from Europe, Turkey is remaining firm on its refusal to close its border to refugees headed to Europe, a move that the EU said violated the 2016 migrant agreement between Ankara and Brussels. Turkey said that until the EU updates the agreement to meet its expectations on visa-free travel, increased financial assistance and an improved customs union, it will leave its border with Greece open to migrants and refugees. And it appears Turkey may be escalating the border dispute with Athens. A video posted on social media by a correspondent for Germany’s Bild newspaper showed a Turkish Coast Guard vessel ramming a Greek Coast Guard ship off the coast of the Greek island of Kos. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly defended the move, saying that Turkey has taken the moral high ground in defending refugees’ rights and saying, “They will run away and we will chase them. That’s how it will be from now on.” In two other incidents on Wednesday, Turkish special forces reportedly fired across the border over a Greek military vehicle and two Turkish F-16s flew at low altitude over the Evros land border.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #265 on: March 12, 2020, 12:34:46 AM »
Guessing here-- off the top of my head:

* to keep them from throwing in completely with the Russians;
* because they work well with the Ukrainians
* because three is an uneven number (Turkey, Russia, Iran)
* because they have serious blackmail leverage with 3.7 million Arab refugees


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Turkey: Get out and stay out!
« Reply #267 on: March 15, 2020, 09:36:55 AM »

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Greek view of Turkey's Migrant Assault into Europe
« Reply #268 on: March 17, 2020, 12:00:17 AM »
Interview: A Greek Perspective on Turkey's Migrant Assault into Europe
by Marilyn Stern
Middle East Forum Radio
March 16, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/60578/turkey-instrumentalizes-migrants-to-blackmail-eu

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Turkey & Russia not friends after all
« Reply #269 on: March 27, 2020, 03:16:29 PM »
Turkey and Russia: Not Friends After All
by Burak Bekdil
BESA Center Perspectives
March 26, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/60622/turkey-and-russia-not-friends-after-all


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Re: Turks cover up Iranian dissident kill
« Reply #271 on: April 02, 2020, 06:13:41 AM »
https://www.meforum.org/60630/turks-cover-up-murder-of-iranian-dissident?utm_source=Middle+East+Forum&utm_campaign=d2e99afb48-Frantzman_2020_04_01_10_33&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_086cfd423c-d2e99afb48-33691909&goal=0_086cfd423c-d2e99afb48-33691909&mc_cid=d2e99afb48

Working on the not so simple math and logic in front of us:  If Turkey is a co-conspirator ally with Iran, helping in this case to cover the murder of this dissident, and Iran is an enemy of the US, actively and currently attacking and killing Americans,,, how is it that we are allies with Turkey??

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #272 on: April 02, 2020, 08:01:42 AM »
As best as I understand the logic at present (the previous logic not really applying any more) and in no particular order:

a) Turkey can unleash the better part of four million Arab refugees into Europe;
b) Turkey has good relations with Ukraine;
c) Turkey is geopolitical counterweight to Iran, Russia
d) We haven't a clue as to how to undo the NATO relationship




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Re: Turkey
« Reply #273 on: April 02, 2020, 11:10:22 AM »
As best as I understand the logic at present (the previous logic not really applying any more) and in no particular order:

a) Turkey can unleash the better part of four million Arab refugees into Europe;
b) Turkey has good relations with Ukraine;
c) Turkey is geopolitical counterweight to Iran, Russia
d) We haven't a clue as to how to undo the NATO relationship

All true, especially the part where we have no idea how to undo the NATO commitment.  Giving them the boot from NATO and friendship would drive them even closer to Russia and Iran.   Also, the threat of getting the boot from NATO is a better lever before we do it than after.  On the other side of the ledger are the dozen, at least, top reasons they are not our ally.  Denying us access to a northern front into Saddam's Iraq was one.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2020, 11:17:17 AM by DougMacG »


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Re: Turkey
« Reply #275 on: May 25, 2020, 11:03:03 AM »


Turkey's President Erdoğan Underwent Surgery for Cancer, Suffers from Epilepsy
by Abdullah Bozkurt
Nordic Monitor
May 24, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/60978/erdogan-had-cancer-suffers-from-epilepsy


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GPF: Turkey and the S-400 continued
« Reply #277 on: July 01, 2020, 05:11:52 PM »
U.S., Turkey and S-400s, cont’d. The future of U.S.-Turkish relations once again features prominently in debates surrounding the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. On Monday, a U.S. senator proposed an amendment calling for the Army to purchase the S-400 missile defense system that Russia sold to Turkey. Another senator made a counterproposal calling for the government to apply sanctions against Turkey within 30 days of passage of the NDAA. Buying the S-400 would effectively remove one of the bigger impediments to U.S.-Turkish cooperation and clear the way for stronger military ties, including the sale of F-35 fighter jets. Applying sanctions would do the opposite. Washington will need all the allies it can get if it intends to follow through on its commitment to withdraw from the Middle East

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GPF: Turkey and NATO
« Reply #278 on: July 02, 2020, 05:58:35 AM »
France abandoned a NATO mission in the Mediterranean in the wake of an incident with Turkey.
By: Geopolitical Futures

NATO revolves around Turkey. After a seven-month standoff, Turkey finally lifted its veto and allowed the alliance to approve a defense plan for Poland and the Baltic states. Reuters reported in November 2019 that Turkey was blocking the plan in order to pressure its NATO allies to recognize the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as a terrorist group. (A number of NATO states, including the U.S., have partnered with the YPG in Syria and thus refused to back down.) The operational outline of the defense plan for the bloc’s eastern frontier is classified, but it reportedly includes bulking up air defenses and speeding up the deployment of allied ground forces in the event of conflict with Russia.

But frictions between Turkey and other NATO member states are far from over. The latest disagreement centers on the Mediterranean Sea. According to Turkey’s ambassador to France, the French informed the Turks and NATO that they are suspending their involvement in NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian. France accused Turkey last month of behaving aggressively toward a French warship, the frigate Courbet, as it was participating in the alliance’s maritime security operation. The Turkish ambassador said Paris’ withdrawal came after a NATO investigation into the incident did not support France’s claims. An unnamed French Armed Forces Ministry official said France had temporarily withdrawn from the mission while it waited for NATO to meet demands it had laid out in a letter.

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Turkey tests S-400s against its own f-16s?
« Reply #279 on: July 09, 2020, 11:29:27 PM »
Russia Says Turkey Tested Its S-400s on US F-16 Jets
by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
July 8, 2020

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Components of the S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane at Akinci Air Base, near Ankara, Turkey, on July 12, 2019. (Reuters)

Turkey, a member of NATO, tested the Russian-made S-400 air defense system on US-made F-16 jets during a drill in November 2019, Russia's state media TASS has reported. The use of the S-400 against the F-16s was already reported last year, but the new details from Russian media appear to cement the claim and infer that something more was going on in those tests.

Russia has an interest in knowing how well its air defense performs against US warplanes. Russia's S-400 is the top tier of its numerous air defense systems. Some of these systems have been called into question due to mistakes. S-200s used by the Syrian regime shot down a Russian airplane by mistake in 2018. Iranian models of Russian systems have scored big in 2019 with the shoot-down of a US drone, but the Iranians also shot down a civilian jetliner in January.

In Syria there are questions about the radar and reliability of the S-300s and Pantsir and other systems abilities to track modern drones and fifth generational jets. Russia's Pantsirs were also destroyed by Turkish drones in battles in Idlib and Libya this year.

Why would Ankara test the S-400 against its own F-16s, unless at the behest of Moscow?

It is therefore of great importance for Russia to know how the S-400 performed against a NATO member's F-16s. What Turkey got out of this test is less clear now. Why would Ankara test the S-400 it bought from Russia against its own F-16s, unless it was at the behest of Moscow, wanting to see how it performed? The narrative last year was that Turkey merely wanted to test communications between the platforms so it didn't shoot down its own jets.

Russia's TASS media only says that a source close to the Turkish defense industry told TASS that the S-400 was tested on the US-made F-16s. The S-400s are the center a controversy with Washington. By acquiring them for billions of dollars, Turkey has distanced itself from its traditional US ally and become a closer ally of Russia.

The US administration has begged Turkey not to move toward Moscow, with one US senator even suggesting to buy the Russian S-400s from Turkey to please Ankara. What exactly the US would do with S-400s it doesn't need is unclear – and it is unclear if Moscow would let the technology be floated on a barge over to the US to be picked apart by US engineers.

Russia's reasoning for bringing up the November tests this week is also unclear. Turkey got the S-400s in July 2019. It began to test them in November and they were supposed to be operational in April 2020. But they don't seem to be operational yet. This raises questions about what was the overall point of Turkey spending billions on air defense it doesn't need. For Russia, the point seems to be its desire to bring this up as part of an attempt to sink any questions about Turkey and the US working more closely.

Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.


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Re: Turkey
« Reply #281 on: July 13, 2020, 06:10:10 AM »
July 13, 2020   View On Website
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    Turkey's Defense Industry and the Projection of Regional Power
A history of mistrust compels Turkey to fend for itself.
By: Hilal Khashan

Turkey’s relations with the West have never been smooth, not even when it adopted secularism and became a member of NATO. This has had a profound effect on the country’s defense industry. A history of arms embargoes and, alternatively, vast supplies of sophisticated weaponry convinced Ankara that it needed to fend for itself.

Indeed, when the West imposed an embargo after Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, Ankara established the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation, a significant enterprise that coordinates the activities of 14 arms manufacturers. It’s been busy ever since. In 1975, the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation established the Aselsan Corporation to meet the country’s rapidly expanding military electronic needs, such as advanced automated systems, guidance, electro-optics, communication and information technologies. Roketsan, which specializes in missile launchers and sea defense systems, was founded in 1988 and is Turkey’s leading defense contractor. In 2007, Turkish Aerospace Industries, in collaboration with British AgustaWestland, launched the T-129 helicopter project. The government also established the Presidency of Defense Industries in 1985 to oversee the country’s defense needs and ensure national security. It’s now under the Office of the President. Since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed power in 2003, domestically made military equipment rose from 20 percent to 70 percent.

The plan is for Turkey to become self-sufficient in providing for its military hardware needs and independent from external pressure by 2053. And since the country boasts some first-class manufacturers, it may well be able to.

Inherent Fragility

Turkey is the 14th-largest arms exporter in the world and accounts for 1 percent of total global military exports. It exports mainly wheeled armored vehicles, attack helicopters, howitzers, unmanned aerial vehicles and frigates. It has a fixed customer base in majority-Muslim countries like Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Oman. (Poor relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates deny Turkey even more lucrative Muslim markets.) Its sales to Guatemala, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are insignificant, and except for minor sales to the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands, NATO countries tend to not buy Turkish military hardware. Even so, Turkey believes its military exports will bring in (a very optimistic) $25 billion in 2023.
 
(click to enlarge)

The future of Turkey’s defense industry hinges on the success of its domestic tank and fighter jet projects. The tank is manufactured with technical assistance from South Korean Hyundai Rotem and expected to gradually replace the obsolete Leopard and M-60 tanks. Barring unforeseen technological hurdles, the Otokar company will put the battle tank in service before the end of 2021.

Founded in 1984, TAI specializes in earth observation and surveillance satellites and manufacturing components for the Airbus A350 and Airbus A400M programs. TAI and SSB are involved in a large project to manufacture the TF-X, a fifth-generation fighter that will replace the F-16. The program has gained greater importance for Turkey after the U.S. decided to halt F-35 jet deliveries. Erdogan’s controversial decision to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missiles angered the U.S. and drove the Trump administration to punish Turkey for turning to Russia for military procurement. The U.S. successfully pressured BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce to withdraw from partnerships with Turkey to build the engines for the TF-X.

Turkey opted instead to manufacture its engine and subcontracted Aselsan and TR Motor to develop an indigenous engine. The United States’ punitive measures will delay the launch of the TF-X maiden flight from 2023 to 2029. Turkish officials tried to market the TF-X project as the first Islamic jet, but their attempts to make the TF-X jet a multi-partied program did not succeed. Ankara invited Malaysia to become a partner, and Kuala Lumpur did not respond. Perceiving the project as a black hole, Pakistan, Indonesia and Kazakhstan chose to stay out of it.

The Turkish defense industry faces serious challenges that include brain drain, currency devaluation, uncertain foreign supplies and regional disputes. The financial crisis in Turkey caused purchasing power for the majority of citizens to plummet. Talented Turkish scientists left the country to pursue lucrative employment offers commensurate with their qualifications. Turkey’s poor relations with most countries in the Middle East dampened the outlook for its arms exports.

Moreover, the defense industry is inherently fragile because it relies heavily on foreign inputs, many of which come from Europe. In the last quarter of 2019, the European Union placed restrictions on the export of raw material and components used in Turkish arms. Frequent sanctions and embargoes hamper its arms production and deny it access to advanced military technology. Its military products are mostly conventional, outdated and poorly made.

Projecting Power

In criticizing the U.S. for excluding Turkey from the F-35 program, Erdogan said Washington awakened a sleeping giant determined to achieve self-sufficiency in fulfilling its military equipment needs. He boasted that Turkey is involved in executing some 700 arms projects. In December 2018, Erdogan signed a decree to privatize the famous Tank and Pallet Factory to be run by a joint Turkish-Qatari firm for 25 years. Many Turkish nationalists have become convinced that involving a foreign country in its operations undermined Turkey's national security interests. Erdogan sees beyond national security in the narrow sense and aspires to establish a greater role for Turkey in regional affairs.

Erdogan believes that a deterrent military capability is essential for achieving regional power status. Already there is evidence to suggest it has. Turkish military support for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord recently turned the battle against the forces led by Khalifa Haftar, backed by the UAE, Russia and Egypt. A few months ago, Turkish UAVs inflicted heavy casualties on Syrian regime forces and halted their advance on Idlib.

Erdogan does not trust the weapons suppliers in the West and has a political vision that distances him from NATO. He is bitter because eight NATO member states sent troops to Lithuania to deter Russia from intruding into the Baltic states, but none of them expressed interest in sending troops to northern Syria to protect the southern flank of the alliance.

In that sense, Erdogan’s defense industry is part of his larger regional ambitions. He sees himself as a reformer and architect of regional power. To that end, he has reined in the Turkish military, which had previously been seen as the guarantor of secularism and republicanism, and he has dismissed from service all the participants in the 2016 coup attempt, including their supporters in the bureaucracy and academia, jailing about a third of the top brass in the army and air force.

Erdogan’s policies have drawn comparisons to Mahmud II, who became Ottoman sultan in 1808 and endeavored to modernize the ailing empire. The problem is that he is remembered for massacring thousands of Janissary soldiers for dominating the public sphere and corrupting the state machinery.   




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MEF: Greece shuts down Turkey's migrant blackmail
« Reply #282 on: July 13, 2020, 08:52:46 AM »

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GPF: Turkey finds gas in Black Sea
« Reply #283 on: August 21, 2020, 11:18:00 AM »
    Daily Memo: Turkey's Major Discovery in the Black Sea
Ankara hopes the gas discovery will put it on the road to energy independence.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Ankara's big find. Turkey has discovered 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the Black Sea, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday. The Fatih drill ship found the reserves, which Ankara hopes to put to public use by 2023, in a drilling zone called Tuna 1 on July 20. It could be a key step toward energy independence for the country as it continues to tangle with other countries in the Eastern Mediterranean over energy reserves there.

On Thursday, the Greek government said it would ratify agreements with Egypt and Italy next week on maritime boundaries that Turkey says infringe on its territory in the sea. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a meeting at Macron’s summer residence that they would protect EU member states’ sovereignty and defend international law in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Greek government, however, has accused the EU of not being forceful enough against Turkish moves in the region. The Greek prime minister has argued that the EU cannot have a different approach toward Turkey and Belarus, on which the bloc will impose sanctions following its controversial presidential election. Bloc officials, including European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, said that more time was needed and that the EU would not rush to impose sanctions on Turkey.

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GPF: Turkey's Blue Homeland Strategy
« Reply #284 on: August 28, 2020, 08:42:16 AM »
Turkey’s Navy: Searching for an Edge in the Mediterranean
Ankara’s aspirations go far beyond its capabilities.

By Caroline D. Rose -August 28, 2020
It seems that in every corner of the Middle East, Turkey has inserted itself in one way or another. In northern Iraq and Syria, it’s trying to establish buffer zones to prevent insurgents from penetrating its border. In the Caucasus, it’s trying to protect vital energy supply chains and counter Russian influence. In Somalia and Qatar, it operates shared bases and provides military training programs to maintain a foothold in the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf. And in the Black Sea, where it recently discovered significant natural gas reserves, it will be increasingly assertive to protect its access resources.

Yet for Turkey, the most vital theater is the Eastern Mediterranean. It has become the focus of Turkish energy interests, mercantile opportunities and an emerging, forward-leaning defense posture that not only protects existing Turkish interests but expands them. Turkey’s corresponding naval buildup is ambitious. It has invested significant political capital in establishing a greater Mediterranean foothold – using drilling operations off the coasts of Cyprus and Greek islets, intrusion in conflicts like Libya’s civil war, and gunboat diplomacy against regional rivals to “reclaim” its maritime dominance.

Still, Turkey’s immediate focus is closer to home: deterring conventional threats along its Mediterranean coastline. Operational constraints in the southern Mediterranean, logistical challenges, economic and defense limitations, and rising conventional threats will ensure that for now Turkey remains focused on its own backyard, not the dominant Mediterranean power it claims to be.

Turkey’s Vision

It would be an understatement to say that Turkey’s defense posture looks drastically different than it did just a few decades ago. Until the 1990s, Turkey’s inward focus on its economy, political modernization and infrastructural development, combined with the looming threat of the Soviet Union and its own loyalty to NATO, compelled it to follow a foreign policy based on deterrence rather than expansionism. But in the 1990s, Turkey and the West began to drift apart. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian threat waned, as did the interests shared between Turkey and the West. Ankara’s military leadership adopted a “two and one-half war strategy” – the idea that it should be prepared to wage two wars, one to its east and one to its west, simultaneously, while also fighting an ongoing, unconventional “half war” with Kurdish insurgents at home. The strategy essentially saw Turkey’s location, wedged between the Black and Mediterranean seas, as a vulnerability.

In the 21st century, Turkey began to adopt a more independent, assertive military doctrine. The discovery of hydrocarbons in Turkey’s periphery piqued Ankara’s interest, particularly as it struggled to diversify its natural gas suppliers, and it needed a navy that could help defend its claim over them. It continued to drift away from the West as Brussels walked back its commitment to Turkish membership in the European Union and as it continued to butt heads with its NATO allies.

Natural Gas Cooperation in the Eastern Med
(click to enlarge)

The re-emergence of the Russian threat, an increasingly aggressive Iran and a growing anti-Turkey coalition in the Mediterranean further isolated Ankara. So it introduced the concept of Mavi Vatan, or Blue Homeland, which has dominated strategic thinking among Turkey’s military brass and nationalist politicians. The concept asserts that Turkey should work to dominate the Mediterranean and reclaim the mercantile and maritime supremacy that the Ottomans once had. Essentially, it advocates that Turkey’s location isn’t a vulnerability – it’s an asset that gives the country strategic depth.

The Ottoman Empire, 1683
(click to enlarge)

The purpose of the strategy is not just to expand Turkish influence abroad but also to fulfill many of Turkey’s domestic and financial imperatives. Having a strong naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean allows Turkey to assert claims to oil and gas reserves in contested waters there – which may help Ankara eventually achieve energy independence and even become an energy hub. Boosting Turkey’s own defense industry to reduce its reliance arms imports, which often come with strings attached, is a key component of the domestic agenda of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Investment in indigenous defense manufacturing has introduced a wave of new financial opportunities for the struggling Turkish economy and has increased Turkey’s prestige abroad.

Turkey’s military spending has thus skyrocketed since the 1990s. It went from being the third-largest arms importer to the 14th-largest arms exporter. The country has reduced its arms imports by 48 percent since 2015 and increased its defense budget by 86 percent in the past decade. Turkey has also launched the highly publicized MILGEM program that will roll out indigenously built corvettes and frigates, Type-214 air independent power submarines and MILDEN attack submarines, as well as torpedoes, missiles and sensory equipment. It also announced that it will build 24 vessels (four of which are MILGEM frigates) by the Turkish Republic’s 100th anniversary in 2023.

Turkey’s Limitations

Despite these advancements, Turkey’s naval capabilities are still limited. While it’s laying the groundwork to have a navy capable of projecting power by the 2030s and 2040s, its current operational capabilities can’t extend much beyond the Aegean and the southern Mediterranean. Moreover, though Turkey’s navy is larger than that of its main rival, Greece, there are several other Mediterranean nations with which it must contend. Increased patrols and joint maritime exercises involving Greece, France, Italy, Egypt and even Israel have raised the stakes for conventional conflict. If Turkey poses a serious threat to Greece – say, by violating the partition in Cyprus or attempting to invade Crete – it will have to face a coalition of capable naval forces with substantial combined firepower that would overwhelm Turkey’s own.

Most of Turkey’s naval projects are years – or even decades – away from being operational. Chief among them is its first amphibious assault ship, the TCG Anadolu, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The Anadolu is designed to serve as both a light aircraft carrier and a command center in the Mediterranean. It can sustain combat missions at farther distances by carrying 14 STOVL fighter jets or heavy-lift helicopters, several amphibious assault vehicles, 29 main battle tanks, and four mechanized, two air-cushioned and two personnel landing vehicles. With the ability to carry out an amphibious invasion, it would a threat to the sovereignty of small Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast. It could also aid Turkey’s operations in Libya, allowing for quicker reinforcements, deployment of more equipment for mechanized infantry units and greater airpower projection.

On paper, the TCG Andalou appears to close at least some of the gap in Turkey’s Mediterranean capabilities. But the ship alone won’t give Turkey an edge over the combined forces of France, Egypt, Greece and Israel. The new fleet of locally built ships will assist Turkey’s strategy of defending its perimeter by applying pressure deeper into the Mediterranean, creating new maritime buffers and strengthening its bargaining position against regional rivals. But over the next decade, it will still have to rely mainly on gunboat diplomacy to achieve its defense objectives. Its focus will remain on its littoral waters and projecting power over weaker actors, like Libya and Cyprus and certain Aegean islands. This explains why Turkey’s arsenal doesn’t include a destroyer but does include a growing number of frigates and corvettes that can sail between critical sea lanes and islands in shallow waters.

Until Turkey can secure forward bases and a more powerful maritime fleet, its entire defense strategy will struggle to overcome logistical, refueling and funding constraints. Turkey still faces challenges in equipping enough fuel tankers with an escort fleet that can resupply its vessels, aircraft and patrol boats that venture beyond the Aegean. One light carrier can’t do the job on its own.

Moreover, production delays due to COVID-19 and Turkey’s sluggish economy have raised questions over whether Turkey can complete projects on time, let alone begin production on a second planned assault carrier, the TCG Trakya. Its economic woes have also led to slower growth in Turkey’s defense budget since the country’s 2018 recession. And although the runways of the TCG Anadolu and TCG Trakya have been reportedly designed to also accommodate F-35B Lightning-II jets, Turkey may not even acquire these aircraft given the U.S. decision to cut it out of the F-35 program. Ankara could theoretically acquire comparable aircraft from the U.K., Spain and Italy, but Europe would be reluctant to arm Turkey with fighter jets that could be used to intimidate other Mediterranean states.

Turkey has been juggling its defense priorities in the Levant, Caucasus, Black Sea, Gulf and Red Sea, but it’s now zeroing in on the Eastern Mediterranean, where it hopes to create the impression that it has an operational edge over its regional rivals. But while it incrementally builds up its naval capabilities, its focus will remain on coastal defense – no matter how much it touts its Blue Homeland aspirations.

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GPF: Ups and downs of Turkey-Israel
« Reply #285 on: September 09, 2020, 08:49:53 AM »
   
    The Ups and Downs of Turkish-Israeli Relations
By: Hilal Khashan
Sept. 9, 2020

In 1949, Turkey recognized the state of Israel, becoming the first Muslim country to exchange diplomatic missions with it. Since then, their relations have gone through many highs and lows. In 2004, the American Jewish Congress gave then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan its Profile of Courage award because of his positive attitude toward Israel and the world’s Jewry. Ten years later, it asked him to return it because of his virulent criticism of Israel – which he “gladly” did. Turkish-Israeli relations are once again at a low point, following clashes over the Palestinian issue among other things. But it’s unlikely they will stay that way; both countries are in need of regional allies, and their economic and security interests will outweigh any diplomatic disputes or gestures of disapproval.

The Honeymoon Phase

The relationship between the state of Israel and Turkey extends back decades. In 1957, the two countries established secret intelligence and security relations in response to the Soviet Union’s penetration into the Middle East to supply Egypt and Syria with military hardware and technical assistance. A year later, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion met secretly with his Turkish counterpart and formed the Peripheral Pact, an alliance devoted to military and intelligence cooperation and containing communism.

However, they have also been at odds at various points throughout their relationship. In 1956, Turkey downgraded its diplomatic mission to Israel after Israel participated in the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt. Ankara did so again in 1980 when the Israeli parliament voted to annex the Golan Heights. Turkey voted in favor of U.N. Resolution 3379 that equated Zionism with racism in 1975 and allowed the Palestine Liberation Organization to open an office in Ankara in 1979. Indeed, though the Turks never questioned Israel’s right to exist, the Palestinian issue has been a persistent roadblock to improving ties between the two countries.

But after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Washington in 1993, Turkey and Israel went through a diplomatic honeymoon phase. The Palestinian Authority was formed shortly thereafter, in 1994, and Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, who led the secular True Path Party, visited Gaza and promised to support the Palestinians in any way she could, including by helping to build an airport, a harbor, housing and other infrastructure projects.

The honeymoon lasted a decade and in addition to improved economic and tourism ties included security partnership and technology transfers that helped strengthen the Turkish military. Contrary to expectations, Turkish-Israeli relations actually strengthened after Necmettin Erbakan, who led the Islamist Refah Party, became prime minister in 1996. During his brief time in office, Turkey agreed to allow Israeli air force pilots to train in Turkish air space.

Deteriorating Relations

Their relationship began to change in 2003 when Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister. After Israel assassinated Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Erdogan described his killing as state terrorism. And in September 2007, the Israeli air force flew over Turkish air space during a mission to destroy an illicit Syrian nuclear reactor northeast of Damascus, thwarting Turkey’s efforts to make peace between Syria and Israel.

In 2008, Erdogan walked out of a World Economic Forum summit in Davos to protest Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement. And in 2009, he blocked the Israeli air force from participating in the Anatolian Eagle exercises because of Israel’s offensive in Gaza that year, causing the drills to be canceled.

Relations bottomed out in 2010, when Israeli commandoes killed 10 Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara as the ship tried to break the blockade against Gaza. After Israel refused to apologize for the incident, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador to Ankara.

Still, the two countries continued to cooperate on several fronts. In 2012, Israel repaired five Israeli-built Heron unmanned aerial vehicles and returned them to Turkey. Turkey used them to manufacture its own Bayraktar drones, which were used in Libya and Syria. That same year, Erdogan dispatched a high-level representative to meet with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an effort to revive diplomatic relations. In 2013, Israel’s Elta Systems agreed, after U.S. prodding, to deliver to the Turkish air force airborne electronic systems to fit on four Boeing-737s as a confidence-building measure to lay to rest the Mavi Marmara flotilla affair. Then, in 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama helped broker a rapprochement as the two countries restored diplomatic relations and returned their ambassadors to their posts.

But the warming of relations did not last long. Turkey again expelled the Israeli ambassador in response to Israel’s killing of 290 Palestinian demonstrators demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza in 2018. After openly admitting to intelligence sharing for 24 years, Turkey refused to publicize its intelligence meetings with Israel. It has continued to wield influence among dozens of Palestinian groups inside Israel’s green line, including Jerusalem, through financial aid and other types of support.

Every time Israel attacks Gaza and inflicts significant casualties, Erdogan labels it state terrorism. He has repeatedly warned that he will not allow Israel to annex parts of the West Bank. But his threats ring hollow. It would be militarily unwise and politically impossible for Turkey to stop Israel from moving into the Palestinian territories. Indeed, his threats are mostly rhetorical and don’t extend much beyond recalling ambassadors and decreasing diplomatic missions. The two countries continue to share economic interests that have always risen above their political disagreements. In fact, despite their frayed relationship, the value of their trade increased from $4.7 billion in 2015 to $6.1 billion in 2019.

The two countries also continue to coordinate on security matters, as adversarial countries often do to prevent further deterioration of relations. The last known meeting between the Turkish and Israeli intelligence chiefs occurred in Washington in January. Both countries share concerns over the presence of Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, in Syria. In fact, Israel Defense Forces followed with great interest the Turkish army’s defeat of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit in Idlib last February.

Rebuilding the Relationship

Following the Arab uprisings, Erdogan believed that political change would sweep the region and bolster Turkey’s regional position. But the counterrevolutions dashed his hopes for regional supremacy and turned many Arab states against Ankara. Israel, however, is still eager to restore close ties with Turkey, which it believes can help counter the Iranian threat. Ankara’s growing ties in Central Asia and its promotion of pan-Turkism complicate Tehran’s ability to expand into these former Soviet republics where Russian, Chinese and American influences are paramount.

Erdogan was highly critical of the recent Israeli-Emirati peace agreement, but he’s unlikely to make any retaliatory moves. The deal includes a powerful component on the structure of the region’s future economy, and Turkey does not want to be excluded. Its chances of joining the European Union are slim, and its exclusion from the unfolding economy of the Middle East would ruin its prospects for economic development. Although a 2020 Israeli intelligence report included Turkey in the list of countries and organizations that pose a threat to Israel’s national security, Israeli decision-makers tend to view Erdogan’s fiery rhetoric as strategically insignificant, more of an aggravation than a real threat. Israel is keen on maintaining an open channel of communication with Turkey, irrespective of what Erdogan says.

Among Turkey’s biggest concerns over Israel is its cooperation with Egypt, Greece and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean. The exclusive economic zone that Turkey recently declared in the Eastern Mediterranean technically overlaps with shipping routes used for 99 percent of Israel’s foreign trade. But there is potential for cooperation between the two countries in this area. Israel isn’t opposed to signing a maritime agreement with Turkey to ease tensions in the region; it actually declined to endorse a joint declaration in May signed by the foreign ministers of France, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and the UAE denouncing Turkish provocation in the Eastern Mediterranean. And considering its dire economic state and need for natural resources, Turkey would likely also be open to maintaining good working relations with Israel (and, by extension, Washington).
 
(click to enlarge)

The litmus test of improving Turkish-Israeli relations is the resumption of their diplomatic relations at the ambassador level. Turkey, which is now isolated from much of the Middle East and Europe, has a compelling reason to restore ties. Israel, which has forged strong relations with all of Ankara’s adversaries, likewise is looking for more allies in the region. In reference to Necmettin Erbakan’s ascension to the role of prime minister in the 1990s, Israeli President Shimon Peres said, “Governments may change, but basic interests remain.” These two countries don’t need to agree on everything, but what they have in common exceeds what separates them.



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GPF: As Turkey's economy goes, so goes its ambitions
« Reply #286 on: September 30, 2020, 05:40:54 AM »

Sep. 30, 2020


As Turkey’s Economy Goes, So Goes Its Ambitions
By Caroline D. Rose


Turkey’s economy is in dire straits. In September, the Turkish lira fell to a 20-year low as investors withdrew billions from Turkey’s currency bond and stock market. In a scramble to keep its currency afloat, the government has blown through almost half the foreign reserves it had at the beginning of the year. With little liquidity left and its largest banks on the brink of collapse, Ankara has realized that its current strategy of fueling economic growth through cheap borrowing cannot hold.
The country has been here before, of course. Just two years ago, it burned through its foreign reserves to protect the lira’s value and hid its debt problem behind defaults and bailouts. But this time is different. Turkey is drawing from far fewer reserves, relying only on Qatari currency swaps to keep them afloat, and its banking sector is depleted. Turkey is working with far fewer reserves and with a depleted banking system. Unless it fundamentally reforms its decrepit institutions – or receives a generous bailout – its economy is in trouble.

Economic duress can be an agent of change in any country, but in Turkey, with its history of coups and complicated relationship with secularism and Islamism, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has even more cause for concern because of the potential geopolitical consequences it carries. Turkey has been quickly expanding its regional presence and influencing the behavior of neighboring countries through aggressive action in the Eastern Mediterranean and in northern Syria. But now that the coronavirus pandemic has slammed an economy already in trouble – and with an election just two years away – the ruling party will change its strategy, focusing its foreign policy closer to home and prioritizing regime survival at all costs.

How Did Turkey Get Here?

At the beginning of this year, Ankara had some room to breathe. In December 2019, the economy recorded 0.9 percent gross domestic product growth after a year of recession and debt. GDP growth rates had been fueled by cheap borrowing policies, which created a liquidity crisis and steep bank debt that devalued the lira by 30 percent against the dollar but raised inflation to nearly 12 percent in August. Put simply, the crisis revealed deep structural vulnerabilities in the Turkish economic system.
The problem is that, curiously, Ankara has continued to repeat many of the same mistakes it made before the 2018-19 recession. The government directed Turkey’s central bank to increase cheap loan distribution, which in turn put pressure on the lira and led to increased dollar borrowing from domestic banks to stave off devaluation. As investors began to bet against the lira, the government blew through $65 billion of its foreign reserves from the start of 2020. Eventually, interest rates put pressure on selling and drove the lira to all-time lows (roughly 7.7 lira to the dollar in September), even as the government kept rates below national inflation levels of 11.8 percent. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prevented the ostensibly independent central bank from changing interest rates for months, concerned as he was that relaxing rates would worsen a future recession. Only in mid-September did Turkey finally adjust its interest rate from 8.25 percent to 10.25 percent, giving the lira a temporary boost to 7.62 against the dollar, but many believed it was too little too late.
 
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Naturally, the timing of Erdogan’s long-term plans will suffer. 2023 was supposed to be a big year for Turkey. It’s the country’s 100th birthday and a big year for general elections in which the ruling party was banking on a comfortable win. More important, it is supposed to be a year of promises kept. In 2013, the AKP rolled out a series of ambitious goals called “2023 Vision” that would be reached within a decade, including an increase in annual exports to $500 billion, slashing the unemployment rate from 11 percent to 5 percent, bumping per capita income to $25,000, boosting the country’s tourism and finance sectors, achieving full participation in state-operated health insurance programs, putting the country’s domestically made automobile, defense and iron and steel industries on the map, and becoming a top-10 economy, with a GDP target of $2.6 trillion. Turkey’s defense industry also set 2023 as its target to roll out eyebrow-raising military technology, promising to domestically produce 75 percent of Turkey’s defense needs, increase defense industry revenues to $26.9 billion, and roll out local drone, naval vessels, armored vehicles, helicopters and main battle tank programs.

It was always a tall order. But not only was it wildly expensive, it lacked attendant economic restructuring and institutional reform that would allow the country to manage high levels of spending. Though Turkey made progress on its automobile production industry, naval production, tourism sector and foreign trade volume, its financial institutions began to crumble.
Despite efforts to create the impression that the country was less in debt than it was, the Turkish government understood that it couldn’t forestall the coming recession. Time was limited, but the government hoped it could stay afloat until elections, distracting the public with a series of foreign policy ventures and a false sense of economic health. The pandemic made this untenable. Just months after it hit Turkey, reports emerged that Erdogan was serious about changing the date of the 2023 presidential election – bumping up the date not by a few days but two and a half years. Doing so would insulate him from the consequences of future bank collapses, economic struggle and inevitable fallout from COVID-19, salvaging the base of public support he currently has to keep a grip on power, or so the thinking goes. Calling snap elections would also prevent newer opposition parties from gaining momentum. While Erdogan has played coy by denying the idea of early elections and stating that “only the opposition” has circulated these rumors, the country’s economic health could force him to reschedule.

Where Will Turkey Go From Here?

Over the past year, Turkey has taken extensive and at times provocative actions to expand its presence along its periphery in the Mediterranean and the Levant, and outward into the greater Mediterranean, Red Sea and Horn of Africa – a pattern that resembles the country’s mighty predecessor, the Ottoman Empire. But to maintain this kind of momentum, Turkey must have a strong economy. If it can weather this financial storm, it can pursue its ambitions of becoming a regional power. If not, then Erdogan will have to fight just to maintain the gains Turkey has made so far.

Until election day – whenever that may be – survival will be priority one for Turkey’s government. Expect the government to double-down on its opposition, increase control over institutions of power, raise taxes, cut services and borrow more money. Ankara will try to scale back some of its most expensive commitments in faraway theaters – such as the Horn of Africa, the Arab Gulf and the Sahel – and reduce foreign military imports, hoping that its own defense industry will see it through. A slowdown on long-term defense projects – particularly conventional projects scheduled to debut in the next 20 years, such as Turkey’s second amphibious assault ship and a line of MILGEM frigates and corvettes – should also be expected.

But don’t think Turkey will stand down in the Mediterranean and the Levant. Turkey will look to politicize opportunities in its periphery to maintain popular support and preserve geo-strategic interests including by increasing the country’s energy independence, preventing violence from spilling over its southern border, defending itself against regional rivals, and so on. Even without the conventional equipment planned to debut in the next few years, Ankara can afford to maintain its strategy of gunboat diplomacy in Aegean littoral waters, using fishing, drilling and small naval vessels to keep up the pressure on Greece and Cyprus.

This strategy is, notably, politically popular at home. A majority of Turks want to renegotiate terms with Greece to expand Turkish maritime territory and thus to stake more claims to hydrocarbon resources in the region. They see Turkey’s harassment tactics as a means to those ends. Even the ruling party’s staunchest opponents in the Republican People’s Party support Turkey’s Mediterranean campaign. Likewise, Turkey will continue its operations in northern Syria and Iraq: It’s simply too important an issue to Turkish voters, who see it as the preservation of their borders against migrants and militant organizations.
 
(click to enlarge)

But none of this will necessarily lessen the pain of Turkey’s economic disrepair. Laborers at nuclear plants and construction sites are working without wages, with some initiating legal proceedings and protesting poor management. Many small-business owners have had trouble accessing state-subsidized loans, and workers are unable to obtain financial support, leading to higher poverty rates and food insecurity – largely among the AKP’s conservative, lower-class base. These economic conditions will force Turkey to provide some kind of economic relief and impact the future of the ruling party.



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Glick: Who will deal with Turkey?
« Reply #289 on: October 12, 2020, 08:46:29 AM »
http://carolineglick.com/who-will-deal-with-turkey/


Who will deal with Turkey?
10/09/2020
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For the past several months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has busily dispelled any residual doubts about his hostility toward the U.S. and its allies in NATO and the Middle East. He has accomplished this in multiple ways. Erdogan purchased Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system and, in a swipe at the U.S. and NATO, announced his intention to test the system next week.

He threatens and seeks to subvert Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. He has destroyed his nation’s longstanding strategic alliance with Israel.

He has cast his lot with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, and with Iran against his Arab enemies. Indeed, Erdogan has effectively appointed himself the head of the Muslim Brotherhood. An associate of his recently published a map of a new Ottoman Empire, or “Greater Turkey”—with Erdogan as sultan. It included vast territories spanning from northern Greece to the east Aegean islands, half of Bulgaria, Cyprus, most of Armenia and large swaths of Georgia, Iraq and Syria.

Erdogan is fighting on behalf of Sunni jihadists in Syria and in Libya.

On the positive side, Erdogan’s fights in Syria and Libya place Turkey in confrontation with Russia, which is siding with the opposite side in both wars. Erdogan started a new fight with Russia over the past couple of months, which now threatens to transform into a major war. Erdogan is fighting with Azerbaijan against Russia’s client Armenia for control over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area that both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim.

How is the U.S. supposed to deal with Erdogan, the head of NATO member Turkey—a strategically placed ally, traversing two continents, that Washington has long viewed as indispensable?

The Pentagon rejects calls to walk away from Turkey. And a brief look at the map makes clear the generals’ reluctance. Perched on Russia’s backyard, Turkey’s massive landmass provides U.S. forces with easy access to key theaters in Asia, the Middle East and Russia.

To uphold the alliance, the U.S. has consistently bowed its head in the face of Turkish aggression against its allies and partners. In 2019, the U.S. agreed to ditch the Kurdish forces in Syria, despite their central role in assisting U.S. efforts to destroy ISIS’s caliphate, in order to avoid a direct confrontation between U.S. and Turkish forces. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just visited Greece and told its leaders to stand down against Turkey and seek a diplomatic solution to Turkey’s aggression.

Owing to Turkey’s strategic importance, the U.S. has turned a blind eye to its sponsorship of Hamas. The U.S. has not called Turkey to account in a serious way for its willingness to permit ISIS to use Turkey as its logistics and mobilization base, or economic hub, during the years that the murderous jihadist group controlled large portions of Syria and Iraq.

During Barack Obama‘s presidency, kowtowing to Erdogan was of a piece with Obama’s foreign policy vision. Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden, sought to restructure the U.S. alliance system in the Middle East away from Israel and the U.S.’s traditional Sunni Arab allies and toward Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Given its radical thrust, it made sense when Obama told an interviewer in 2012 that he spoke with Erdogan more than any other foreign leader.

The Obama administration was sympathetically inclined toward the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It pushed for the overthrow of U.S. ally and long-serving Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2012, and supported the Muslim Brotherhood regime that took power in 2013. Like Erdogan, the Obama-Biden administration was livid when, following mass protests throughout the country and the drying up of Egypt’s financial reserves that brought the country of 90 million to the brink of starvation, the Egyptian military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power and installed Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president.

Throughout their second term, Obama and Biden did nothing to stop Erdogan’s efforts to destabilize and subvert Sisi’s government and return the Muslim Brotherhood to power. Today, some 20,000 members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood are living in Turkey, which has become their center of operations just as the nation serves as the operational center of Hamas.

The Obama-Biden administration also did not seriously object to Erdogan’s efforts on behalf of Iran when he transformed Turkey into a major economic hub for Iranian sanctions busting. Obama’s decision to appease Tehran through the nuclear deal that gave Iran an open road to a nuclear arsenal and enriched the mullocracy by abrogating the UN economic sanctions against it made him, by consequence, supportive of Turkey’s outreach and support for the Iranian regime.

The Obama-Biden desire to appease Iran precluded their administration from taking effective action against Syrian President, and Iranian and Russian client, Bashar Assad. Obama’s unwillingness to confront Iran empowered Russia to deploy forces to Syria for the first time since 1982. Obama’s supine policy in Syria also played a role in Erdogan’s decision to begin negotiations regarding the purchase of Russia’s S-400 system, which drove a stake into the NATO alliance.

Biden has pledged to reinstate Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East and worldwide if he is elected next month.

On the surface, Trump’s policies toward Turkey don’t appear that different from Obama’s. He has not challenged Turkey’s membership in NATO. He has bowed to Turkey’s demands in Syria. Although he did block the delivery of F-35s to Turkey, he has refused to-date to sanction Turkey for its aggressive behavior toward Greece and Turkey. He hasn’t removed U.S. forces and nuclear warheads from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. And he continues to refer to Erdogan as a leader he respects.

But in practice, Trump’s policy is very different from the Obama-Biden policies. Trump is not an ideologue except insofar as “America First” can be considered an ideological position. His commitment to advancing U.S. interests has compelled Trump to set aside traditional policies if they do not conform to realities on the ground. Traditionally, for instance, it has been considered impossible to forge peace between Israel and the Arab states so long as the Palestinian conflict with Israel remains unresolved. Trump saw, however, that Israel and several Gulf Arab states and Egypt were maintaining intense, friendly ties and realized that the traditional perceptions of the Middle East were wrong.

From the time of Ronald Reagan, the prevailing wisdom in Washington was that the U.S. had to cut a deal with the ayatollahs in Iran. Trump realized that no one had succeeded because the Iranian regime seeks to destroy the U.S.—not make peace with it. The Iranians even refused to sign their nuclear deal with Obama, lest they be perceived as making peace with “the Great Satan.”

The consistent themes of Trump’s foreign policies in the Middle East and throughout the world are that he has insisted on judging leaders by their deeds, and not their words; judging policies by their success in making the U.S. and its allies better off, and not by the support they receive from the foreign policy establishment; and basing U.S. partnerships with foreign states on the presence of shared interests, rather than relying on formal alliance structures to advance American interests and goals.

All of these aspects of Trump’s foreign policies are vital for developing and maintaining a successful U.S. policy toward Erdogan’s Turkey, as Erdogan exposes himself as a foe interested in pitting all sides against one another to enable his efforts to construct a new Ottoman Empire. Many commentators advocate expelling Turkey from NATO. But it isn’t clear that a head-on confrontation with Erdogan would neutralize him. It could well empower him by helping him to rally the Turkish public behind him at a time when Turkey’s economy stands on the brink of collapse.

Given Erdogan’s multipronged aggression, the first goal of a realistic policy would be to diminish his power by severely weakening Turkey economically. This may mean imposing economic sanctions on Turkey for its aggression against Greece and Cyprus. Or it may mean simply giving Turkey a gentle push over the economic cliff.

Without raising the issue of removing Turkey from NATO, the U.S. can simply not sell Turkey advanced platforms while demonstrating its support for Greece and Cyprus, as well as Israel and its Arab partners.

True, China is already seeking to supplant the U.S. in sponsoring the Turkish economy and selling Turkey arms—but by keeping Turkey in NATO, the U.S. still has more leverage over Turkey than China.

A passive-aggressive policy for diminishing Erdogan’s power and the threat he can mount is right up Trump’s alley. Trump doesn’t often directly attack his opponents. He embraced North Korean leader Kim Jong-un even as he imposed the harshest economic sanctions ever on North Korea and redesignated it a state sponsor of terrorism. He has acted similarly with Putin and with Erdogan himself.

Erdogan’s belief that he can rebuild the Ottoman Empire while attacking EU and NATO members, the U.S., its key allies in the Middle East as well as Russia, owes to his narcissism that Obama and Biden did so much to feed.

With Erdogan now openly threatening multiple U.S. allies, it is increasingly apparent that the largest and fastest rising threat to stability and peace in the Middle East is Turkey—and the victor in next month’s U.S. presidential election will have no lead time to deal with it.

Trump’s reality-based foreign policy, his preference for indirect confrontations and empowerment of U.S. partners to defend themselves from aggression, rather than dictating their actions or fighting their battles for them, give the president the flexibility to diminish Erdogan’s maneuver room, his economic independence and his popularity at home—while also empowering U.S. allies directly affected by the strongman’s aggression to stand up to him effectively, with or without direct U.S. involvement.

Originally published in Newsweek under the title “It’s time for Trump to soberly confront the rising Turkish threat.”

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S-400 Sanctions
« Reply #294 on: December 15, 2020, 07:55:46 PM »
Sometimes Stratfor strikes me as glib:

S-400 Sanctions Risk Further Deteriorating U.S.-Turkey Relations
4 MINS READ
Dec 15, 2020 | 19:11 GMT

HIGHLIGHTS

New U.S. sanctions will stymie Turkey’s strategy to develop an indigenous defense sector, prompting Ankara to continue exploring alternative security ties while intensifying bilateral tensions for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. On Dec. 14, the United States announced a series of defense sector-aimed sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), fulfilling long-term threats that Washington would impose penalties on its fellow NATO ally for the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system. The sanctions target Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), including its chief Ismail Demir and three other senior officials, and come as the U.S. Congress was poised to mandate CAATSA sanctions through the annual National Defense Authorization Act.  ...

New U.S. sanctions will stymie Turkey’s strategy to develop an indigenous defense sector, prompting Ankara to continue exploring alternative security ties while intensifying bilateral tensions for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. On Dec. 14, the United States announced a series of defense sector-aimed sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), fulfilling long-term threats that Washington would impose penalties on its fellow NATO ally for the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system. The sanctions target Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), including its chief Ismail Demir and three other senior officials, and come as the U.S. Congress was poised to mandate CAATSA sanctions through the annual National Defense Authorization Act. 

Washington also issued an export license ban to SSB, which is the main Turkish civil institution that brings together the Turkish presidency, armed forces and defense ministry for decisions on foreign procurement and the domestic production of military equipment.

Despite targeting a relatively narrow aspect of Turkey's defense sector, the sanctions will still complicate Ankara’s procurement of U.S. defense technologies and materials, including those that Turkey uses in its own national defense industry. The sanctions will make procurement from foreign suppliers much more complicated, disrupting the Turkish government’s ambitious plans to build out its indigenous defense industry and achieve self-sufficiency in defense production by 2023.

Turkey’s defense sector only makes up about one percent of its economy and employs about 30,000 workers compared with the country’s 31 million-strong labor market.

Turkey claims that its defense sector is 70% independent and has aggressively sought to expand exports of military equipment to boost domestic production. Defense exports amounted to $2.74 billion in 2019 after Ankara first surpassed $2 billion the year prior.

The sanctions will likely produce a nationalist surge in Turkey that will only embolden Ankara to continue building up its own indigenous defense capacity, as well as explore alternative defense ties to other major arms exporters, such as Russia and China. Turkey’s indigenous military-industrial sector is politically sensitive given its direct links to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The U.S. sanctions will thus prove as much a political hit for Erdogan — especially as the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s economic record.

In recent years, Erdogan has prioritized building out Turkey’s military-industrial sector to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign suppliers.

The SSB was brought more directly under the Turkish president’s control in 2018, reflecting the strategic importance with which Erdogan views the sector.
Heightened U.S.-Turkey tensions will also thwart the Biden administration’s ability to foster a more productive relationship with Ankara upon taking office. The Biden administration has said it will seek engagement with Turkey in areas of mutual interest, such as Syria. The new White House is also hoping to utilize Turkey as part of a more multilateral approach to the region after the past four years of U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral diplomacy. But while the Biden administration will seek engagement, its predecessor’s sanctions will likely only continue Turkey’s drift away from the West toward China and Russia.

Tony Blinken, Biden’s presumptive-secretary of state, has specifically highlighted cooperation in Syria as a key aspect of the U.S.-Turkey relationship that the new administration seeks to reset.

Beyond the S-400, Turkey has also explored the option of purchasing the Russian SU-35 jet to offset the loss of the American F-35, and has already purchased Chinese ballistic missile technology. 

In addition to the ruling AKP, Turkey’s opposition Republican People's Party and ultranationalist splinter Iyi Party have also condemned the new U.S. sanctions, with an official from the former even urging Turkey to activate its S-400 system despite the risk of creating another crisis with the United States.

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Re: Turkey
« Reply #295 on: December 26, 2020, 09:05:46 AM »

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GPF: Turkey adjusts its foreign policy
« Reply #296 on: February 19, 2021, 07:00:51 AM »

    
Turkey Adjusts Its Foreign Policy
After hitting some roadblocks, Ankara is reevaluating its foreign relations.
By: Hilal Khashan

Turkey’s long-term goal is to become a military and economic power with global outreach. Its path to success, however, isn’t a straight line. Crises will inevitably emerge, requiring tactical pauses or a strategic redirection. Today, Turkey is facing mounting challenges in the international system, forcing the country to rethink its foreign policy. It’s therefore making an effort to stop the deterioration of its foreign relations and to stabilize its financial situation, so that it can resume its quest to become a global power.

Reviving Its Past Glory

Turkey’s claims to great power status have a long history. In the 1930s, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk endorsed the sun language theory – the belief that all languages are derived from an early iteration of the Turkish language. Ataturk, who was a big proponent of Turkish nationalism, wanted to convince European nations that Turkey was one of them. During his time, Turkish historians traced the origins of Turkish nationalism to the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 when the Seljuks defeated the Byzantine army and conquered Anatolia. They emphasized Anatolia’s Hellenistic heritage to advocate that it had a place in Europe.

Like Ataturk, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a populist leader and staunch modernizer. Both men also realized quickly that Russia would not be an ally in Turkey’s quest for greatness. For Ataturk, it was clear that the Soviet model was not one he wanted to follow, and for Erdogan, the two countries’ histories, geographies and perceptions of their own power stood in the way of strategic cooperation. The difference between Erdogan and Ataturk, however, is that Ataturk looked to Europe as a model of modernity that he wanted to replicate in Turkey, whereas Erdogan wants to reconnect Turkey with its Ottoman roots.

Erdogan’s campaign to resurrect Turkey’s past glory and transform it into a military and economic power explains some of Ankara’s recent achievements. Earlier this month, Erdogan announced that Turkey planned to send an unmanned spacecraft to the surface of the moon in 2023. Ankara also plans to launch its first domestic-made communication satellite in 2022.

Over the past two decades, Turkey has developed a robust defense industry that now meets 70 percent of the country’s military equipment needs, with plans to become self-sufficient by 2053. Turkey is one of just 10 countries that manufactures warships and is already working on building a modern main battle tank and a fifth-generation fighter.

Turkey has also experienced impressive economic development over the past 30 years. Its economy is the world’s 19th largest and 13th largest in terms of purchasing power parity. Its human development index rose from 0.58 in 1990 to 0.82 in 2019, placing it in the very high human development category. It has a modern economic structure, with 65 percent of the labor force involved in the services sector, 27 percent in industry, and 8 percent in agriculture. Despite the economic slump of 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Turkish economy is expected to grow by 4 percent this year.

Turkey's Gross Domestic Product
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Turkey's Human Development Index
(click to enlarge)

Recent Foreign Policy Changes

Since the 2016 failed coup, Turkey’s foreign policy has seen a raft of changes. Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s 2004 “zero problems with our neighbors” policy has been replaced with a bewildering array of enemies in the Middle East and beyond. Over the past five years, Turkey has participated in armed conflicts in northern Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. It also maintains significant military contingents in Qatar, Northern Cyprus and Somalia. Ankara’s relations with Europe and the United States have deteriorated thanks to its military adventurism, purchase of Russian-made S-400 missiles (which led to a U.S. ban on arms exports to Turkey and Ankara’s expulsion from the F-35 fighter jet program), and recent activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.

However, Turkey appears determined to make 2021 the year of political flexibility and diplomacy. Erdogan is keen on engaging the new U.S. administration – despite President Joe Biden's calling Erdogan an autocrat during his election campaign and his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, saying that Turkey was not acting as an ally. Erdogan continues to believe that U.S. support for the Syrian Kurds is at the center of the rift between the two countries, but he has softened his tone, signaling that Turkey’s problems with the outside world can be resolved through dialogue. Turkey’s minister of defense also suggested the country was willing not to use the S-400s in an effort to defuse tensions and avoid incurring sanctions.

Erdogan has also expressed an openness to working with Europe. In part, that’s because European leaders already approved sanctions on Turkey over its drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s apparent willingness to restart talks with Greece on demarcating exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean doesn’t change its fundamental position. But the move shows that Ankara would rather use diplomacy than flex its military muscle (which angered NATO, and especially France) to defend its drilling rights in Mediterranean waters. Erdogan has also toned down his criticism of France, after calling French President Emmanuel Macron a thug. Turkey’s foreign affairs minister expressed willingness to start a constructive dialogue with France to resolve their differences on issues ranging from Syria to Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean. Erdogan also urged Europe to remove obstacles blocking its accession to the European Union and European customs union and stalling visa-free entry into the EU for Turkish citizens.


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Erdogan has also extended an olive branch to Egypt. Last September, he spoke of the deep historical ties between Turkey and Egypt. He called for dialogue with Cairo and recognized Egypt’s interests in Libya, eager to strike a maritime agreement similar to the one Ankara reached with Libya’s Government of National Accord. Erdogan emphasized that intelligence cooperation between the two countries continued despite their political differences. (Erdogan was a supporter of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted in a 2013 military coup led by current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.) Turkey has also made overtures to Israel, appointing a new ambassador in December after leaving the post vacant for two years.

Constraints on Policy Shifts

Despite showing room for negotiation on some fronts, Turkey’s position on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and People’s Protection Units (YPG) remains unshakeable. Ankara views these groups as existential threats because it believes leaving them unchecked could lead to Turkey’s demise. Ankara was angered by the U.S. State Department’s statement earlier this week on the deaths of 13 Turks in Iraq because the statement made its condemnation of the killings contingent on verification that the PKK carried them out – rather than accepting Ankara’s account. That Blinken called his Turkish counterpart to accept the Turkish version of events attests to the Biden administration’s openness to dialogue.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey does not recognize the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea because Ankara believes it favors Greece and Cyprus. Turkey does not expect to reach an agreement with Greece in 2021 to delineate their exclusive economic zones. Though Erdogan is willing to negotiate, he’s not willing to concede much on this issue, which enjoys rare national consensus in Turkey.

With Russia, Turkey has many ongoing disagreements, including over Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. In Syria, Turkey wants an end to Bashar Assad’s regime and a comprehensive political settlement that allows the return of displaced Syrian refugees. In Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey managed to penetrate Russia’s backyard by backing Azerbaijan’s war to reclaim the disputed region last year. In doing so, it gained access to the Nakhchivan Corridor, linking it to Azerbaijan, as well as Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan via the Caspian Sea.

Future Outlook

Despite its diplomatic overtures, Turkey will face a number of challenges this year. Its relationship with the U.S. will not normalize in 2021, though it’s unlikely to deteriorate any further. Erdogan isn’t willing to burn bridges with an administration that just took office. His most formidable challenge, however, is defining Turkey’s relationship with Russia. Both countries will be bound by dialogue, but their disagreements especially over Syria’s fate will be an obstacle to any rapprochement.

Ankara’s diplomatic outreach may be more successful among its Middle East neighbors. The Saudis, concerned about a shift in Washington’s Gulf policy, especially on Iran and the Houthis in Yemen, seem to have opened up to Turkey to try to secure a semblance of a regional balance. The Saudis are quite interested in allying with Israel, but they cannot do so without the backing of a major Muslim country, such as Turkey. Indicators point to the opening of a new chapter of friendly relations between Riyadh and Ankara. (Turkey also maintains good relations with Qatar, which was the subject of a 3 1/2-year Saudi-led blockade that recently ended.)

Erdogan’s pursuit of an independent Turkish foreign policy sends signals to the West that Turkey will no longer be subservient. In this sense, his foreign policy approach is close to that of Ataturk, who fiercely defended Turkey’s sovereignty and independence. Erdogan is probably the Middle Eastern leader best equipped to seize opportunities when they arise and change his position when circumstances permit, as they do now.