Turkey’s strong and visible diplomatic support for Ukraine during the recent Russian escalation of its slow war in eastern Ukraine has given the conflict a new dimension. Obviously, Russia now has to calculate how its actions in Ukraine affect its relationship with Turkey. Diplomats are also wondering how Turkish support might affect Russian relations with other European countries on its border. Russia has employed strong arm tactics on Moldova, Bulgaria, the Baltic states and Finland. During April, as Russia massed troops on Ukraine’s border, president Erdogan personally emphasized Turkey’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and even indicated Turkey could support Ukraine’s bid to join NATO. Turkey has provided some military material support for Ukraine, to include Turkish-made armed UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). (Austin Bay)
May 17, 2021: A new World Bank analysis concluded that Turkey’s poverty rate rose from 10.2 percent in 2019 to 20.2 percent in 2020. That means for two years in a row Turkey’s poverty rate has increased. No doubt the covid19 pandemic affected the economy, but the poverty rate increase is another indication that the “era of economic growth” Erdogan touted 15 years ago is ending. April 2021’s annual inflation rate of 17.14 percent is another indicator. In April the Turkish Statistical Institute reported 2020’s overall unemployment rate was 13.2 percent.
May 16, 2021: The Turkish government declared it will take all necessary steps to end Israeli attacks on Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos rejected Turkish demands that Greek islands near Turkey’s coast be demilitarized. He added that defenses in place are there because of an “existing threat” (i.e., a threat from Turkey).
May 14, 2021: For about two years the Turkish company Karpowership has had two barges docked in Lebanon. The barges supply about a quarter of Lebanon’s daily electric supply. Most of Lebanon depends on small, private power generators. The Turkish company provides a reliable supply. However, Lebanon has failed to pay its electric bills. Karpowership has told the Lebanese government it will shut down the generators on the barges unless the government pays the bills. Karpowership is owed an estimated $100 million. Supplying Lebanon with power has had a positive diplomatic payoff for Turkey. However, it appears the Turkish government is backing Karpowership’s decision.
May 10, 2021: Several thousand demonstrators in Ankara and Istanbul protested Israeli actions against Palestinians. The demonstrators appeared despite a full public health lockdown due to the covid19 pandemic.
May 8, 2021: President Erdogan called Israel a “terrorist” state and asked the entire world, “especially Islamic countries,” to take action to stop Israeli attacks. The escalating conflict in Gaza and the West Bank is giving Erdogan another opportunity to become a major diplomatic player in Israeli-Palestinian issues.
May 7, 2021: Turkey announced that it had conducted a very successful test of its first-ever indigenously developed tank engine. The 12-cylinder turbo-diesel engine generates 1,500 horsepower and can be used in tanks and other armored vehicles. It will power the Altay tank. The Altay is billed as Turkey’s third-generation main battle tank. At the moment the Turkish Army intends to initially acquire 250 Altays.
May 4, 2021: The Erdogan government’s decision to dig a canal that bypasses the Bosporus is continuing to meet opposition domestically and internationally. Many diplomats argue it will shred the Montreux Convention which controls the Bosporus and Dardanelles. Though the government dismisses that complaint.
May 3, 2021: Turkish security forces reported that a senior ISIL (Islamic State in the Levant) “military commander” had been captured in an Istanbul suburb. He was carrying a fake passport. The man is being identified by his codename, Basim and is an Afghan who directed training for ISIL fighters in Syria and Iraq Basim also served on its senior command council and has been in hiding since 2017. Turkish media reported he is being interrogated by the National Intelligence Organization (MIT)
April 30, 2021: Turkey announced that the security forces intend to build a new military base in northern Iraq’s Metina region (inside Iraqi Kurdistan). The camp area is a mountainous area and near the Turkish border. The position would cover routes from the Qandil Mountains used by PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) separatists. An estimated 5,000 Turkish military and security force personnel are currently deployed in Iraq. The announcement follows reports that on April 23 Turkish Air Force F-16s and helicopter gunships attacked PKK targets in Metina and neighboring areas. Turkish special forces commandos were also involved in the operation. The operation continued through April 28.
April 29, 2021: Britain confirmed that at some point during its carrier task force deployment in the western Pacific and South China Sea it expects naval forces from the UAE, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel, India, Oman and South Korea, to participate in exercises with the task force.
April 28, 2021: The United States once again warned Turkey and other American allies to avoid acquiring Russian weapons systems. This warning focused on Turkey’s decision to buy Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. The U.S. warned that nations acquiring weapons lie the S-400 would face penalties authorized under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
April 27, 2021: The government of Cyprus and a delegation from the Turkish Cypriot enclave, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, have agreed to meet in Geneva and discuss possible reunification. The island became independent in 1960 via an agreement between Greece and Turkey to support the independence. The island has been divided since 1974 when Greek nationalists sought to violate the 1960 agreement and Turkey blocked that with troops and divided the island into Greek and Turkish sectors. For decades the Cypriots have been seeking to overcome Turkish resistance to reunification.
April 26, 2021: The government has decided to put 108 Turkish Kurd politicians on trial for their alleged roles in deadly protests that occurred in 2014. The accused face charges of homicide and “attacking the integrity of the state.” The accused claim Turkish police helped provoke the violence.
April 22, 2021: Greece hosted its annual Iniochos military exercise (Iniochos 2021). Foreign forces participating in the exercise included contingents from the UAE, Israel, the U.S. and Cyprus. The exercise is primarily an air force and air defense exercise.
April 19, 2021: Greece signed an air force training contract with Israel in which Israel agreed to help Greece modernize its jet pilot training capabilities. Israel will establish and operate a flight training center in Greece.