Turkey: Maintaining Russian and NATO Relationships


May 6, 2022: President Erdogan recognizes inflation as his major domestic political challenge. Inflation continues to increase, Erdogan accuses his political opponents of “doom-mongering”, and arguing that Turkey is now as a “top ten” global economy. Despite the growing economy, in January he publicly admitted that Turkey faces inflation “for some time.” That was before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now Turkey is scrambling to buy wheat and the price of food is increasing. In December 2021 Turkey's annual inflation rate topped 36 percent. In early April, a global investment service gave the Turkish lira a B+ rating. That’s four levels below investment grade. There is no doubt Turkey’s economy is strained. Inflation could hit 55 percent in 2022.

Two Turkish Navy maritime patrol aircraft entered Greek airspace 29 times today, triggering a response from the Greek air force. President Erdogan is again depicting Greece as the most dangerous military threat to Turkey. Erdogan is less eager to have Turkish military operations in Libya and Syria published. Both these operations are illegal and the Libyan occupation force and interference in the peace efforts there are blatant violations of international law. Intrusions into Greek airspace are good for a few days of mass media headlines but after that Turks will again focus on the deteriorating economy. Libya and Syria are seen more as a national embarrassment than a military threat.

The Americans have approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey by declaring this will serve U.S. national security interests and strengthen the NATO alliance. Back in October 2021 Turkey announced it wanted to buy 40 F-16 fighters and modernization kits for another 80 F-16 it currently operates. Previously Turkey had ordered F-35 fighters but this deal was canceled by the United States because Turkey was buying advanced Russian air-defense systems. NATO does not approve of this and the Americans see it as an opportunity for the Russians to find out how best to neutralize F-35 stealth.

Before the Americans approved the F-16 deal they indicated that it would like to see Turkey give its controversial Russian-made S-400 missile defense system to Ukraine. That might get the Turkish order for F-35 fighters restored. Russia would be angered by the transfer of S-400s to Ukraine. No one would discuss the possibility of a deal here, mainly because of the potential strain it would put on Turkish-Russian relations.

May 2, 2022: Ukraine used a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 UAV to destroy two Russian Raptor-class patrol ships in the Black Sea. The TB2 used two laser-guided missiles to destroy the 23-ton boats and video of the attacks, near Snake Island (Zmiinyi), were made public. The island lies off the Ukraine-Romania coast and is currently occupied by Russia

April 30, 2022: President Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia to announce an end to the diplomatic standoff between the two countries. Erdogan was intent on reviving trade and economic cooperation. Turkey is particularly interested in attracting more investment from Saudi Arabia. Erdogan indicated he also discussed “regional stability” issues with the Saudis. That can mean many things, but to the Saudis it means Iran’s threat in the Persian Gulf, potential nuclear threat and support for the Shia rebels in Yemen who used Iranian missiles to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

April 29, 2022: Greece accused Turkey of violating its airspace in the Aegean Sea using a jet fighter. Violating the airspace of another NATO member undermines NATO unity. A major incident occurred April 27. Greece protested to Turkey’s ambassador and notified NATO of the “provocation.” Turkey denied that it had provoked the incident and claimed that its fighters had responded to “provocations.” Greece and Turkey, NATO allies, came to the brink of war in 1996 over a deserted Aegean islet. Bilateral ties have improved over the years despite occasional tension, especially over energy resources in the Mediterranean.

April 27, 2022: The Turkish military has begun winding down an air and ground offensive against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in Iraqi Kurdistan that began April 18th. Turkey claimed that the KRG (Kurdistan Iraqi Regional Government) supported the operation. However, the Iraqi central government’s foreign ministry condemned the operation as illegal.

April 26, 2022: Turkish political opposition leaders and reform groups publicly announced that they will eventually overturn the jail sentences imposed on philanthropist Osman Kavala and seven other Turks. The eight were convicted of financing and organizing nation-wide protests in in 2013. The government also claimed Kavala was involved in the failed 2016 coup.

April 25, 2022: A Turkish court sentenced an activist and philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala to life in prison without parole. Kavala has already spent four years in jail awaiting trial. Europe's top court concluded there is insufficient evidence to prove the charges against Kavala and the trial and conviction are politically motivated. Who is the motivator? Erdogan. Erdogan has accused Kavala of being an agent of American billionaire George Soros.

April 23, 2022: Turkey closed its airspace to Russian civilian and military aircraft that are ferrying ammunition, war material and troops to Syria. According to the Foreign Ministry, President Erdogan personally phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin and informed him of the decision. The Foreign Ministry referred to an “expired license” for overflight rights.

April 20, 2022: Turkey's Foreign Minister announced he will visit Israel on May 24. The goal is to re-establish diplomatic ties and economic relations.

The government announced that Turkish Petroleum (TPAO) will receive tax cuts for developing the natural gas fields in the Black Sea. The huge Sakarya field was discovered in 2020 off the coast of Turkey's northern province of Zonguldak. The field has an estimated 320 billion cubic meters of gas. Development includes building an offshore pipeline network and processing facilities. Turkey intends to start pumping natural gas in 2023. At the moment Turkey imports natural gas, mostly from Russia and Iran. Sakarya could cut imports by 25 percent.

April 19, 2022: The pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples' Party (HDP) accused the government of using the judiciary and the courts to destroy it. The HDP is Turkey’s third-largest political party. in March 2021, prosecutors filed charges against the HDP, accusing the party of having links to PKK terrorists. The indictment also called for banning 451 HDP members from politics for five years,

April 18, 2022: Turkish fighter-bombers, helicopters, UAVs and artillery attacked PKK targets in northern Iraq. The air and ground operation –code named Operation Claw Lock- targeted PKK base camps and ammunition dumps. The defense ministry said the attacks concentrated on the Metina, Zap, and Avasin-Basyan regions. These areas are largely mountainous and sparsely populated as well as being where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran meet.

April 17, 2022: Turkey said it would continue its effort to help reach a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry said Turkey is seeking a truce. Turkey will also continue to make it easy for Russians to enter Turkey. Turkey has not imposed restrictions on Russian money. Ironically, many of the Russians who have come to Turkey since February oppose the Kremlin’s attack on Ukraine.

April 16, 2022: Ukraine said that it is seeking more support from Turkey but understands that Turkey wants to maintain “parallel ties” with the Kremlin. Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea.

April 14, 2022: President Erdogan and French president Emmanuel Macron called a ceasefire. Though often critical of one another, the presidents acknowledge they are in direct communication on the issue of ending the war in Ukraine.

April 12, 2022: Turkey’s chief prosecutor ordered the arrest of 91 people allegedly linked to the PKK. Several of the individuals on the list are former officials in the pro-Kurdish HDP.

At a press conference in Ankara, Erdogan said that by 2053 Turkey will be a “logistics superpower.” Part of his plan includes expanding the rail network to 28,590 kilometers, much of it high speed rail. Turkey now has around 13,000 kilometers.

April 8, 2022: A senior government official reported that Russia has complained to Turkey about its sales of Bayraktar armed drones to Ukraine. Turkey replied that the sales are by a private Turkish commercial company, Bayraktar, and not state-to-state deals.

April 4, 2022: As inflation hit a 20-year high, the Finance Ministry announced it is “taking steps to permanently lower inflation.” Inflation in March hit 61 percent. March’s trade deficit was $8.24 billion. Turkish media claim fuel costs are 99 percent higher than March 2021. Food has risen around 70 percent.

April 1, 2022: Turkey, Italy and France intend to strengthen cooperation in the joint production of air and missile defense systems. Turkey is particularly interested in working on the Long-Range Air and Missile Defense project.

March 31, 2022: Turkish and Romanian military diving teams have found and defused a stray naval mine in the Black Sea. Russia claimed Ukrainian mines broke free of their sea anchors and drifted into the western part of the Black Sea. Turkey has not officially identified the source of the floating mines. A Turkish source pointed out that Russia and Ukraine use very similar naval mines. The Turkish Navy confirmed that dive teams had defused mines on March 26 and March 28. One of the mines was just off Igneada district in Turkey's Kirklareli province (near Bulgaria).

Turkey is mending fences with Saudi Arabia: A Turkish prosecutor stated on the trial in Istanbul of Saudi Arabians suspected of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi should be stopped and transferred to Saudi authorities.

March 29, 2022: Turkey is considering purchasing up to 100 South Korean tank engines. They would power Turkey’s indigenously developed Altay tank. Turkey originally planned to get the engines from Germany but European sanctions against Turkey (for misbehavior in Syria) blocked that and eventually Turkey found that South Korea could fill the order.

March 27, 2022: President Erdogan told Vladimir Putin over the phone that a ceasefire is needed in Ukraine.

March 24, 2022: Greece agreed to buy three Belharra navy frigates and six additional Rafale fighter jets from France. The Rafale fighter jets would begin arriving in the summer of 2024. Greece currently has 18 Rafales.


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