Turkey: Threats For Everyone


December 14, 2022: President Erdogan claimed that a recent Turkish ballistic missile test had scared Greece. Erdogan once again accused Greece of militarily reinforcing its islands in the Aegean Sea. The test Erdogan referred to is most likely the October 18 test launch of a Tayfun short-range ballistic missile. The missile has an estimated range of 600 kilometers and was launched from a mobile launcher located on a military base in (northern Turkey, east of Trabzon. The missile flew west, and struck the sea near the Black Sea port of Sinop (east of Istanbul). Turkey said the impact point was 561 kilometers from the launcher. The missile is another example of Turkey’s ability to produce sophisticated modern weapons.

Sweden and Finland believe they will soon be joining NATO. Hungary has said it will likely approve Sweden and Finland early in 2023. Turkey remains a problem. NATO’s secretary general said in November that in his opinion Sweden and Finland have fulfilled the June 2022 agreement to meet Turkey’s demands regarding harboring and supporting Turkish separatists. This usually meant Turkish Kurds who were members of the separatist PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). Sweden and Finland contend they are ending their limited arms embargoes on Turkey that was imposed because of disagreements about the morality of persecuting journalists and Kurds who criticize the brutal policies Erdogan encourages. A week ago, Finland’ confirmed that it does not have an arms embargo on Turkey. Sweden does but still allows deliveries of defense material to Turkey, as it did in September.

Speaking of embargoes of military materials, the Turkish government is accused of doing that to its own military. President Erdogan declared an attempted military coup in 2015 as justifying Erdogan carrying out a purge of the military and civil service. Anyone with questionable loyalty to Erdogan and his Islamic government were dismissed. The purge was so extensive that the military and many government operations became less effective and more corrupt. The corruption was tolerated when it resulted in major financial benefits for major Erdogan supporters and members of Erdogan’s extended family.

One of the most blatant and costliest examples of this corruption was the military being forced to buy the locally developed and manufactured Altay tank. Turkish manufacturer BMC began this effort in 2008 and it was initially a struggle because the proposed Altay tank was more expensive and less capable than the American M1 and German Leopard that Turkey had access to. Major customers for the M1 are allowed to assemble it locally. Egypt does this and Poland, the latest customer for M1s, is doing the same. Turkey could have saved a lot of time and money by assembling M1s locally and using what was learned from that to develop a Turkish tank that was cheaper and more capable than the Altay. Local assembly operations provide less immediate and far fewer opportunities for corruption, especially for Erdogan’s political party and close associates. The Altay project did that because a distant relative of Erdogan was a major investor in BMC and benefited from any government business BMC received. Turkish journalists were discouraged from covering this but well-informed foreign journalists were not.

Meanwhile, BMC had to shop around for counties able to supply them with key Altay components that most Western nations refused to supply because of Turkish and Turkish-hired mercenary battlefield abuses of Arabs in Syria and Libya, and of Kurds everywhere. In 2021 BMC was able to obtain needed Altay components from two South Korean firms who agreed to build engine and transmission systems for Altay. Originally Turkey planned to use German manufactured engine components and French composite armor. Germany and other Europeans have since put sanctions on Turkey for atrocious behavior against Kurds and Arabs. The Turks are still looking for someone to supply composite armor equal to the French design. If not, they can use less capable designs that are adequate. Turkey already paid South Korea nearly half a billion dollars for use of South Korean tank tech developed for South Korea K1 and K2 tanks. Both of these were based on the U.S. M1 and some licensed U.S. tech was used, but the South Koreans gradually developed their own engines and other components. These are free to export.

Turkey has been a major customer for licensed South Korean military tech. All of this greatly increased the Altay budget, providing ample opportunities to reward pro-Erdogan politicians and Erdogan himself. This scandal is one reason why Erdogan is losing so much voter support in Turkey. This threatens Erdogan and his party. Erdogan is very worried about the corruption accusations and Turkey’s shaky economy. National elections are scheduled for June 2023. He is seeking reelection and insists this will be his last term as president. Israel can help the Turkish economy and sees maintaining close ties with Greece and Turkey as an asset and opportunity to reduce the tensions between these two NATO members. If Erdogan is out of office, government spending policies will change and that is not good news for Altay.

December 13, 2022: In the southeast (Shirnak province) another oil field has been found. This one contains at least 150 million barrels of oil worth $12 billion at current prices. Turkey has no major oil fields and consumes about a million BPD (barrels per day). Local production covers about seven percent of needs. Local production has grown from 40,000 BPD to 65,000 in the last five years. Turkey apparently has enough of these small onshore and offshore oil deposits to eventually cover ten percent of daily consumption. Turkey is trying to enforce an illegal (according to international law) contract with one of the two factions in Libya. That treaty allows Turkey to explore in offshore areas that the rest of the world recognizes as Greek controlled. The disputed offshore area is believed to contain 1.7 trillion barrels of oil and smaller deposits of natural gas. If Turkey can retain control of the disputed deposits it would no longer have to import oil. Nearby nations with offshore oil or gas fields (including Israel) as well as NATO oppose Turkish claims on Greek offshore resources. Turkey says it will fight to enforce its claim and apparently believes it can bully its opponents into backing down. That level of intimidation is questionable, but does have a chance of success if Turkey can placate enough of its critics diplomatically. Greece and Turkey have had armed conflicts in the past but those did not escalate into Turkey being declared an outlaw NATO member and subject to attack by all NATO members. The NATO treaty covers the impact of one member attacking another; expulsion from NATO for the attacker. This clause of the treaty has never been used and the Turks seem to believe that not enough NATO members would agree with enforcing this rule against Turkey.

December 11, 2022: Turkey threatened to use its newly introduced Tayfun ballistic missile against Greece if there is a military dispute over disputed offshore oil and natural gas. The new Turkish developed and manufactured missile has a range of 560 kilometers.

December 9, 2022: Turkey is reportedly seeking a discount of at least 25 percent on the price of imported Russian natural gas. At least one meeting was held in Turkey with Russian energy representatives.

December 8, 2022: Turkey announced it will continue to deny access to the Turkish Straits to oil tankers lacking “appropriate insurance documents.” As of December 7, nineteen tankers were reportedly in the Black Sea waiting to enter the Bosporus strait and nine tankers were in the Aegean waiting for permission to enter the Dardanelles. Insurance became an issue when G7 countries, the EU and Australia barred “maritime service providers” (like maritime insurers) from helping Russia export oil.

December 7, 2022: Turkey and Azerbaijan are holding an extensive joint military exercise along Azerbaijan’s border with Iran. The exercise began November 20. The exercise is a response to an exercise Iran held in October. The Iranian exercise included a mock crossing of the Araz River that runs along the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Azerbaijani diplomats have made it clear the Turk-Azeri exercise is a signal to Iran. A website with ties to the Azeri defense department said that Azeri soldiers are also capable of crossing the river.

The first of six German designed Type 214 TN submarines built under license in Turkey for the navy begun sea trials in the Sea of Maramara. The submarine Pirireis is the first-of-class boat (Reis-class). The sub is an air independent propulsion (AIP) submarine.

December 6, 2022: In southern Somalia (Mogadishu) Turkey was ready to replace the UAE (United Arab Emirates) for modernizing and expanding the Mogadishu port after the Somalis rejected the UAE proposal. Turkey had already done this for the international airport outside the city. There are interesting security problems. Turkey will also replace the UAE as the current manager of the port and was criticized for tolerating exports of goods Islamic terrorists al Shabaab made money from. Turkey says it will not tolerate this, which will reduce exports from the new port and reduce al Shabaab profits as the Islamic terrorists use another, less efficient, Somali port for these goods.

December 3, 2022: In a letter to the UN, Greece officially rejected the Turkey-Libya hydrocarbon memorandum. Greece maintains the Turkish-Libyan deal encroaches on the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) demarcation agreement between Greece and Egypt and therefore violates Greece’s sovereign rights. Egypt also opposes the Turkey-Libya deal. The Arab world condemns Turkish actions in Libya because it is a reminder of centuries of Turkish rule over Arabs. Turkey may have underestimated Arab hostility towards this new presence in Libya. This revives Arab memories of past Turkish treatment of Libya. The Turks first showed up there in the 1550s as the Ottoman Empire conquered the coastal towns and cities of what is now Libya. Eventually the Turks advanced inland but there was no real incentive to because south of the coast it was mainly desert and, before oil was discovered and developed in the 1960s, there was little of economic value down there. Empires have bills to pay and tend to keep their soldiers where the money is. Arabs believe the Turks are back for more plunder. From the 1550s to 1910 Libya was technically a province of the Ottoman Empire. In reality Libya was mainly run by local strongmen who were often Turks gone native. In 1911 Italy took advantage of the Turks’ weak control and invaded. By 1912 Italy controlled what is now Libya. The Italians sent in colonists and brought the industrial revolution to Libya. Italian rule ended in 1943 when Italy, an ally of Germany during World War II (1939-45), surrendered to the allies.

December 2, 2022: Sweden deported Mahmut Tat to Turkey because Turkey claims Tat has links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In 2015 Mahmut Tat, asked Sweden for asylum after he was sentenced to prison in Turkey. Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO but Turkey objects to their policies towards militant and terrorist groups, particularly the PKK. On November 30 the Turkish government said that Sweden and Finland were making progress on that issue but “needed to take concrete steps” on the issue of harboring militants. Sweden and Finland are tiring of the endless Turkish demands and continuing refusal to agree to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Most NATO members criticize Turkey for using extortion to get its way with Sweden and Finland. Turkey has one crucial NATO ally, Germans who occupy senior positions in NATO headquarters. The current head of NATO, a Norwegian politician agrees with those who refuse to pressure Turkey to allow two valuable new members into NATO. Germany is also embarrassed that its support for Russia and heavy dependence on Russian natural gas has backfired. Germany does not want to get more involved with Turkish misbehavior even if that means a lot of criticism from other NATO members that support Sweden and Finland becoming NATO members.

Turkish diplomats believe that before Spring 2023 the world will have a clear picture about ceasefire or truce or negotiations in Ukraine. Since July, Turkey has hoped the grain shipping “sea corridor” deal it helped negotiate between Russia and Ukraine would lead to ceasefire negotiations. The sea corridor allows freighters carrying Ukrainian grain safe passage across the Black Sea from Ukraine to Turkish waters.

November 30, 2022: Serbia’s foreign ministry advised Serbian citizens to avoid traveling to Turkey during the coming weeks due to the threat of terrorist attacks. The Turkish capital Ankara is a particular target. European media reported that Turkey has warned at least three other embassies in Ankara of an increased terrorist threat.

November 24, 2022: Ukraine has quietly added Turkey’s TRLG-230 Multiple Rocket Launch System (MLRS) to its arsenal and has already employed it in combat. The TRLG-230 rockets use satellite guidance like the American GMLES. The TRLG-230 launchers are designed to work in tandem with the TB-2 Bayraktar recon UAV. A TRLG-230 rocket pod carries six 230 mm rockets. The pods are typically mounted on a heavy truck. The TRLG-230 has several variants. One variant can hit targets 70 km distant. The most recent model of the 239mm rocket has laser guidance as well as GPS. In this case the TB-2 has a laser designator to identify the target, even if it is moving, for the incoming rocket.

The U.S. State Department has once again asked Turkey to quit using the Russian-made S-400 missile system. The U.S. and other major NATO nations fear the S-400 would give the Kremlin an “intelligence window” on NATO air operations and even compromise NATO’s stealthy aircraft. Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s triggered American sanctions. The sanctions included kicking Turkey out of the F-35 joint strike fighter program. The U.S. also argues Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400s violates NATO agreements made at the 2016 NATO Summit to reduce dependence on Russian equipment.

November 23, 2022: A Turkish air strike on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) position in northeastern Syria came within 300 meters of hitting some 900 American soldiers. The SDF claimed that two of its U.S. trained SDF fighters were killed in the air strike. The SDF is a coalition of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians who are fighting the Islamic State. Turkey claims the SF is dominated by Syrian Kurd People’s Protection Units (YPG) and that the YPG is aligned with the PKK. The Americans believe that the YPG is a valuable member of the SDF and that all Kurdish separatist groups get along with each other.

November 22, 2022: Turkey said that it will continue to attack Syrian Kurd forces even if they are supported by the U.S. Turkey warned that a ground attack on the YPG in northern Syria is very likely.

November 21, 2022: Turkish jets conducted dozens of air strikes on targets in northern Iraq and Syria. Turks described the strikes as hitting “military infrastructure” -- tunnels, shelters, training facilities and ammo dumps. An independent source reported the strikes in Syria killed 14 SDF fighters and 12 Syrian (Assad) soldiers.

November 20, 2022: In Libya, Russia has allied itself with Turkey and cut ties with the nationalist faction that had almost united Libya until the Turks showed up in 2019. The UN supports efforts to get the Turks out of Libya. The UN was hobbled by Russia using its permanent UN veto to block efforts to force the Turks out of Libya. Turkey’s refusal to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine made Russia less inclined to continue using its UN veto to support illegal (according to most UN members) Turkish operations in Libya. Partition of Libya into east and west is now seen as a serious solution to the continued deadlock. The UN has become agreeable to the partition solution because the Turks show no sign of leaving and Russia’s continued losses in Ukraine led Russia to depend on Turkey and in Libya Turkey and Russia are now allies.

Turkey has resolved its pay and terms-of-service disputes with its Syrian Arab mercenaries in Tripoli. The Syrian mercs have been in Libya for two years, which is longer than they signed up for. That caused problems for Turkey which have been resolved.

November 19, 2022: Turkey continues to support the unification of all Azeri Turks into a unified state. Many of those Azeri Turks are currently living in Iran. Azerbaijan considers themselves “free Azeri Turks” compared to the majority of Azeri Turks who still live under Persian (Iranian) rule. Azeris are a quarter of the Iranian population and long accepted as peers. The failures of the religious dictatorship over the last four decades have caused more Iranian Azeris to seriously consider the alternative of the long-deferred dream of all Azeris living in one Azeri nation. Turkey encourages that and Russia will tolerate it. Azerbaijan has oil wealth and has been free from the Soviet Union since 1991, proving that a modern Azeri state can successfully exist. Iranian history shows that making threats against well-armed and well-prepared Turks does not work out well for Iran, which lost Azerbaijan to Russia over a century ago. This “Greater Azerbaijan” talk is anathema to the ethnic Iranians who dominate Iran. But Iranian Azeris note that while senior Azeri clerics have become part of the government, most Azeris Turks in Iran are as poor and repressed by the religious dictatorship as everyone else.

November 17, 2022: The UN announced an extension of the Ukrainian safe delivery sea corridor agreement protecting Ukrainian shipments in the Black Sea from Russian attack. The current agreement was to expire November 18. Ukraine can export grain, fertilizers and other foodstuffs. The UN agreement permits the export of food and fertilizer from Russia. Turkey helped negotiate the original agreement in July. On November 16 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Russian President Vladimir Putin was open to extending the agreement.

In Libya, the Greek foreign minister flew into Tripoli but refused to leave the aircraft and left because Greece had been assured that the foreign minister would only meet with the president of the Libyan Presidential council. This was a requirement because the Greeks wanted to discuss the illegal agreements that the Tripoli faction had signed with Turkey last year. At the airport the Greeks realized that the official waiting to greet them was the man who signed the agreement with Turkey which Greece and other European nations consider illegal.

November 15, 2022: Turkish security forces arrested a woman suspected of conducting the November 13 bombing attack in Istanbul. The bombing killed six Turkish civilians. Meanwhile, the Turkish government accused the U.S. of “complicity” in the attack since the U.S. supports the Syrian SDFs.

November 13, 2022: The government blamed Kurdish militants associated with the PKK for a bomb attack that killed six people in Istanbul and wounded 53. Security personnel have arrested 47 people, including a Syrian woman suspected of detonating the bomb.

November 12, 2022: Turkey rejected an Israeli request to deport several members of the Hamas organization. This is because Turkey does not regard Hamas as a terrorist group. This rejection is seen as a signal that Turkey wants to be a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. Complying with the Israeli request would have made mediation impossible. Popular sentiment in Turkey is that the Turkey-Israel rapprochement will continue. The rapprochement is based on common geopolitical interests, to include economic, energy and security interests. Issues with the Iranian threat, trade and developing offshore natural gas mean Turkey and Israel have good reasons to cooperate. The October appointment of a Turkish ambassador to Israel demonstrates that. (Austin Bay)

November 6, 2022: As Ukraine, Turkey, and United Nations representatives discussed how the grain shipment corridor deal might continue without Russia, Russia has decided to extend the agreement. Russia pulled out of extension discussions after an October 29 aerial drone attack on Black Sea fleet ships in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

November 5, 2022: Egypt once again indicated it is willing to hold talks with Turkey aimed at ending the political rift that began in 2013. However, according to Egypt, Turkey must change some of its policies. Egypt wants Turkey to withdraw from its forces from Libya. Egypt supports Libya’s eastern-based parliamentary government. Turkey supports the Tripoli government in western Libya. Egypt also opposes Turkey’s new oil and gas exploration deal with the Tripoli government that opens Libya’s Mediterranean Sea EEZ to co-development projects with Turkey.

November 3, 2020: NATO leaders urged Turkey to agree to let Finland and Sweden join the alliance. NATO argues that Finland and Sweden have satisfied Turkey’s major concerns about harboring militants. All 30 NATO members must approve applications to join the alliance. Turkey and Hungary have not yet approved Finland and Sweden. Hungary currently has a pro-Russian government.

November 2, 2022: Turkey’s defense industrial-policy office, the Defense Industries Presidency SSB, officially unveiled the MIR. The MIR is an unmanned naval surface vessel designed to fight submarines (anti-submarine warfare, ASW). The MIR can operate autonomously, be guided remotely, or operate with a manned crew.

November 1, 2022: Turkish Aerospace Industries confirmed it is developing a subsonic drone. The drone will have a max speed of Mach 0.7 and operate at an altitude of gnarly 20 kilometers (50,000 feet to 60,000 feet). It will be capable of performing intelligence-gathering missions and fire support missions.

October 31, 2022: Turkey said it is not satisfied with Sweden’s handling of PKK separatists. If Sweden wants to join NATO, its government must “take more definitive steps.”

In the U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Turkey’s attempt to dismiss lawsuits in American courts resulting from the violent fight near the Turkish ambassador’s Washington residence in May 2017. Several anti-Turkish government protestors were injured in the fight. Protestors blamed Turkish security personnel. Turkey’s lawyers argued foreign governments are immune to most lawsuits. The Court indicated Turkey can be sued, given the circumstances.

October 28, 2022: Poland received its first shipment of Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs).

Turkey will reorganize the Syrian National Army (SNA). The SNA was initially formed from 28 Free Syrian Army groups. It has since added another 13 groups. “Groups” is a diplomatic way of saying factions. Frequently, fighting erupts between SNA factions. In a recent clash at an SNA camp, eight people were killed and at least 47 wounded. The defense officials indicated reorganization will include an effective command, control and administrative structure. Turkey provides the SNA with logistics support, training advisers and intelligence.


Article Archive

Turkey: Current 2023 2022 2021



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close