How school oath debates divided Turkish society

Watching political processes in Turkey, you never know where the next line of social division will appear. Today in Turkey there are hot debates about the fate of the school oath, which until recently, primary school students across the country used to read every day for half a century.

The tradition of compulsory oath reading for schoolchildren was laid by the builders of the new state, the Kemalist elites, in 1933, on the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic. The project of creating a nation-state on the ruins of a multinational and multi-religious Ottoman Empire assumed the consolidation of disparate parts of society into a single social monolith. In fact, the experiment did not necessarily mean the voluntary embedding of religious, national and ideological minorities within the ideological framework established above. The idea of ​​citizenship was closely intertwined with the principles of ethnicity. Although changes were made to the text of the oath afterwards, the sacred meaning of the text was preserved:

“I am a Turk, I am honest and hardworking.
My principles are to protect the younger ones, respect the elders,
love my homeland and my nation more than myself.
My ideals are to grow and develop.
O great Ataturk!
On the way that you laid for us,
I swear to go to the goals set by you.
My life is dedicated to serving the Turkish people.
How happy is the one who says: “I am a Turk!”

In 1994, Nejmettin Erbakan, the founder of the influential Turkish Islamist Welfare Party, openly opposed the school oath: “For centuries, the sons of this land have begun to read the basmalla. You came and forbidden to mention the name of the Lord. What did you impose in return? "I am a Turk, I am honest and hardworking." If you say this, then Kurdish Muslims also have the right to say: "I am a Kurd, I am more honest, I am more industrious." Although the coalition government of Erbakan was forced into resignation by the military in 1997, with the moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party taking power in 2002, efforts to dismantle the Kemalist establishment’s “patronage system” resumed with new force.

In 2013, the Trade Union of Educationists, known for its Kemalist and generally dissent views, appealed to the State Council, the highest administrative court of Turkey, to repeal the actions of the Erdogan government. Five years later, in October 2018, the council decided in favor of returning the oath to the schools. At the same time, the State Council made it clear that without changing the basic provisions of the country's Constitution, the oath itself cannot be canceled. It is interesting that the change of the first chapters of the Basic Law of the country on the political regime and the fundamentals of the republican system still remains the idea of ​​a fix for the Justice and Development Party, as well as moderate Islamist parties and forces of the country.

It was not surprising to see the sharp reaction of the ruling party to the recent decision of the State Council. Erdogan and the network of political supporters of the president among public organizations came out in unison against the decision of the State Council, which, in their opinion, runs counter to democratic values, the principles of equality among citizens and hurts the feelings of members of national minorities. Nevertheless, the State Council was able to withstand another attempt by the country's government to intervene in the affairs of the judiciary, largely thanks to the support of the country's three largest parties, the moderately Kemalist Republican People's Party, the Nationalist Movement Party and the Good Party.

In such difficult circumstances, Erdogan's party could be considered as the main advocate of democratic values ​​in the country: after all, it advocates the idea of ​​creating a more inclusive political identity. But shaitan is in the detail. In contrast to the rhetoric, the actions of the ruling party of Turkey showed that the danger to social harmony today comes from attempts to replace the definition of citizenship based on ethnic attributes, the concept of citizenship, in the center of which is confessional affiliation. The issue of inclusiveness remains as acute as ever. Purposeful de-secularization of all public spheres of Turkey, focused on creating the idea of ​​citizenship on the basis of Sunni Islam, does not solve the country's problems.

Thus, it can be seen that the experiment titled “The Republic of Turkey”, which began in the 20th century, continues in the 21st century as well. Some are trying to hold on to the old order, which has clearly become obsolete and is preventing Turkey from developing in conditions of social stability, while others are trying to push through their project of authoritarian modernization under the slogan of democratization leaving the outside observers wondering where the next line of social division will appear next time.

Further reading:


What is behind deafening silence of Turkey on the Uyghurs in China?

If you have patience and plunge for a few minutes into the endless information flow of state propaganda in Turkey, you can understand why the president of the country has been endowed with a epithet "leader of the world Islamic Ummah". Turkey's Erdogan is always there where the rights of Muslims are oppressed. From the Turkish community in Europe and the Sunnis of Syria to the Rohingya in Myanmar driven from their native places: everywhere Turkey openly challenges tyrants and oppressors. Such an image of Turkey is so entrenched in heads of millions of Muslims in the world that the lack of reaction of official Turkish authorities to repressions of the Uyghurs in China causes outright confusion. The reasons for this silence should be sought in the nature of populism of the Turkish leadership.

Despite the fact the multiple attempts of the Turkish authorities in the 1990s to flirt with the ideas of Pan-Turkism in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and a changed course in the 2000s to a foreign policy based on pan-Islamic solidarity, the Uyghur question in China has always been on the agenda of a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Over the past 25 years, the Uyghur diaspora in the country has grown from a hundred to several tens of thousands of people. The special attitude of the Justice and Development Party to Uyghurs' struggle was expressed in 1995 by the party's founder Tayyip Erdogan, then the mayor of Istanbul: “Eastern Turkestan is the birthplace of Turks, the cradle of Turkic history, civilization and culture. By forgetting it, we would forget our roots, get into to the abyss of ignorance. The martyrs of Eastern Turkistan are our martyrs".

Traditionally, Turkish authorities' reaction was limited to minor critical statements to the Chinese official treatment of the Turkic minority. In the period from the 1940s through the 1990s, the topic of the Uyghurs in Turkey was not particularly politicized, but the country was accepting Uyghurs who were fleeing communist China and looking for political refuge in Turkey. The need to find resources for influence and confrontation in competition with Russia and China in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union prompted Turkey to politicize the Uyghur issue. The aggravation of Turkish-Chinese relations was at the peak of the popularity of the Justice and Development Party in the Islamic world. In the summer of 2009, in the midst of unrest in Urumqi Erdogan, then the Prime Minister of Turkey, unsuccessfully tried to bring the topic of repressive policies of Beijing in Xinjiang to discussions in the UN Security Council.

During the summer of 2015, a wave of protests against China rolled through Istanbul. The attack itself was not limited with the Chinese; Asian tourists and local owners of Asian restaurants came under the hand of disgruntled youth as well. Turkish nationalists, acting with the tacit consent of local authorities, thus wanted to express dissatisfaction with discriminatory measures against Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan.

The civil war in Syria and strong desire of the Turkish ruling elites to topple Assad and to bring ideologically close Muslim Brotherhood to power in the neighboring country, prompted Ankara to use all the political resources it had in its hands. Since 2012, in cities of Gaziantep, Kayseri, Konya and Istanbul, in the places of compact residence of Uyghur refugees in Turkey, a recruiting network began to operate with the aim to provide help and send those who wanted to fight the Syrian government. It is foolish to assert that the Turkish government did not realize back then that the Uyghurs, both living in Turkey and fleeing from China, who were leaving in large numbers to fight against the Assad regime, would eventually become a serious problem for Ankara itself.

The question of possible involvement of Turkish authorities in the traffic of Uyghur jihadists was raised by the Chinese side in 2015, when Beijing realized that sooner or later, the battle-hardened supporters of the independence of an Islamic state in Eastern Turkestan would return to their native lands to further steer instability in the border region. It is possible that Beijing was using the problem of the participation of a limited number of foreign fighters in Syria to justify pressure on Ankara and Xinjiang Muslims as well.

It is not surprising that the Uyghur factor of Turkey’s Syrian policy has become a source of threat to its very national security. Now in Idlib, in the last stronghold of anti-government forces, there are about 1000-1500 militants of the radical Islamic movement in Eastern Turkestan. Turkey, which has assumed the responsibility to solve the problem of radical groups in the region under the Sochi agreements with Russia, is in a difficult situation. Any serious pressure on the Uyghur jihadists can radicalize their diaspora in Turkey and induce its members to carry out retaliatory attacks already on Turkish soil, using the experience gained in Syria.

The Uyghur dimension of ties between Beijing and Ankara was not limited to the Syrian conflict alone. Since 2017, international media outlets began to report on the existence in China of a larger scale government program for the ideological "re-education" of the population of Xinjiang. Forced involvement of Uyghur locals and representatives of other Muslim minorities to the program is accompanied by a massive restriction of rights and freedoms, which caused a sharp reaction from leading human rights organizations, the United Nations, European countries and the United States.

Against the background of statements of the world community, Turkey stands out with its deafening silence, which has sheltered the lion’s share of Uyghur activists who have fled from China and historically being one of the international pillars of the Uyghur national movement, Ankara, has diligently avoided public discussion of the problem. It would be a mistake to say that the issue of the rights and freedoms of oppressed Muslim peoples across the globe came off the agenda of Turkish diplomacy: today, neither the problem of the population of Yemen, nor the fate of occupied Palestine, nor the calamity of the African continent are left without attention from the country's leadership.

Turkey's silence about the Uyghur oppression is a policy choice imposed by foreign policy conditions. China for the Turkish power elites represents a serious geopolitical alternative to Ankara's Western partners. With the increasing tightening of screws in Turkey, Western countries are increasingly thinking about finding mechanisms that would force Turkish government to stand in the way of further democratization. The mutually beneficial development of economic and trade relations is conditioned by the political demands of the EU and the United States, which prevent Turkish leadership from pursuing its own political ambitions. Thus, politically undemanding and wealthy China seems to represent a good alternative.

The fate of an unstable economy, as well as a number of infrastructural "construction projects of the century" in Turkey is being decided today by Chinese loans. China uses Ankara’s tense relations with Western countries and buys profitable assets, ranging from online sales networks, the banking sector to purchasing shares in the country's main marine ports. It even comes to discussions about construction of a third nuclear power plant in the country and joint projects in the field of defense. It seems that Turkey is ready for anything, just to get the money, but not from the West.

The price for the opportunity to wage a "struggle against Western dominance" is a complete disregard for the fellow Uyghurs. Turkish pro-government media can write about the growing trade volumes with China, but they will definitely ignore the topic of repression against the Uyghurs. Even when forming a policy of relations with third countries, Turkey is ready to observe China’s interests: for example, at the meeting of the parliamentary commission on foreign affairs, deputies, discussing relations with Thailand, admitted that the Turkish authorities, when considering the extradition of Uyghurs to this country, are guided by the desire not to provoke criticism of Peking.

Meanwhile, Turkish diplomats at the initiative of the Chinese side are participating in the development of joint initiatives in the fight against terrorists. In the age of close cooperation between Beijing and Ankara, the "martyrs of Turkestan" are no longer the martyrs of the Turks, as earlier was claimed by the ex-mayor of Istanbul. For Turkey, Uyghurs now are international terrorists. Moreover, Turkey makes it clear that it is now ready to fight against those who encroach on the security of China itself.

And even in cases where Turkey has a good opportunity to influence China in regards to the situation of Uyghurs by diplomatic means, Turkish diplomats, following instructions, deliberately take a low profile. Thus, the position of the Turkish authorities when discussing the report on China in the UN Commission on Human Rights was criticized for deliberate inaction.

Meanwhile, the Uyghur issue is periodically raised by the Turkish opposition parties, who are not necessarily responsible for governing the country and maintaining official relations with China. The activity of the Turkish civil society on the situation of the Uyghur, as in everything else, is minimal: without instructions from above. People have to be content with individual actions like, for example, a symbolic march from Istanbul to Ankara.

Of course, no one obliges Turkey to fight for the rights and freedoms of Muslims in the world. The support hitherto rendered by the Turkish people to all their brothers in faith undoubtedly deserves the highest degree of respect and sets an example to all others in the age of mass migration, global crises and humanitarian disasters. The history of Turkish politics in the Uyghur issue shows that as soon as the topic of rights and freedoms becomes a point of propaganda of the populist regime, everyone suffers. Populism is an ideology of irresponsible politicians. After giving hope for a speedy solution to your problems, populist politicians can renounce you at any moment, as soon as their mercantile and personal interests are threatened.

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Ankara prepares for a peace deal with Kurds in Turkey and Syria

The success of every state’s foreign policy lies in the ability of its ruling elites to properly read the foreign policy situation and quickly adapt to difficult conditions. For Turkey, this rule is especially important. The country's geopolitical position obliges it to take the initiative since the price of a passive foreign policy is the growth of threats along its own national borders with the subsequent spread of instability over to own soil. Recent events show that Ankara may be seriously thinking about a radical revision of its position in the Kurdish issue.

Of course, the resolution of the civil war in the neighboring country for many years will remain a priority for Turkish diplomacy. Since the early 2000s, Syria has been viewed by the ruling elites of Turkey as the main springboard for expanding its influence in the Middle East. But the tragic events of the "Arab Spring" turned the Syrian trend into a source of constant threats to national security. The policy of humanitarian activity of Ankara was replaced by attempts to neutralize the negative consequences of the growth of Kurdish nationalism and separatism.

The main problems for Turkey in this direction are not even the Syrian Kurds themselves. If in the case of Russia, Turkey has managed to find a common denominator to this day when discussing the relationship between Damascus and the Syrian opposition, then on the issue of Syrian Kurds, Turkey is in a state of strategic clinch with its main military-political ally, the United States.

The United States continues to carry out plans to create a vaguely political entity in northern Syria under the leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. Washington sees the Syrian Kurds as a tool to deter Iran’s influence and at the same time exert pressure  on Damascus.

The situation is used by the Syrian Kurds themselves as well. Under the slogan of the idea of ​​democratic federalism, the Democratic Party, under the protection of the American military and its own well equipped and trained militia, is trying to build national autonomy in Syria with the likely spread of such experience in Turkey, where the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been operating since the 1980s. The latter is recognized not only by Ankara, but also by the United States and the EU as a terrorist organization.

The effect of the threats of the Turkish leadership to launch a military operation against the American-armed Kurdish quasi-state  is undermined by decisive US actions to protect Kurdish armed groups, as well as by deliberately delaying negotiations with the Turks to resolve the situation peacefully. However, Ankara understands that the current status quo in northern Syria is a direct road to destabilization of the Turkish border regions. The territory under consideration may turn into another theater of war between regional players - the countries of the Persian Gulf and Iran, where Turkey will have to be content with the status of a passive observer.

The operations “Olive Branch” and “Euphrates Shield” showed Ankara’s readiness to use military force under favorable foreign and domestic conditions. However, in the absence of an opportunity to implement such a scenario in northern Syria, due to the high probability of a direct clash with the US military, Turkey seems ready to radically change the approach: a military mood is replaced by political maneuvering.

Turkish government correctly assesses the essence of what is happening. First, the United States does not plan to leave outright Syria in the near future. Attempts by Turkey to take the initiative away from the United States in Syria could turn into a disaster. Secondly, Ankara is aware that it cannot force the United States to abandon experiments on the construction of an autonomous political entity at its own borders. The Turkish authorities understand that it will be more effective not to hinder the process, but to actively  participate in it. After all, the success of the long-term US strategy in northern Syria lies in the non-conflict participation and support of Turkey itself.

First of all, Ankara seems to be planning to tackle the very solution of its own Kurdish issue. More than half of the Kurds of the Middle East live in Turkey. Positive processes within the country can strengthen the “rear” of Turkish diplomacy: Turkey was guided by such considerations in 2008–2012, when serious attempts were made to satisfy the aspirations of Turkish Kurds in the matter of cultural rights. Then it was even talked about trying to conclude a truce with the Kurdistan Workers' Party and finally translate the military conflict into the mainstream of a peaceful political process.

The beginning of the war in Syria and growing influence of the Syrian Kurds under the military and political leadership of the PKK led to changes: the crisis of Syrian statehood made Kurdish nationalists abandon negotiations with Ankara and finally start implementing their ideological program of political autonomy within Syria with its unstable central by the government. By 2014, the peace process was replaced by a full-fledged confrontation between PKK fighters and the Turkish authorities, which was accompanied by numerous civilian casualties.

Today, the Turkish security forces succeed in uprooting the terrorist threat in the country. Meanwhile, the leadership and pro-government forces are trying to resume discussion of the Kurdish issue. Thus, on November 30, in Oslo, there was a low-profile meeting in Turkey  between representatives of the Turkish ruling elite, close to the authorities, representatives of the Turkish intelligentsia and leaders of the Kurdish movement. The agenda was reportedly the Kurdish issue.

The organization of such event is extremely surprising, given the plans of the ruling party of Turkey to go to the forthcoming elections in March 2019 in an alliance with Turkish nationalists, who are known to oppose any negotiations with the PKK.

Everything points to the existence of a concrete intention of Ankara to return to the discussion of Kurdish issue, despite the obvious political risks. Turkish media reported on the visit of the official delegation of Turkey to Germany on November 22, during which Turkish representatives studied the German experience of the Bundesrat, a federal body of the country representing all 16 German lands. Worth noting that the limited rights of autonomy has been one of the requirements of Turkish Kurdish nationalists.

There is no doubt that it is not in the interests of Turkey to continue to conflict with the United States over Syria. Ankara is not ready to risk a military conflict with its principle strategic partner. However, current circumstances allow Ankara to look at the problem of the Syrian Kurds in terms of potential benefits. Participation with the United States in political processes in northern Syria and joint initiatives to protect autonomy, independent of Damascus, can strengthen Turkey’s position in the Syrian political process as a whole and break the ice in relations with America.

Finally, the return of the American-Turkish alliance to the scene of the Syrian civil war may influence Russia's plans for ending the conflict in favor of Damascus. The success of Russian politics in Syria depends on the ability to closely monitor the internal political processes in Turkey itself, to analyze any changes in the intentions of the Turkish leadership, known for its unpredictability, and to be proactive.

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Turkey is increasing its military presence in the Black Sea

The only border between Turkey and Russia passes through the Black Sea. Events on one shore of the sea, reaching the opposite edge, sooner or later cause a response. Strengthening the Russian presence in the Black Sea can not but bother the Turkish leadership. As a member of NATO, Turkey is trying to meet the goals of the organization in the region, but as the largest neighbor and important trade partner of Russia, it is trying to pursue an independent policy vis-a-vis its northern neighbor. It is thus important in this light to assess the newly announced plans of Ankara for the construction of a naval base on the Black Sea coast.

The ninth logistics base of the Turkish fleet will be located near the large Black Sea city of Trabzon. It is planned to deploy 400 military and 200 civilian personnel to service frigates and submarines on its facilities. Although the decision was not directly connected with the recent Ukrainian provocation in the Kerch Strait, it was made in 2014 and possibly influenced by the events in the Crimea . The construction of the object, moreover, fits into the logic of the development of the Turkish Navy, which seeks to become a leading regional maritime power in 15-20 years.

Turkey’s focus on developing its own defense capabilities in the maritime domains is being made against the background of unsuccessful diplomatic efforts of recent years to create a regional cooperation mechanism in the Black Sea. The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization since its inception in 1999 has not became an incentive for coastal states to move to closer political cooperation. The process is also hampered by the expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe, during which the new members eventually lost their desire to solve the problems existing in the Black Sea through mutual consultation, including with Russia.

On the other hand, strengthening of the Russian presence in the Black Sea in recent years also makes Turkey increasingly think about modernizing its own fleet and logistics infrastructure along the shore. Russia's increasing share of modern naval and rocket weapons and changing the balance of forces in the Black Sea makes Turkey look for an opportunity to keep the unfolding process within the framework of predictability.

Obviously, the view of Ankara is today directed primarily towards NATO. In mid-2016, at the peak of the Russian-Turkish crisis, Turkey’s concerns about the Russian presence were expressed by Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who, addressing the NATO Secretary General, said, “the Black Sea has become almost a lake in Russia. If we do not act now, history will not forgive us”.

Several factors force Ankara not to participate in the alliance’s strategy for containing Russia in the region. First, economic cooperation with Russia is becoming strategic, and it remains non-politicized, in contrast to Turkey’s relations with Western countries. Secondly, the participation of Turkey in the conflict with Russia on the side of NATO can not only turn the Turkish territories into a priority goal of the Russian nuclear strike, but also would serve to initiate a series of conflicts on the borders of Turkey in the Balkans and the Caucasus with unpredictable consequences for Turkey’s statehood.

Turkey is not interested in the revision of the Montreux Convention on the status of the straits, which is indirectly and directly sought by the United States. The Convention is a powerful tool in the hands of Turkey, securing sovereignty over the most important international maritime passage. But, even being a member of NATO, Turkey tried not to use a similar trump card against the largest maritime power in the Black Sea of today - Russia. The passage of Russian ships in most cases is not a problem,  even with different views on the classes and armament load of ships. The Bosphorus and the Dardanelles remained open and in the period of dangerous cooling of the Russian-Turkish relations in 2015-2016. At the same time, in the days of the Georgian crisis in August 2008, Turkey decided to consult with the Russian side before making a decision on the passage of US ships.

It is obvious that Turkey tries to keep an independent line of conduct towards Russia, and Western countries are forced to reckon with this. Over the past 10 years, Turkey has become an ambitious player aimed at expanding influence in neighboring regions, primarily in the Middle East. Dynamic foreign policy in the region confronts Ankara with the interests of Western partners. In such conditions, Turkish diplomacy seeks to use its geopolitical advantages in bargaining with the West to advance its narrow national interests.

The question of Turkey’s acquiring Russian S-400 air defense missile systems is a good example of this: Turks are ready to use the Russian card as part of their own relations with Western allies. Having such an obstinate partner is unusual for the United States. In addition, the security architecture of the US-led military alliance relies on the participation of Turkey, which further complicates bilateral relations. The pressure on the political leadership of Turkey may potentially put under question the presence of American troops in the region, but it also may bring to the agenda the fate of NATO’s strategic military facilities. Thus, the rejection of Turkey's specific demand to recognize its ambitions seems impossible.

Probably, the United States, as part of its confrontation with Russia in the Black Sea, is following a policy of expanding its strategic alternatives. With the increased independence of Turkey from Western interests, values and narratives and Ankara's apparent reluctance to participate in the policy of putting pressure on its neighbor along the coast, the US military is developing relations with other states in the region.

In 2005, Bulgaria and Romania signed an agreement on the establishment of US naval bases on the Black Sea coast. Now Romania is the main contender for the replacement of Turkey as the main anti-Russian component of the American containment strategy. In 2010, Bucharest actively participated in deploying US missile defense elements on its territory. In July 2016, Romania launched an initiative to create a unified NATO naval group in the Black Sea. Although the plans were not supported by all participants, it was obvious that the importance of Turkey in the framework of NATO activity in the Black Sea is gradually decreasing.

Ankara’s decision to build a logistics base near Trabzon is intended to demonstrate to the Western allies that Turkey does not intend to leave the Black Sea. On the contrary, the country's participation in important projects, such as, for example, the Turkish Stream, implies a more focused attention of the country to the situation in the region. The preservation of military parity in the sea has a direct impact on the political situation in the so-called Greater Black Sea Coast - the regions of the Caucasus and the Balkans. The development of the defense potential, part of which will be the new logistics base of the Turkish Navy, is aimed at preserving Turkey’s leading naval force in NATO. This means that Russia will have to develop relations with Turkey, which has repeatedly demonstrated its positive role in reducing anti-Russian sentiment in the alliance, on the basis of mutual respect. 

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Turkish helicopters pay the price for Ankara's rejection to cooperate with Moscow

by Oleg Moskvin

The United States has punished Turkey for purchase of the S-400 by delaying the supply of engines for the Turkish T-129 attack helicopters. And there are no guarantees that these shipments will take place at all. Turks are forced to hastily look for someone who will re-motorize their military equipment. Maybe Russia could do this? And the most interesting thing is that at the time Ankara had a chance to avoid this situation by buying Russian helicopters.

The supply of three dozen Turkish T-129 ATAK multi-purpose attack helicopters to Pakistan will be delayed by at least six months. The reason is the failure of the United States to supply Turkey with engines for these helicopters in time. Representatives of the Turkish SSM Defense Industry Secretariat told TASS on Friday about problems with Ankara .

According to the source, currently the manufacturer of T-129 - the company Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) - is studying the issue of replacing engines. Probably, ATAK will be equipped with engines of Western European production, but the option of turning to China is also being considered.

“In essence, the sanctions are against the Turkish military-industrial complex,” military expert Vasily Kashin said on Facebook . “We can assume a connection with the C-400 deal, and the first assumption from the Russian side will be like this, but I fully admit that there may be other reasons,” said Vadim Kozyulin, professor at the Academy of Military Sciences, told Vzglyad newspaper.

As the Vzglyad newspaper noted earlier, the Turkish-Russian agreement on the purchase of S-400 Triumph complexes , signed about a year ago , caused tension in relations between Ankara and Washington. Last Thursday, Turkish President’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalyn said : Ankara expects to receive the first C-400 battery by the end of the year. 

At the same time, Kashin noted that at the same time the United States froze the delivery of a consignment of combat helicopters AY-1Z to Pakistan. “Pakistan, as I understand it, is not in the list of states that are prohibited from supplying American weapons, on the one hand. On the other hand, Pakistan now has a complicated relationship with the United States. So it could be more connected with Pakistan itself than with Russia and sanctions against it, ”Kozyulin suggested in turn.

For Pakistan (which is really experiencing not the best period of relations with the United States), the failure of a contract with the Turks is unlikely to be a serious loss. Islamabad can turn to the same Chinese , who are now actively entering the Pakistani arms market. But the Turks, who are interested in selling their products, will have to "spin" and find someone who will help with the re-motorization of helicopters. And among potential suppliers could be not only European countries, but also Russia, and even Ukraine.

Military expert Alexei Leonkov noted in his comment to the Vzglyad newspaper that the T-129 looks very similar to the Mi-24. But not the fact that there is a similarity of engines. Nevertheless, if Russia still decides to tackle this complex task, then, as Leonkov emphasized, it has an engine, which in principle can be an analogue of the American CTS-800, designed for Turkish helicopters.

This is the VK-2500, which is now the main one for installation on helicopters that are in service with the Russian army. This engine produces JSC "Klimov", part of the United Aircraft Building Company. VK-2500 was created as a replacement for TV3-117 engines, which were made at the Ukrainian enterprise Motor-Sich, and now stands on Mi-17, Mi-28, Ka-52, Mi-35 helicopters. "That is, it has become such a universal engine that allows you to solve issues with helicopters," said the source.

True, it should be noted that there are still many differences between the CTS-800 and VK-2500. “Our engine is much more powerful than the American one,” notes Leonkov. However, according to Leonkov, with the help of Russia, it would be more rational for the Turks to change not the engines, but the helicopters. “Just take and change the engine - it means creating a new helicopter, it is even more problematic than changing the aircraft engine,” Leonkov said. - If the gun starts with a projectile, then the helicopter starts with the engine. It is his layout and his power give the helicopter its capabilities. It is clear that replacing the engine will result in alteration of the fuel system, fuel automation, and so on. "

It is worth noting that once Russia even offered its helicopter to Turkey. In 1997, the Russian company Kamov developed the Ka-50-2 Erdogan helicopter, which is essentially an export version of the Ka-52, especially for participation in the Turkish ATAK tender (Attack and Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopters - attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopters). However, the Turks then made a choice in favor of the project of the Italian company Agusta Westland and on the basis of its A-129 Mangusta helicopter a Turkish T-129 ATAK was created. For what now, we can say, and paid.

This time in a hypothetical competition for the right to replace the CTS-800, Russia may also have an unexpected competitor - Ukraine. After all, Motor Sich still produces the same TV3-117 engine, which replaced the VK-2500. True, not the fact that Ukraine will pull the Turkish order (if there will be one). “The Ukrainian military industrial complex is gradually collapsing,” notes Leonkov. “Motor Sich is trying, in the person of its director, Vyacheslav Boguslaev, to save the situation, but it is very difficult for him to fight the political nomenklatura.”

There is one more nuance. With whom Turkey does not agree on the supply of power units, it will be extremely difficult to do this, despite the fact that examples of engine re-motorization from one engine to another are known, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov told the Vzglyad newspaper. “The Iranians, for example, at one time remotourized the American plane, the Juaroo fighters in the French F1 Mirage put the MiG-29 engine. Hypothetically, this is possible, but in this particular case it will be difficult to do it, ”he said.

As one of the reasons Pukhov called the need to obtain a license. “The design is made for specific helicopters, and this helicopter is not purely Turkish, but Turkish-Italian. This is actually an Italian license, and this needs to be coordinated with Italian designers, which is practically unrealistic, ”explained the source. “Besides the Turks and Italians, the Pakistanis must agree to this. There are too many sides to this story. Even if the engine were integrated, it is almost impossible, ”the expert concluded.

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A case for military-technical partnership between Turkey and Russia

by Ilya Kramnik

The contract for the supply of anti-aircraft missile systems S-400 to Turkey can be only the first sign if the two countries manage to establish full-fledged cooperation in the military sphere. Izvestia understood the chances of Moscow and Ankara for strategic rapprochement.

It is necessary to realize that the situation in the relations of the two countries is rather unusual and has arisen on a historical scale recently, against the background of the events of the last 20 years. The drive of cooperation between Russia and Turkey was the disappointment of the leadership of both countries in the “Western choice”, aggravated by the crisis in relations between Moscow and Brussels and Washington, as well as the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by the pro-Western leadership of the armed forces of the country during the coup in summer 2016.

These events led to a dramatic change in the configuration of political relations. A new cold war has actually begun between Russia and the West, fraught with the collapse of the last pillars of strategic stability formed in the post-war period. The relations between Turkey and the EU are overshadowed by the failure of Ankara's many years of efforts to join the European Union and the contradictions that regularly arise on a number of different issues - from the approach to respecting human rights to problems in the energy sector. In many ways, similar problems complicate relations between Turkey and the United States, and the failed coup attempt against the background of deepening contradictions regarding the prospects for resolving the Middle East conflict did not add sympathy for the Turkish leadership to Washington.

The expansion of cooperation between Russia and Turkey from the energy sector to the military in these conditions was a natural step. Could it be the beginning of a long journey?

Up to the present, military-technical cooperation was characterized by irregularity and relatively small volumes of supplies of the least expensive equipment. Among the most notable deals of recent decades, we can recall the supply of Mi-17 helicopters for the Turkish Gendarmerie under a 1995 contract, the same agreement on the supply of about 500 BTR-80 armored personnel carriers and the 2008 contract on the delivery of Kornet ATGM. None of these deals changed the picture as a whole: Turkey remained a country oriented in military cooperation to the West.

It cannot be said that Russia did not attempt to strengthen its position in the Turkish market: Moscow also participated in the helicopter tender, offering Ankara Ka-50-2 (not to be confused with Ka-52!) - a double version of the Black Shark Ka-50 with landing pilots one after another (and not close by, as on the Ka-52), and in the T-LORAMIDS tender for the supply of long-range air defense systems, but to no avail. As a result, the main "booty" of Russian gunsmiths were service contracts - for the maintenance of the above-mentioned equipment, as well as Soviet-made weapons purchased by Turkey in other countries.

The new stage after the well-known events of 2015–16 was marked by negotiations and the subsequent contract for the supply of the S-400 system. Ankara acquired four C-400 divisions (a battalion in Western terminology) worth about $ 2.5 billion.

Due to its scale, as well as the level of the transferred system, the contract has its own characteristics that can seriously affect the development of cooperation between the two countries in the future.

Let's call them:

- this is the first major military deal of Russia and Turkey;

- the first delivery of a complex modern system that requires deepening of interaction - taking into account the need for thorough preparation of a sufficiently large number of military and technical specialists;

- because of the capabilities of the S-400, this deal opens the way to the creation of a national air defense system of Turkey, capable of combining Russian, Western, and, in the long run, own production.

How can the cooperation of the two countries develop in the future? For a start it is worth highlighting the general parameters by which it can be characterized, and to name the goals.

Firstly, unlike most other cases, the military-technical cooperation of Russia and Turkey can become a two-way road. Due to the level of technological development in Russia and Turkey, both parties can act as importers and exporters, transferring both finished products and technologies.

Both sides may be interested in developing joint programs and projects, including with the involvement of third countries. Finally, both Moscow and Ankara show interest in the cooperation of the armed forces, especially after a serious weakening of the position of the pro-Western faction in the military leadership of Turkey.

The objectives of cooperation can be summarized as follows:

- development of the defense industry of both sides through increasing technological capabilities, expanding the market and the range of products;

- improvement of mutual relations in the course of this development - due to a better understanding of the capabilities and needs of the parties and the development of contacts at different levels;

- strengthening security in the Black Sea, the Levant, in the Middle East

If we talk about concrete potential examples of cooperation in the military sphere, then it is worth starting with military aviation, where serious changes are possible in the near future.

Taking into account the difficulties with the supply of F-35 for the Turkish Air Force and the imminent refusal of these supplies from the US due to the decision of Ankara to purchase C-400, the purchase of Su-35 fighter jets in Russia becomes a possible option. When concluding a large contract (for 80–100 machines of this type), it becomes possible to transfer technologies, including the transfer of a number of works to the Turkish industry for the final assembly, maintenance, repair of these aircraft and their engines, as well as the production of components with a gradual increase in localization .

In the future, if Ankara wishes, it is possible to establish cooperation in the creation of the fifth generation fighter for the Turkish Air Force on the basis of the Su-57 (T-50) fighter preparing for mass production in Russia. This machine could well not only replace the F-35, but also satisfy Turkey’s desire to obtain its own combat aircraft, albeit with supplies from a number of foreign components.

In the field of air defense, as already mentioned, the delivery of the S-400 paves the way for the creation of an integrated national air defense system in Turkey, with the active involvement of the Turkish industry. On the part of Russia, we can talk about the supply of additional S-400 systems, shorter range systems, as well as joint development of air defense systems, as was done, for example, in the case of South Korea - in whose interests with the participation of the Almaz-Antey concern The KM SAM medium range air defense system was developed.

Russian missile technologies may be of significant interest to Turkey, including the organization of joint development of missile systems along the lines of Bramos and cooperation for export to third countries.

In the field of naval technology, Russia can participate in the renewal of the submarine fleet of Turkey, including in the form of a joint development of a diesel submarine of a new generation, taking into account the actual sabotage of the construction of the 214 submarines for the Turkish Navy by the German side.

In addition, Russian weapons can be used to upgrade the Turkish MilGem warships, which are currently supposed to be equipped with American harpoon anti-ship missiles, which are significantly inferior to modern Russian models in TTX.

In turn, Russia may be interested in a number of Turkish developments. First of all, in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles, where Turkey already has experience in its own production and development of UAVs, including drums.

In the naval sphere, Moscow may be interested in Turkish boats, characterized by high performance, as well as Turkey’s experience in building a universal landing craft. The first ship of this type, the Anadolu, should be launched next year. 

Russian industry and the Navy may be interested in getting acquainted with the project and building ships of this type in Russia with the participation of the Turkish industry.

Finally, both parties can develop joint projects, both for their own armed forces and for export to third countries.

Among the potential objects of such cooperation, implemented already at the current level of relations, the following can be singled out:

- improvement and development of land technology, taking into account the experience of the Middle East conflict;

- development of a maritime patrol / anti-submarine aircraft based on the Russian Il-114 platform;

- development and production of light jet combat aircraft based on the Yak-130 platform;

- development and production of counter-terrorism systems and other security features

Already in this case, the volume of cooperation may amount to many billions of dollars, not to mention possible larger transactions.

The potential of cooperation between Russia and Turkey in the military field for Izvestia was appreciated by the deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) Konstantin Makienko. He drew attention to the fact that cooperation should not be limited to the standard set of “energy, space, weapons”:

- We should talk about creating an environment for cooperation, which will make it long-term, securing the geopolitical shift we are witnessing. This is primarily a connection between people, allowing you to create trust. It is necessary to train cadets and students, both Turkish in Russia and ours in Turkey, according to joint training programs. Creation of joint departments in a number of universities, both technical and humanitarian. The interaction of the armed forces - with joint exercises, internship officers and so on.

If we talk about the technical side - we must perceive Turkey not as a client and a buyer, but as a potential partner. In many areas, it is not far behind us, it allows us to complement each other’s developments. Of course, we have something to take in Turkey, and this opportunity must be used. If we talk about the sales of our weapons there, then first of all - these are air defense systems, which Turkey does not have, the editorial staff noted.

It’s still difficult to say how feasible these prospects will be, but you can see that there is a favorable environment for them. In any case, the common interests of Ankara and Moscow in the field of energy cooperation, taking into account the absence of unresolved contradictions in politics, can become a pillar for deepening ties between the two countries. The fact that the world is on the verge of change has been talked about for a long time - why not express it in this form?

Further reading:
Turkish helicopters pay the price for Ankara's rejection to cooperate with Moscow
F-35 hits the S-400
Eurasian vector in Russian-Turkish relations
NATO's Ankara is a unique asset of Moscow's diplomacy

Erdogan's Islamists will lead reforms in Turkish army


When Ankara restores its sovereignty over Turkish enclave in Syria

Nothing is calm on the Turkish border. Again. This time it is about the escalation of situation on the line of contact with the Syrian Kurdish PYD, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. At the end of October, Turkish border guards for the first time in several months of relative calm bombarded the  Kurdish positions in the area of ​​Zor Maghar, located on the banks of the Euphrates River. The Turkish leadership now talks about preparations for the next operation in Syria with the aim to clean up the whole Turkish border from terrorist groups.

It is not by chance that Ankara emphasizes that this is precisely a forced military cross-border operation against terrorists. Turkish diplomats before the start of Operation Euphrates Shield in August 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in January 2018 referred to Article 51 of the UN Charter, according to which Turkey had the right to self-defense in the face of threats to its national security. Ankara’s diplomatic front has been strengthened by the high level of readiness of the armed forces, which have been conducting anti-terrorist operations in northern Iraq for over a year  now.

Turkish authorities are forced to take into account not only the foreign policy atmosphere before the start of a possible operation, however. The ruling party would not risk its political image, not having behind the tangible support of Turkish society. It seems that the Turkish authorities may raise the issue of transfer of the tomb of Suleiman Shah, grandfather of Osman the First, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, to its original place, the east bank of the Euphrates.

In February 2015, the tomb under the protection of sizeable Turkish military convoy of 39 tanks and 57 armored vehicles was moved  closer to Turkish border. Ankara believed that approaching ISIS militants were about to capture the memorial complex, and together with it a Turkish garrison, which would be a catastrophic blow to the image of the government.

Now, when Turkey is looking for a convincing argument for a limited invasion, the idea of ​​returning the tomb of Shah represents an ideal opportunity. Moreover, the territory of the complex is considered the sovereign lands of the Turkish Republic, according to a bilateral agreement with Syria.

With the complication of the dialogue between Ankara and Washington on the evacuation of Syrian Kurds from the city of Menbij, Turkish officials hinted that the operation to transfer the tomb, and with it the creation of a protection zone around, essentially an enclave of Turkish territory inside Syria, was not a whim, but a necessity. The link between the news of the intention to return the wandering Shah to the ancestral territory with Turkey’s desire to put pressure on Menbijd is obvious: the territory of the tomb is located a few meters from the main M4 highway connecting Menbij with the so-called Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, the political project of the Party of the Union, which Ankara accuses relations with the Turkish terrorist Working Party of Kurdistan.

The highest circles of Turkey understand the consequences of inaction regarding the long-term US plans in northern Syria. Ankara realizes that its American partners are seeking to restrain Syrian-Kurdish nationalism in the framework of the processes taking place in Syria. Hence the support of the American leadership of the negotiations of the Syrian Kurds and the official Damascus on the parameters of future autonomy in the north of the country.

For Turkey, at least for today, this means implementation of a political project for which the Kurdistan Workers' Party separatists have been fighting for with the central government of Turkey for more than 30 years. On the scale of the region, this means the appearance of the next Kurdish autonomy on the map of the Middle East, and with it the strengthening of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey itself, where at least 15 million representatives of this people live.

In addition, Ankara is worried about the US attention shifting from the confrontation of the consolidation of the central government in Syria, which Turkey also opposes, towards deterring Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria. High-ranking officials in Ankara emphasize two factors that could potentially threaten Turkey’s national security.

First, the US confrontation with Iran through local proxy forces can escalate into open armed clashes, which can destabilize the entire section of the Turkish border as far as Iraq. In the conditions of chaos and instability, the anti-Turkish forces can get the opportunity to conduct sabotage operations already in the territory of Turkey itself.

Secondly, the American policy of active containment of Iran in the region implies a more active inclusion in possible actions against Tehran by the Arab regimes, primarily Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Under the conditions of the Middle East Cold War between the Qatar-Turkey-Muslim Brotherhood against axis of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, emergence of unfriendly forces on the Turkish border will make the region more unpredictable and may further destabilize the eastern provinces Turkey as well.

It’s hard to say when Turkish tanks cross the Syrian border this time. It is obvious that active hostilities can lead to unforeseen incidents with the American contingent stationed in northern Syria, located in several dozen strongholds along the entire border.

It is obvious that for the time being, Turkey is trying, despite friction with its NATO allies, to solve the problem of the emergence of a “garrison state” under the leadership of the PKK through diplomatic channels. Moreover, it is necessary to take into account that Ankara does not want complications with the United States in Syria, being at a disadvantage in the negotiations around Idlib. Any step against US interests in Syria could deprive Turkey of a favorable bargaining position with Russia.

Considering this, we should expect that the priority for Turkey will not be military pressure on the United States - Ankara will obviously try to transform the territory of northern Syria from the PKK project to a more neutral federal political entity, where, besides the Kurds themselves, Syrian Turkmens and the Arabs.

The operation to transfer the tomb of Suleiman Shah will remain on the agenda in Turkey for some time. The issue of restoring Turkish sovereignty over the enclave will be discussed in the context of protecting the local Turkmens population. There are already news about ongoing training of militants from among the Syrian Turkmens to assist the Turkish army in the event of the start of such an operation.

The rhetoric around this can play a positive role in the internal political situation: in March 2019 in Turkey they plan to hold local elections. Today the party of Erdogan is in a forced alliance with Turkish nationalists. But conduct it so symbolic for the nationalist electorate operation on the eve of the elections - the victory of the ruling party is assured.

The peculiarities of Turkish diplomacy and Turkey’s perception of threats at its own borders should lead Russia to involve Ankara in significant Syrian initiatives, rather than to dismiss. Any attempts to isolate Turkey entail an intensification of militaristic thinking in Ankara. And with the growth of nationalist sentiment, the position of diplomats will certainly be inferior to the military. It is worth emphasizing that at the moment Turkey in most cases focuses on the diplomatic solution of issues in relations with partner countries, which, however, should not be interpreted as weakness.

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