Turkish civilian firearm sales up 640%

Annual firearm sales to civilians in Turkey have increased by 639% since 1997, a report by Turkey’s Association for Defence Industry Manufacturers (SASAD) revealed. These figures cover only licensed, registered firearms, a statement underlined.

There are currently an estimated 28 million firearms in the hands of civilians in Turkey, of which only a little over 9 million are registered with the state.

This means that there are 35 firearms (12 registered) available for every 100 Turks.

The increase in sales over the last decade is mostly attributed to relaxed regulations that allow for easier access to weapons and larger availability of both domestically manufactured and foreign firearms. Turkish firearms sales by category for the year of 2013 were as follows: handguns 54%, rifles 27%, shotguns 15%, accessories & other 4%.

Cities with top sales in 2013 were Istanbul, Adana, Ankara, Trabzon, Bursa, Izmir, Diyarbakir, Samsun, Kocaeli and Gaziantep.

 

Turkish Vipers Hunt in German Skies

Turkish Air Force has sent five F-16s to attend NATO’s JAWTEX-2014 (Joint Air Warfare Tactical Exercise-2014) drills that take place in northern Germany. Exercises include participants from Austria, France, Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, Greece and other NATO aerial elements. Over 4,500 soldiers are attending the event that will last until May 23rd.

An official statement by Bundeswehr indicated that a total of 100 aircraft, including helicopters, are participating in the exercise.

Why Turkey May Not Buy Chinese Missile Systems

Another deadline came and went at the end of April without a decision in Turkey’s drawn out effort to purchase a surface-to-air missile (SAM) with anti-missile capabilities. The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced its intention to purchase the Chinese HQ-9 system in September 2013. However, the bidding deadline has subsequently been extended three times, with the latest extension through the end of June allowing time to consider revised bids from Eurosam and the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin consortium.

The bid from the China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC) appeared to meet all the criteria in Turkey’s tender. It came in $600 million under the asking price of $4 billion and the Chinese company offered co-production of the HQ-9, an important consideration for a Turkish government that aspires to develop its domestic defense industry. The HQ-9 system also reportedly tested well, exhibiting a capability to engage cruise missiles on a par with that of the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Patriot system, and potentially a longer range for conventional air targets than the Patriot and Eurosam Aster 30 systems. Chinese media sources also reported that although the HQ-9 system has a shorter range than the Russian system, it has a faster response time (15 seconds) and it hit all nine of its targets in trials. Turkey felt confident that it could finalize the deal in six months (another deadline that passed in April) and was encouraged that the Chinese company offered the shortest timeline for delivery of the system. What went wrong?

The United States and other NATO countries expressed deep concern about the deal, raising questions about the security implications of CPMIEC system’s integration into NATO’s command and control network and the implications of Chinese technical knowledge about how U.S. and NATO air and missile defenses operate. U.S. and NATO leaders such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have pressured Turkish leaders to change their minds. U.S. lawmakers also wrote a provision into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) stating that no U.S. funds could be used to integrate Chinese missile defense systems into U.S. or NATO systems, a condition explicitly meant to encourage Turkey to backtrack from its decision to work with the Chinese.

Faced with higher than anticipated costs and under pressure from NATO and the United States, the Turkish government reopened bidding for the project several times. Successive extensions of the bidding deadline to January, then April, and now June 2014 have allowed time for U.S. and French-Italian companies to revise and resubmit their bids. Prospects for the HQ-9 dimmed further when Murad Bayar, undersecretary for the defense industry and the main proponent of the deal with China, was removed from his post within the Turkish Defense Ministry on March 27 and reassigned within the government.

If CPMIEC somehow perseveres and wins the contract, it would be a major success for the Chinese defense industry. This deal would mark China’s largest-ever military export sale and the first significant arms contract with a European country. Chinese arms exports have expanded significantly in recent years, with a 212 percent increase from 2009-2013 over 2004-2008. A completed deal could signal China’s ability to make significant inroads in the European and Middle Eastern arms sales markets.

Even if CPMIEC ultimately loses the deal, its success in the initial bidding highlights the progress China has made in missile and electronics capability. This was the first time that China demonstrated its ability to domestically develop and produce a long-range SAM and missile defense system with a quality comparable to that of the world leaders in defense technology. Airbus CEO Tom Enders expressed concern at China’s growing indigenous design and production capabilities, citing this near-deal and the development of advanced unmanned vehicles as evidence of China becoming “a serious competitor.”

Turkey appears unlikely to consummate the deal with CPMIEC, though it is unclear which Western company Turkey will ultimately choose. Raytheon/Lockheed Martin have offered to meet Turkey’s technology transfer requirement, but that would raise the price even further over Turkey’s $4 billion budget.

The drawn out process shows that China faces significant political and security barriers to entry into the European market from the United States and other NATO countries. This will be a significant obstacle for the Chinese defense industry going forward, especially in efforts to sell weapons to U.S. allies and close partners. On the other hand, CPMIEC’s success in winning the initial tender with an appealing combination of price, performance and technology transfer highlights the Chinese defense industry’s potential to compete with U.S. and European suppliers for third country markets where Western countries are less well placed to play the security card.

Denise Der

Hersh Links Turkey to Benghazi, Syria and Sarin

A recent report by journalist Seymour Hersh claims to uncover new information about the U.S. and Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. Combined with Turkey’s shutdown of YouTube and Twitter over rumors of government corruption, Hersh’s allegations further condemn the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan for political and military manipulation. Yet the sins of Erdoğan’s administration seem to be an outgrowth of America’s own self-destructive foreign policy.

The Sarin Attack

On August 21, 2013, a lethal nerve agent was released on the Syrian town of Ghouta outside Damascus. The town was host to a faction of rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, one of many engaged in a brutal civil war stretching back to early 2011.

More than a thousand Syrians were killed after exposure to the deadly gas, what was later classified by the UK Defense Science Technology Laboratory as “kitchen” grade sarin. On September 10, President Obama publicly denounced the attack and Assad, whom he asserted was the man behind it. “We know the Assad regime was responsible,” he said on national television. “And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.”

President Obama had previously warned that, should the Syrian government engage in chemical warfare, they would be treading over a dangerous “red line,” provoking military intervention by the United States. One year before the sarin attack, almost to the day, Obama told reporter Chuck Todd, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime…that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

The case seemed cut and dry: American intelligence confirmed that Assad was guilty of chemical warfare, putting him in violation of international law. But that case, according to Hersh, was made through a “deliberate manipulation of intelligence.” That a deadly gas had been used was unquestionable, but a biased narrative was “cherry picked” from the available evidence to cast the Assad regime as the perpetrator.

How was the evidence “picked?” Obama pointed to the fact that, prior to the attack, the U.S. had intercepted chatter about the Syrian army distributing gas masks and mobilizing its chemical weapons personnel. While the Syrian army had performed this exercise, it had done so in December 2012—eight months prior to the attack. Recovered munitions from the gas site matched 330mm caliber artillery rockets, which were linked to the Syrian government because such weapons “had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency.” Yet Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the photos of the rocket and concluded that it was an improvised munition, “something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop” and did not match the smaller rocket used by the Syrian military. Most importantly, the Washington narrative ignored al-Nusra, the Islamist rebel group designated by the U.S. and the U.N. as a terrorist organization.

Al-Nusra’s stated goal is to establish sharia law in Syria. They have carried out multiple suicide attacks against secular rebel groups and have been linked to small-scale chemical weapons attacks during the war. Furthermore, al-Nusra was known to be operating in Eastern Ghouta in late May and to have acquired Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, formerly of the Iraqi military, who had “a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and…[was] implicated in making and using sarin.”

Direct evidence linking al-Nusra to the Ghouta chemical attack does not exist, but neither does direct evidence linking the attack to the Syrian government. Nevertheless, Obama pushed hard for American intervention in Syria, with the sarin attack the cornerstone of his argument. The parallels to America’s previous cornerstones of Middle Eastern war, weapons of mass destruction, cannot be overstated.

Turkey, the “Rat Line” and Benghazi

In Mid-April, the London Review of Books published “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” Seymour Hersh’s investigation into America’s covert operations in Syria.

According to Hersh, America has supplied Syria with weapons and materiel by channeling them through Libya and Turkey. This process was overseen in part by the American consulate in Libya, located in Benghazi.

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report detailing the assault on the Benghazi consulate that occurred in September 2012. A highly classified annex to the report (distributed to only eight members of Congress) further details the agreement made between President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan to transport military supplies from Libya through Turkey and into the hands of Syrian rebels. This back channel, what is known as a “rat line,” was authorized in early 2012 but has yet to be publicly acknowledged by the Obama administration. The Director of National Intelligence also denies the existence of a Turkish rat line.

According to Hersh’s sources, the rat line was funded by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and executed by the CIA in conjunction with the UK’s MI6. The CIA is required by law to inform Congress of such covert missions, but not when they involve foreign agencies. This collaboration between the CIA and MI6 was thus classified as a liaison operation, overseen by CIA Director David Petraeus prior to his resignation, and used Libyan front companies to ship packages to Turkey.

The reason for the attack on the Benghazi consulate remains a mystery, but according to a former intelligence official, “The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms. It had no real political role.”

The Benghazi attack was a tragedy, but it was also a political disaster—publicly and privately. The U.S. lost control of the rat line shortly afterwards, but even prior to the deaths of four U.S. personnel, weapons were being put into the hands of Syrian jihadists. Syria’s rebel groups are not a homogenous lot and many have been affiliated with al Qaeda. The rat line did not discriminate.

When America ended its CIA mission, it left Turkey with a lingering connection to Syria’s radical insurgents and the question of what to do next. No matter how the civil war ends, Turkey’s relationship with both the Syrian government and its rebel factions will come under scrutiny.

Protection was needed in the form of U.S. intervention and Turkish leaders sought a way to pull the U.S. back into the war.

On August 18, 2013, UN inspectors were near Damascus investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal. During their three-day investigation, it would have been an exceptionally inopportune moment for the Syrian government to deploy sarin gas in nearby Ghouta.

Indeed, the longer American analysts study the August 21 gas attack, the greater their sense that the Syrian government did not perpetrate it. “But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen?” asks Hersh’s source. “The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.”

The assessment of the Defense Intelligence Agency is that the sarin was supplied by Turkey to elements in Ghouta with the intent of “push[ing] Obama over the red line.” Intercepted transmissions from Turkish operators in the aftermath of the attack are jubilant, and the success of their covert mission must have seemed well in hand. Obama’s implicit call to war in the coming month was proof of that.

But America didn’t go to war with Syria. Turkey would need to find another way in.

YouTube and the False Flag

On March 27, the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (TIB) blocked the video sharing site YouTube. This was in response to a posted video that purported to have confidential audio of a conversation among Turkey’s top authorities, including Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan, Deputy Chief of Military Staff Yasar Guler, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Prime Minister Erdoğan.

As of this writing, Reuters has not verified its authenticity, but both Davutoglu and Erdoğan have admitted it is genuine. But whereas Davutoglu has said the tape has been edited, Erdoğan has only railed against the “villainous” leaking of a national security meeting.

The subject of the meeting, as translated by the International Business Times, was possible intervention in Syria’s civil war. To justify intervention, Fidan suggests sending men from Syria to attack Turkey.

Hakan Fidan “I’ll send 4 men from Syria, if that’s what it takes. I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey; we can also prepare an attack on Suleiman Shah Tomb if necessary.”

Feridun Sinirlioğlu: “That’s what I told back there. For one thing, the situation is different. An operation on ISIL has solid ground on international law. We’re going to portray this is Al-Qaeda, there’s no distress there if it’s a matter regarding Al-Qaeda. And if it comes to defending Suleiman Shah Tomb, that’s a matter of protecting our land.”

Yaşar Güler: “We don’t have any problems with that.”

Hakan Fidan: “Second after it happens, it’ll cause a great internal commotion (several bombing events is bound to happen within). The border is not under control…”

What Fidan proposes is known as a “false flag” attack, a mission wherein the enemy is actually disguised members of one’s own country sent in to incite a panic. Suleiman Shah is the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire; though his tomb is located near Aleppo, Syria, it is guarded by the Turkish military. Islamist rebels in Syria have threatened to destroy it in the past and Erdoğan has publicly threatened retaliation if they do.

But if ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) don’t, the voice allegedly belonging to Fidan knows what to do: “I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.”

Erdoğan has accused YouTube of giving saboteurs a platform for dissent and banned access to the website nationwide. The ban was temporarily lifted on April 5 but the ruling was reversed by the GölbaşıCriminal Court of First Instance. Two days later, Google filed a protest with Turkish courts.

The Horror

Understandably, Turkey and the U.S. have denied Hersh’s allegations. Both countries point out that Hersh has but one unnamed intelligence source supplying most of his information and reaffirm that each is the other’s ally. Hersh’s unnamed intelligence source could have predicted that:

“We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous.”

The countries have said that this conspiracy of Hersh’s is too horrific to be believed. I’m sure Mr. Hersh is used to it. He’s been hearing that since 1969.

Foreign Policy Journal

Turkey may scrap Chinese missile deal

Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion missile defence system contract to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, may begin seeking other offers. Photo: Reuters
Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion missile defence system contract to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp, may begin seeking other offers. Photo: Reuters

Chinese military experts blast Ankara, saying the US$3.4 billion defence contract was dropped due to pressure from US and NATO.

A Chinese firm has not met all the conditions set in a tender to build a missile defence system for Turkey, officials in Ankara said on condition of anonymity.

Turkey, which had provisionally awarded the US$3.4 billion contract to a Chinese firm, may begin seeking other offers, the officials noted.

Chinese analysts said Turkey’s reasons for backing out of the deal for China’s FD-2000 missile defence system were “not convincing”. The analysts described Ankara’s move as “predictable” and the “result of pressure” from the US and NATO.

Feng Zhongping , director of European studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the assertion about failing to meet tender conditions was “ridiculous.”

“As a member of the NATO alliance, Turkey should have the common sense to know its defence system doesn’t match [the] Chinese FD-2000 missile system,” said Feng. “I think [the] real reason behind Turkey’s decision to pull out of the deal … is the great pressure from its NATO allies, with Washington paying close attention to Chinese military technology.”

NATO voiced concern when Ankara said in September it had chosen China’s HQ-9, or FD-2000 air-defence system, from China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp over the Patriot system from the US firm Raytheon and rival systems from Russia’s Rosoboronexport and Italian-French consortium Eurosam.

At the time of the tender, officials said China offered the most competitive terms and allowed for co-production in Turkey.

Feng implied that the Russian system was also being pushed out of the tender as a result of geopolitics, in particular NATO’s position towards Russia in Ukraine. Russia’s Rosoboronexport revised its offer, but it remains higher than the others and unlikely to win approval.

Beijing-based military expert Xu Guanyu said it was possible Ankara would choose the US Patriot system by default, as both China and Russia had been effectively sidelined.

“Turkey was using China as a bargaining chip to force the US firm to compromise,” said Xu, noting that the resulting deal might see Raytheon lower its price and adjust its technology.

On April 30, Ankara extended the bidding for two months. Bids from Eurosam and Raytheon were due to expire on April 30, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

In March, Murad Bayar, a top Turkish defence official, was sacked. Bayar played a key role in negotiations to buy Turkey’s first long-range anti-missile system from the Chinese firm.

South China Morning Post

Turkey to place initial order for two F-35s

Chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a critical Defense Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) meeting today finally wrapped up Turkey’s long-awaited decision to place an order for 5th generation stealth F-35s.that will become the new front line fighter of the Turkish Air Force.

The decision was delayed last year with Turkish authorities citing “uncertainty of costs”. Turkey is expected to eventually order between 100 to 120 F-35s, some of which will replace Turkey’s ageing fleet of F-4 and F-16 aircraft.

Turkey hopes to use the F-35s in unison with its indigenous TF-X fighter planned for maiden flight in 2023, country’s centennial as a modern republic.

Continuing to expand Turkey’s spy satellite network was another significant decision from the meeting. Within the framework of this decision, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) will continue its design efforts for Gokturk-3, Turkey’s first indigenous SAR satellite, as well as other future satellites in the Gokturk series.

Turkey launched its first high-resolution reconnaissance satellite, Gokturk-2, to space from China’s Jiuquan launch facility in 2012. Construction of a second satellite by Italy’s Telespazio with even higher capabilities, Gokturk-1, is scheduled for launch in late 2014.

Being a radar-based observatory, Gokturk-3 will allow the Turkish Air Force to gather images day and night, without being affected by clouds and adverse weather for the first time.

DIEC has also awarded Selah Makine shipyards new contract negotiations for the construction of two logistics support ships,  Ares shipyards to build an undisclosed number of SEAL insertion boats, and MTA to procure two propulsion systems  for the Turkish Navy’s Ada-class (also known as Milgem) corvettes.

A press release by SSM, Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industrues, following the DIEC meeting also revealed that Turkey is continuing to negotiate with China on its strategic T-LORAMIDS high-altitude missile defence system that has stirred a lot of heat with NATO and Turkey’s Western allies over security and compatibility issues..

China’s HQ-9 had previously beat US, European and Russian contenders in the multi-billion dollar T-LORAMIDS program. For the negotiations to be finalized and finally awarded, China must meet Turkish military requirements by the end of June.

Defence analysts expect China to win the lucrative tender with HQ-9s price point, improved capabilities and China’s willingness to share technology with Turkey.

Turkey reveals plans for Space Command

Ankara, Turkey – Turkish Air Force, country’s top scientific and technological research organization, dubbed TUBITAK and a number of industry participants are collaborating for the development of an integrated command and control center exclusively for Turkey’s upcoming space projects, officials familiar with the program told TR Defence. The new center’s exact location has not yet been disclosed but Ankara, the nation’s capital, is on top of a very short list of candidates.

It will eventually host over 180 personnel around the clock, oversee all of Turkey’s orbital operations and will also act as a mission control center as part of Turkey’s ambitious satellite launcher project spearheaded by missile manufacturer Roketsan. It will operate in conjunction with an existing, smaller operations center.

“The center will be capable of tracking all space objects of Turkish origin, but only be managing government-sponsored satellites and missions,” a TUBITAK press correspondent said.

“We’re consulting with ESA, NASA, CNSA and other international industry partners to build an efficient space infrastructure and make our systems interoperable with theirs as part of Turkey’s wider space strategy,” official added.

Turkey currently operates a number of telecommunications and Earth observation satellites and is hoping to produce its next generation of satellites in Turkey with maximum local contribution.

A high-resolution spy satellite that stirred some heat with Israel last year over Israeli and Western worries that sensitive images might end up in the hands of Islamist terrorists, named Gokturk-1, is scheduled to be launched this year, followed up by an indigenously built SAR satellite planned for orbit in 2018.

Turkey hopes to begin sending its own satellites to space by 2023, its 100th anniversary as a modern republic.

Terrorists fire on military helicopter

Diyarbakir, Turkey – A Turkish army UH-60 transport helicopter came under terrorist fire on Tuesday in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, security officials said.

Two shots hit the helicopter, which was carrying national high school entrance exam papers, in the Lice district.

Officials said no one was hurt and the helicopter landed safely at a local gendarmerie command. Damage on the helicopter is said to be “only cosmetic”.

Security officers say they have launched an operation to capture the terrorists.

 

The New Strategic Reality in the Black Sea

The crisis in Ukraine, which led to annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, had an immediate impact on the strategic situation across the entire Black Sea region. Russia emerged as a clear beneficiary mostly at the expense of Ukraine. The new situation will now have repercussions for other regional actors, in particular Turkey and Romania, and will lead to the increased involvement of the United States. However, Washington will likely prefer to support Romania over Turkey in an attempt to avoid the creation of a potential Russo-Turkic geopolitical duopoly in the region.

Russian gains

The annexation of Crimea has greatly increased Russia’s strategic footprint in the Black Sea region. From a military perspective, the peninsula can serve as an outpost for extending power projection towards southern Ukraine, the Balkans and Turkey.  Now that Moscow’s military presence is no longer constrained by former legal agreements with the Ukrainian side, it can fully utilise the geostrategic potential of Crimea by implementing a broad spectrum of mutually reinforcing instruments.  The Iskander surface-to-surface tactical ballistic missile, for example, with a 400 kilometre operational range, could cover the entire southern part of Ukraine – including important industrial cities like Odessa, Kryvyi Rih and Dnipropetrovsk, a large part of Moldova, the entire Romanian coastline and a significant part of the Turkish Black Sea coast. The surface-to-surface systems can be further complemented by long-range, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles providing a full spectrum of capability to strike ground targets, interdict maritime traffic and impose no-fly zones.

The range of power projection can be further extended by employing air and naval assets. The Russian air force, through newly gained access to ex-Ukrainian air bases in Crimea, now has a broader presence covering almost the entire Black Sea coastline, Transnistria and southern Ukraine comfortably within its operational range. It’s worth stressing that the location of the Crimea peninsula makes it a very attractive place for stationing airborne troops, naval infantry and Spetsnaz (special operations forces) for potential deployment in southern Ukraine. The deployment of troops would be further facilitated in the near future by the acquisition of Mistral amphibious assault ships, of which one is to be allocated to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The annexation of Crimea has also radically improved the capabilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It has now gained unimpeded access to the Sevastopol naval base alongside an entire ex-Ukrainian naval infrastructure on the peninsula.

Before the Crimean crisis, the Black Sea Fleet had two cruisers, one destroyer, two frigates, ten corvettes and one diesel-powered submarine and constituted a major naval power in the region. Its potential was only exceeded by the Turkish Navy which splits its forces between the Black Sea and the Aegean and Mediterranean theatres. The potential of the Black Sea Fleet will be further increased after completion of an ambitious modernisation programme which will add six new frigates, six new submarines, a Mistral amphibious assault ship and several other smaller vessels. Assuming no radical changes to the naval potential of other countries in the region, the Russian Black Sea Fleet will soon equal or be greater than the combined fleets of all the other Black Sea coastal states.

Apart from the increase in its offensive capabilities, Russia will also see its defensive posture strengthen. Crimea offers Russia a strong forward defence point, particularly against potential air and sea incursions into the south-western regions of the Russian Federation. Anti-ship and anti-aircraft capabilities of Black Sea Fleet complemented by similar land-based systems on the peninsula will together create a strong line of defence ahead of the Russian mainland.

Emerging duopoly?

Consequences of the crisis have been almost entirely negative for Ukraine. Crimea was Ukraine’s window to the Black Sea and home to key naval bases in Sevastopol and Donuzlav Bay, which are now lost.  The Ukrainian navy has, at least temporarily, lost most of its warships during the Crimean crisis and currently has only one vessel capable of full-scale combat operations – the Hetman Sahaydachniy. The loss of naval bases in Crimea leaves Odessa as the primary and only alternative place for the dislocated Ukrainian Navy. However this naval base is potentially well within the operational range of missile systems located in Crimea and due to its geographic location, a Russian blockade would be relatively easy to execute.

The annexation of Crimea has significantly changed the balance of power in the region towards a more duopolistic geopolitical arrangement – between Russian and Turkey. To some extent, this arrangement resembles one from the 18th or 19th century. From the Turkish point-of-view, the immediate impact of the crisis is rather negative since the country has to now face a more powerful and assertive Russian presence in the Black Sea region resulting in the deterioration of Ankara’s relative position versus Moscow. The newly expanded Russian military presence will likely put Turkey in a more defensive position in the Black Sea.

Ankara has often voiced concerns about Russian actions in the region in the recent years. With the annexation of Crimea, however, it avoided challenging Moscow directly and can be seen as a result of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbours” foreign policy. There is also a notable increase in trade and economic relations between both countries along with a significant dependence on Russian energy for Turkey. Both countries also recognise each other’s strength and position in the region and understand that a direct confrontation would have far reaching consequences, potentially destabilising vast areas across the Black Sea, Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia.

The new balance of power also underlines Turkey’s role as the sole local actor capable of potentially challenging Russian expansion in the region. This increases the importance of Ankara on the international stage and elevates it further as an alternative to Moscow for smaller countries. Therefore, the crisis provides Turkey with an opportunity to capitalise on its status of a regional power. However, the extent of that impact will significantly depend on US policy choices and the degree to which Washington will actually decide to support Ankara directly rather than countering Russia by strengthening other actors in the region.

It’s already visible that one of results of the Ukrainian crisis will be an increased US presence in the region. Apart from more frequent naval visits to the Black Sea basin, Washington will likely extend different forms of support to its NATO allies. Despite Turkey being the strongest regional ally, it’s very likely that Bucharest will become a major, if not the main, recipient of increased US support. In general, Romania is likely to firmly establish itself, due to the degradation of Ukraine, as a third power in the region after Russia and Turkey. From the US perspective the country offers several strategic advantages. It’s the least dependent of the coastal states on Russian energy. It was also historically less pro-Russian than many other Balkan countries (e.g. Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece).  In addition the country offers a good access point to several critical areas in South-Eastern Europe as it’s located in the direct vicinity of the Balkans, Ukraine and the Black Sea. Romania’s convenient position can be used as a logistical hub to serve US forces en route to the Middle East or Central Asia. The country already hosts US military personnel, mainly at the Mihail Kogălniceanu air base. All these factors make Romania a good candidate for a buffer to potential future Russian expansion.

Geopolitical shifts

In addition, the US may also have its own strategic interest in favouring Romania over Turkey. On the surface it may appear that Turkey would be the most natural candidate for receiving US support as the most prominent regional power capable of challenging Russian influence. However, further strengthening of Turkey at the expense of other regional countries could lead to the creation of a geopolitical duopoly transforming the region into a quasi-Russo-Turkic condominium. This in turn could significantly reduce influence of external actors thus potentially leading to marginalization of US influence in the area.

Furthermore, Turkey, due to its military and economic strength, could be a more difficult partner for the US. It’s also well possible that Ankara would actually see increased US presence as a factor weakening its regional position and a potential constraint on pursuing own foreign policy objectives.  Bucharest, on the contrary, would not only be less willing and able to challenge US influence, but would rather see it as a factor elevating its position in the region. Thus, extending support to Romania not only creates a buffer against potential further Russian expansion but also helps to maintain a less concentrated balance of power in the region. That in turn would help Washington to maintain a more flexible and unimpeded access to the area.

The chain of events which unfolded due to the Ukrainian crisis has led to a significant change in the strategic situation in the Black Sea region. Turkey has to now face a larger and more assertive Russian presence, which will likely force it to deploy more resources to its northern flank and maintain a defensive posture in the Black Sea. While Russia, after more than 20 years, has managed to restore a significant presence in the area. It is not yet on the level achieved during the times of the Soviet Union, but is closer to its position during the 19th century.

By Mr. Adam Klus

Adam Klus is a PhD student of the Past, Space and Environment in Society Doctoral Programme at the University of Eastern Finland. His research interests include; geopolitics of Eastern Europe, country risk analysis, asymmetric threats, unconventional use of military force, and geopolitically disruptive technologies. He works as an investment professional and has several years of experience from financial companies in London and Helsinki.

Syrian missiles ‘locked-on to Turkish jets’

Syria’s missile systems ‘harassed’ Turkish fighter jets on Monday, the Turkish General Staff has announced in a statement.

The missiles deployed in Syria locked on to Turkish F-16 fighter jets as they were carrying out a routine combat air patrol along the Turkey-Syria border, according to the statement published on the General Staff’s website.

Tensions in the area have remained high since Turkish forces shot down a Syrian warplane for entering its airspace on March 23.

The two countries’ borders extend more than 800km.

WB