Semaine de la diplomatie : 24 - 28 avril 2023. Pour consulter le programme, cliquez ici : link

In contrast to the prevailing economic challenges marked by volatility and rampant inflation, Turkey’s military strength stands as a beacon of resilience and power. According to Global Firepower’s latest rankings, Turkey currently holds the prestigious position as the 8th most powerful military force globally, an esteemed title that places it as the second strongest in terms of personnel within the NATO alliance and the undisputed leader in military might within the Middle East. This military prowess is not merely a numerical feat; it is a testament to Turkey’s strategic investments and advancements in defense technology. Bolstering its military might is a robust army, boasting a staggering count of over 400,000 active personnel. Furthermore, Turkey has strategically positioned itself as a pivotal player in the global arms trade, emerging as a significant arms exporter to various nations seeking advanced defense capabilities. Among Turkey’s standout contributions to the global defense landscape are its highly acclaimed Bayraktar TB2 drones, which have garnered widespread recognition and utilization in conflict zones and peacekeeping efforts worldwide. Yet, Turkey’s journey to becoming a military powerhouse was not a sudden occurrence; it was the culmination of decades of strategic planning and investment. Thus, the question arises: when did Turkey embark on this transformative path towards substantial military investment?

The shift towards military investments

The emergence of Turkey as a formidable military force is not merely a recent phenomenon; it represents a strategic evolution spurred by pivotal geopolitical events and shifting regional dynamics. While Western scholars have often characterized President Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) as neo-Ottoman, evoking a nostalgic sentiment for Turkey’s imperial past, the true catalyst for Turkey’s military expansion can be traced back to the tumultuous period of the Arab Spring. As Middle Eastern nations grappled with coups, civil wars, and political upheavals, Turkish leaders found themselves increasingly concerned about their nation’s security and stability. The escalation of the Syrian civil war, in particular, presented Turkey with a complex set of challenges and threats to its national interests. In response, Turkey embarked on a multifaceted approach, training and arming the Syrian National Army to combat the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Additionally, Turkey sought to counter the growing influence of the YPG, a Kurdish militant group with deep-rooted ties to the PKK, an organization designated as terrorists by the Turkish government. As tensions escalated, Turkey’s intervention expanded beyond its borders, with military incursions into both Iraq and Syria aimed at curbing the autonomy of Kurdish militant groups in the northern regions of Mesopotamia. This strategic shift towards proactive military engagement marked a pivotal turning point in Turkey’s defense strategy, signaling its emergence as a key player in the volatile geopolitics of the Middle East.

Geopolitical strategy

During the past decade, Turkey’s military engagements have extended far beyond its immediate neighborhood. Turkish weaponry has been deployed in conflicts ranging from Ukraine to Somalia, and Turkey has emerged as a significant arms supplier to various Middle Eastern countries. The Turkish strategy appears to capitalize on the geopolitical fragmentation prevalent worldwide, especially as the unipolar era that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union gradually diminishes. Turkey’s overarching goal is to exploit the power vacuums present in unstable regions globally, positioning itself as a credible security provider and establishing its influence on the international stage.

Involvements in Turkey’s immediate neighborhood

Let’s delve into Turkey’s proactive engagement in the Middle East. An offensive has been jointly announced with the Iraqi government against the PKK and its allies in northern Iraq. This decision follows years of Turkish advocacy for the Iraqi government to officially recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization, a designation finally granted in March 2024. Concurrently, both nations have entered into a comprehensive security agreement aimed at enhancing cooperation in combating Kurdish militant groups. Additionally, this agreement grants Turkey the authority to establish a buffer zone between its southern border and Kurdish-controlled regions in Iraq. Another key aspect of this agreement is the establishment of an economic partnership known as the Iraq Development Road. Aligned with the Belt and Road Initiative, this partnership seeks to foster connectivity between Turkey and the Persian Gulf via Iraq. It entails a series of infrastructure projects aimed at facilitating the seamless transit of goods and, particularly, energy resources between the two countries, ultimately destined for European markets.

Engagement in the Persian Gulf: Strengthening Alliances

Turkey has further entrenched its presence in the Persian Gulf by bolstering its alliance with Qatar. Initially establishing a military base in Qatar in 2015 with plans to station around 500 Turkish soldiers, Turkey opted to limit the number to 100 to avoid antagonizing Saudi Arabia, then perceived as the dominant power in the Gulf. However, a diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar provided Turkey with an opportunity to expand its influence in the small Gulf nation. With Qatar seeking alternative allies amidst strained relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkey capitalized on the situation, leading to an expansion of its military presence in Qatar. Presently, Turkey maintains two bases with over 3,000 troops stationed in Qatar. This increased military cooperation has also translated into significant defense procurement agreements, with Qatar placing orders for a wide range of Turkish-made military equipment, including tanks and drones. Furthermore, Qatar has extended its support to Turkey by assisting in its military operations in Somalia, a topic we will explore further in the following discussion.

Turkey’s Impact on the Libyan Civil War: A Strategic Commitment

Turkey also played a pivotal role in the Libyan civil war, particularly in 2020, when Turkish troops intervened to defend Tripoli and its internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) against an offensive launched by the Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar. This military assistance proved instrumental in turning the tide of the conflict in favor of the GNA. In November 2023, Turkey’s parliament approved a motion to extend the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya until at least 2026, underscoring Turkey’s long-term commitment to supporting the GNA and maintaining stability in the region. Turkey’s involvement in Libya also reflects its strategic imperative to secure allies in the Eastern Mediterranean who share similar maritime borders. This strategic alignment has become increasingly significant with the recent discovery of natural gas fields in the region. Mutual recognition of maritime boundaries between Turkey and its allies would facilitate the extraction and exploitation of these valuable resources, further cementing Turkey’s geopolitical interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s Intervention in Niger: Filling the Security Void

Additionally, there have been reports of Turkey dispatching Syrian mercenaries to combat Islamic State-affiliated groups in Niger, a move aimed at filling the security vacuum created by the withdrawal of French troops from the country in 2023. This intervention highlights Turkey’s growing role as a credible security alternative in Africa, as perceived by African leaders. This however puts Turkey in competition with Russia, which also aims to fill the void left in Africa by the disengagement of western powers. Turkey’s decision to deploy troops underscores its willingness to actively engage in addressing security challenges on the continent. This intervention follows Turkey’s relatively successful involvement in Libya, further solidifying its reputation as a reliable security partner capable of navigating complex geopolitical dynamics in Africa.

Making waves in Somalia

As we have seen, Turkey is positioning itself as a reliable security guarantor in Africa, filling the void left by waning Western influence and declining Chinese foreign investment. Somalia serves as a prime example of Turkey’s growing presence on the continent. Turkey has established a substantial military base in Mogadishu, where its troops are actively engaged in training and equipping the Somali army. This partnership aims to contribute to the stabilization of Somalia, a country ravaged by civil war for over three decades. In early 2024, Turkey and Somalia formalized their commitment to defense and economic cooperation through a framework agreement. As part of this agreement, Turkey has pledged to assist Somalia in developing its nascent navy, essential for safeguarding its waters from illegal fishing activities and unlocking its vast maritime resources. In return, Somalia has granted Turkey a significant stake of 30% in the revenues generated from its exclusive economic zone. This mutually beneficial partnership underscores Turkey’s emergence as a key player in Africa’s security and development landscape.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: Shaping Regional Dynamics

Lastly, let’s examine Turkey’s pivotal role in the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. In the Caucasus region, Turkey has steadfastly supported its ally, Azerbaijan, throughout the two recent conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian separatist region within Azerbaijan. These conflicts ultimately resulted in Azerbaijan achieving a decisive victory over the separatist forces. Turkey’s substantial military assistance to Azerbaijan played a significant role in this outcome, reflecting Turkey’s deep-rooted kinship with Azerbaijan and its historical ties to the region. Turkey views Azerbaijan and itself as integral parts of a shared cultural and national identity, with Armenia perceived as an obstacle dividing their territories. In a bid to further strengthen ties between Azerbaijan and Turkey, President Erdoğan has advocated for the opening of the Zangezur corridor, a narrow strip of land connecting Armenia and Iran but effectively isolating Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan. By securing control over this strategic corridor, Turkey aims to establish a direct land route linking itself with Azerbaijan, thereby enhancing connectivity and bolstering economic and strategic cooperation between the two nations. This project is one of many inscribed as part of the Middle Corridor. This initiative should allow Turkey to become the epicenter of global energy trade, and to integrate into the New Silk Roads project.

Moreover, Azerbaijan’s successful annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh has not only reshaped the geopolitical landscape of the region but has also resulted in military isolation for both Russia and Armenia. Armenia’s decision to suspend its participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a collective security alliance, underscores the strain on its relationship with Russia. This rift emerged as Russian armed forces, tasked with ensuring peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, were redeployed to Ukraine, leaving Armenian separatists vulnerable. Consequently, Turkey has emerged as the dominant power in the Caucasus, a region historically regarded as Russia’s sphere of influence, signaling a significant shift in regional dynamics.

In conclusion, Turkey’s expansion of military activities represents a strategic endeavor aimed at leveraging power vacuums in the world’s unstable regions while concurrently positioning itself as a regional powerhouse. However, it’s imperative not to overlook the economic dimension of Turkey’s military engagements. In addition to securing access to vital natural resources like natural gas and expanding its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) through bilateral agreements, Turkey envisions itself as a pivotal trade corridor. By linking Europe with the Middle East and the Turkic world, Turkey seeks to facilitate economic connectivity and foster regional integration. Furthermore, Turkey aims to serve as the final link in the Middle Corridor, connecting China to Europe through Central Asia. This multifaceted approach underscores Turkey’s ambition to play a transformative role in reshaping global trade routes and solidifying its status as a significant player on the international stage.

Sources :

Image : Canva Pro’s%20plans%20have%20a%20territorial,along%20Turkey’s%20border%20with%20Iraq,The%20Turkish%20occupation%20state%20continues%20to%20exploit%20the%20living%20conditions,military%20operations%20outside%20Syrian%20territory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *