Turkey has announced to change its long-standing military conscription system since 1927 and will be voted in the parliament soon. This proposal was put forward by Erdogan, which aims to encourage more Turks to join the military voluntarily to build a more efficient and prestigious army. Erdogan said that this was made considering Turkey’s geographical role in the Middle East and it is time to make preparations. In fact, Turkey has been making lots of changes on its defence system that drew the world’s attention.
(photo credit to: RT.com)
Turkey’s geographical position in the Middle East
Turkey is a member in NATO, who joined in 1952. Turkey has always been a critical position in the intersection of Europe and Asia. On Turkey’s borders, there are many crises happening from time to time.
In the south, Turkey is involved in the Syrian conflict that Turkey sheltered Syrian refugee and militant army, which in 2012 officially torn the long peaceful diplomatic relations between Turkey and Syria. From the southwest to the southeast, Turkey has been in close watch by the US and EU for the oil and gas resources even around Cyprus.
In the west, the tensions with Greece can be traced back to Greek independence from Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century and it was only until the end of 20th century that the relation was normalized due to Turkey’s wish to join in EU.
With the EU, Turkey has been negotiating with the EU and become a candidate in 1999 but was terminated in 2016 for the criticism of violating human rights and moving further from the EU. Though no significant progression after that, the EU and Turkey based on EU-Turkey Customs Union to trade goods or approach to migration issues.
In the east, Turkey has always a peaceful relation with Iran due to the linguistic and ethnic traits as well as the growing trade interactions. Regarding the Iran nuclear deal, Turkey supports Iran and pressured the international community that there is no nuclear weapon in Iran. Though both countries have been in certain disagreement particularly in the contention of ties with Israel. However, in 2016, Turkey and Israel normalised the diplomatic relations and facilitate further talks about gas and oil infrastructure.
Mix in between the US and Russia
For Turkey’s critical position in the Middle East, Turkey has been drawn into a tale of two systems: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and the S-400 defence system. This week, Turkey announced that around 100 Turkish soldiers began the training for the S-400 in Russia. The S-400 will be deployed in October. As the US is concerned about Turkey’s purchase of Russian missile, the US was opposed to Turkey’s move and planning to halt the transfer of aircraft and jets to Turkey as it was by the F-35 program to be made in November. Moreover, it may trigger the punitive act of the US’s sanctions on Turkey.
Turkey positioned its stance that this is out of Turkey’s development of independent defence system and stated that the S-400 is a done deal but will continue talks with the US to prevent from further damage. Turkey’s defence ministry stated that the S-400 and F-35 are for different purposes and should not clash each other; hence, if the US removes Turkey from the F-35 program, it is a harmful disruption of US-Turkey relations.
Turkey stands on many borders conflict and has a critical strategic position; hence, Turkey’s defence system is certainly a concern in the broader regional security issues. Though analyses show that Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 may derive from the pressure of the NATO’s interoperability, which was set to wane off the Soviet legacy and to strengthen the collective capabilities of alliance, the implications of Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 seemed to base on the violation of NATO and less on Turkey’s own defence system. Nevertheless, the most important is the potential outcome if the US conducted the sanctions on Turkey, which will damage Turkey’s receding economy. Moreover, this might push Turkey away from NATO alliance and trigger more conflict in the Middle East.
ICRD hopes that the talks between Turkey and the US can be held in the future for its stability means the peace in the Middle East.
Author: Yung Lin, Researcher at ICRD