A day before the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan departed for the Madrid NATO Summit on 28-29 June, Baykar, the manufacturer of Bayraktar TB2 armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), released an interesting statement. According to the release published in Turkish, English, and Ukrainian, 3 TB2 drone were donated to Ukraine, not for money raised by the Ukrainians. Emphasising that the “patriotic Ukrainian people” of all ages and from all walks of life contributed to the campaign launched under the name “People’s Flag Bearer” -Bayraktar meaning flag bearer in Turkish- Baykar requested that the money be “used for the benefit of the honorable people of Ukraine.”
Selçuk Bayraktar, the designer of the armed UAVs, and co-owns Baykar with his brother Haluk Bayraktar wrote the following on Twitter: “This war will certainly end one day like any other. We pray that a just resolution is reached asap. May God heal the wounds of the suffering Ukrainian people”.
Baykar officials do not disclose the cost of 3 TB2 aircraft. However, it’s known that Ukrainians have collected $20 million in donations to purchase the TB2 UAVs, which have become iconic against the Russian invasion.
Within the scope of NATO solidarity
Baykar had previously not received the 5 million Euros collected in the campaign launched in Lithuania to send one TB2 to Ukraine and donated it instead.
Although these grants are made by a private company, Baykar, headed by President Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar, they fall within the scope of Türkiye’s contribution to the defense of Ukraine against Russian invasion within the framework of NATO resolutions, according to Turkish military sources. “Türkiye is doing its part in coordination with other allies within the scope of NATO,” said a Turkish military official, who asked not to be named. However, the official told YetkinReport that he could not go into details when asked what other kind of support Türkiye provided to the defense of Ukraine against Russia.
In summary, Baykar’s TB2 grants are also considered the contribution of Türkiye to NATO efforts for the defense of Ukraine. It is also remarkable timing that this information was made public after it became clear that Erdoğan will meet with US President Joe Biden before the NATO meeting in Madrid. With the Baykar statement, NATO function of Türkiye is made public.
Will Erdoğan approve?
Without the Russia-Ukraine war, the topic at this NATO Summit would have been the 2030 strategy. But now, with the membership demands of Sweden and Finland, the need for the approval of Türkiye is also an issue. Ankara demands that since NATO is a common defense organization and the main security concern of Türkiye is terrorism, mainly posed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been waging a bloody armed campaign against Türkiye for decades, the two countries must stop their support for the PKK and its affiliates and show this with concrete steps. For example, Sweden is imposing an arms embargo on Turkey in order not to be used against PKK-related SDF in Syria. But the Turkish security forces reportedly confiscated four Swedish-made AT4 anti-tank rockets from the PKK militants in Iraq, which were supposed to be in the hands of the SDF in Syria. The minority government in Stockholm does not want to confront the Kurdish lobby before the elections in September, assuming that the USA will persuade Turkey anyway.
One of the reasons why Erdoğan wants to discuss those issues with Biden is that he sees the cooperation between the USA and the subsidiaries of the PKK in Syria at the root of the matter. Of course, the demand of Türkiye to buy a new batch of F-16s is also on the table, as Washington has excluded Ankara from the F-35 program, despite being a co-producer, because of purchasing S-400 air defense systems from Russia after the US declined to sell Patriots.
Will Türkiye get what it wants from Erdoğan’s meeting with Biden? Or will the NATO membership issue of Sweden and Finland, which Russia strongly opposes, be left after the Madrid Summit? If Erdoğan does not make a maneuver at the last moment, the signs are that the approval might come later, depending on the PKK conditions by Ankara.
TB2 demands are on the rise
These developments increase the international demand for TB2 Bayraktar. Turkish-made weapons, which were used only in the fight against the PKK a few years ago, attracted international attention when they were used first against the PKK in Syria and then against Russia-backed Haftar’s forces in Libya in 2019. In the 2020 Karabakh war, where Azerbaijan regained its Armenian-occupied territories, and especially in the Ukraine war in 2022.
According to the information received from Baykar officials, the company has established export connections with 22 countries so far. After Poland, the first NATO member to buy 24 TB2 platforms from Türkiye, requests from other NATO members began to come.
TB2, designed and built after the USA declined to sell armed UAVs to Türkiye, is one of the leading brands that made the Turkish arms industry visible on the radar screen in the international arena. It seems that thanks to the recent gesture to Ukraine, it started to play a role in Turkish foreign policy moves.