Greece is adopting a hostile attitude against Türkiye and “it is time for NATO to put a stop to this spoilt behavior” Turkish Minister of National Defence Hulusi Akar said, at the 2022 evaluation press briefing at the Ministry’s headquarters in Ankara on December 24.
In the meeting, the Turkish Minister made it clear that Türkiye supports Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids, but that Sweden and Finland must first keep their promises to fight terrorism.
“No one should expect us to tolerate terrorist elements nesting near our borders,” he said, referring to Türkiye’s fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its affiliated organizations in Syria and Iraq.
He also said that the work to recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has been sped up.
September 9 reminder to Greece
Akar stated that Greece harassed Turkish aircraft taking part in a planned NATO exercise twice in the last week, despite the fact that all allies were notified in advance.
“This hostile behavior shows that Greece has become arrogant to the extent that it disregards the basic principles and values of NATO. It is time for NATO to put a stop to this spoiled behavior,” he said.
“They think that they will be able to win against Türkiye by purchasing expired weapons, tools and equipment. They are wrong. These are minuscule moves against Türkiye but big steps for their defense,” he said, referring to Greece’s arms purchases which he described as “armament love.”
He continued as follows:
“We expect that Greek politicians and military figures immediately abandon their intransigent and provocative attitudes for domestic political gain, focus on solving problems through dialogue and learn from history, especially from what happened on September 9, 1922.
“Those who want their future to be good should turn away from the mistakes of yesterday and today. Our sincere hope is that the Aegean and the Mediterranean are the seas of friendship and that all riches will be shared fairly.
The Turkish army led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk took control of Izmir from the Greeks on September 9, 1922.
No attack on Kurds, the target is PKK
Even though Akar sent detailed messages about Greece, the 2022 assessment was mostly about fighting terrorism, especially the outlawed PKK.
It was noteworthy that he marked the year 2015, the end of the dialogue process with the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as the turning point in the fight against PKK. The dialogue process had been carried out since 2012 over Turkish intelligence and Kurdish-issue-focused People’s Democracy Party (HDP) with the initiative of President Tayyip Erdoğan (when he was prime minister).
“Since the end of the dialogue process, a total of 37,285 terrorists have been killed in Türkiye, Iraq, and Syria, and 3,982 terrorists have been killed since the beginning of this year,” Akar said, adding that people who say the operations are “Turks attacking Kurds” are “despicable.”
He said that the operations were done “while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our neighbors” and “only targeting terrorist elements.”
The defense minister also denied allegations that chemical weapons were used in Türkiye’s PKK operations, saying the Turkish Armed Forces do not possess any chemical weapons or weapons prohibited by international agreements.
Message to the USA: for strong NATO
One can deduce that Akar has actually addressed the USA while he highlighted the issues regarding Greece and the PKK (with Syria’s connection), as well as the NATO membership bids of Sweden and Finland.
The Minister does not hide his criticisms of the USA in general. Referring to Türkiye’s expectations for “positive results” in the purchase of 40 F-16 Vipers and 79 F-16 update kits from the USA, he said:
“The recent support to PKK/YPG in Syria, the allegations of harming the fight against DAESH, the move away from the balanced approach between Türkiye and Greece, the lifting of the arms embargo against the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, and the attempts of some political figures to harm the relations between two countries with hostile attitudes, give the public a negative impression. We expect our ally and strategic partner, the USA, to take the steps and make the changes needed on these issues.
“So you say ‘there was a war between Ukraine and Russia, we expect NATO to be strong,” Akar begins his sentence adding “as Türkiye is one of the most important members of NATO, this logically follows Türkiye to be strong. Things are always being passed over with some trivial excuses. Therefore, do not forget that a strong Türkiye means a strong NATO, a strong Alliance”.
This is a message that goes to the USA…
Russia-Ukraine: Difficult to end in 2023
When asked about Türkiye’s prediction about the future of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the Minister of Defense’s reply was holding the USA and Europe responsible as well as Russia which carried out the incursion into Ukrainian territory.
“It seems that this war will not end easily. The support of the USA, Europe and the west continues. Accordingly, there are preparations, plans, and money allocated in the budgets. On the other hand, there are statements by Russia. When we combine all of these, it will not be wrong to say that the likelihood of this war continuing in 2023 is high, despite all our good intentions and wishes for a ceasefire and peace,” he said.
Stating that they reminded the allies at the NATO meetings that if the annexation of Georgian lands in 2008-2009 had been opposed, Crimea might not have been annexed in 2014, Akar added that if the annexation of Crimea had been opposed in 2014, the Ukrainian war might not have happened in 2022.
The minister also said that the return of two A400 heavy transport planes to Türkiye on December 20 was made possible by President Erdogan’s diplomatic efforts with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski. The planes were carrying humanitarian aid supplies to Ukraine on the day Russia invaded Ukraine, but they were stuck because Ukraine’s airspace was closed.
“Effective deterrence” and “combative spirit “
The new security strategy that Türkiye adopted after the 15 July 2016 coup attempt is based on detecting and responding to threats across borders. The concept of “effective deterrence” is being developed with the advances in the national arms industry, military technology and the changes in the architecture of the chain of command.
Akar used an uncommon expression at the beginning of his 2022 assessment: “combative spirit”. The sentence was exactly as follows: “The fight against terrorism continues successfully with increasing intensity and pace and with the combative spirit, perseverance and determination.”
Does this concept, which seems to be imposed by the security needs of Türkiye in its highly incalculable geography, imply a certain autonomy from the NATO strategy of which it is a member? Does it fall under the category of “active defense” in war theory? It takes a little more information to understand.
The year 2023 is important for Türkiye in several respects. First of all, it is the centennial of the Republic. Then it is the year of a critical election that could be considered a turning point for the republic. However, it seems that the political and economic uncertainties in the world will continue. In this environment, it can be said that Türkiye’s new security strategy is in its early stages.
We may encounter the “combative spirit” more often in the upcoming period.