Politics

Ankara eyes German OK for Eurofighters ahead of Erdoğan’s visit

Turkish National Defence Minister on November 16 said that Türkiye is considering to buy 40 Eurofighter jets ahead of President Erdoğan’s tense visit to Germany. 

Turkish National Defence Minister Yaşar Güler said Türkiye is considering to buy 40 Eurofighter jets ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s tense Germany visit, raising number of questions.

“We want to buy the Eurofighter. It is a very effective aircraft. These planes are related to the UK, Germany and Spain. Both the UK and Spain say ‘yes’, now they are working to convince Germany. Britain and Spain say ‘We will solve that problem’. If it happens, we plan to buy 40 Eurofighter planes,” Güler said on November 16 at the Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission upon a question from a member of the parliament.

Just one day before President Tayyip Erdoğan’s working visit to Germany on November 17, which will take place in a tense atmosphere due to the contrasting stances on Israel and Hamas with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Güler’s remarks raise a series of questions.

Eurofighter questions

1- After the F-35 (which Güler already says he opposes), has Türkiye given up hope on the F-16 sale, which the US has linked to Sweden’s NATO membership? By the way, the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee started discussions on Sweden’s NATO membership yesterday, but then postponed it to an unspecified date.

2- Güler did not count, but Italy is also part of the Eurofighter partnership. (The partnership shares are as follows: Britain 33 percent, Germany 33 percent, Italy 21 percent and Spain 14 percent.) The German and Spanish programs are carried out within the framework of Airbus. Why did Güler make this detailed statement of intent with the phrase “we want to” without a finalized procurement process?

3- The President of Türkiye is going to Germany and THY is negotiating the largest aircraft purchase in its history, 355 aircraft, from Airbus. Why is Türkiye not talking to Germany itself, but is instead bringing in the UK and Spain?

4- Is it because Germany wants to impose a condition on the sale of airplanes to Türkiye that they cannot be used for non-NATO missions, for example in the fight against the PKK? Scholz had announced that the embargo on arms sales was lifted with the Afrin operation in Syria in 2019 after Erdogan gave the green light to Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership in 2022.

F-35, S-400, F-16 and now Typhoon

5- The Eurofighter Typhoon is an effective but expensive fighter jet of NATO standard. It is used not only by the four co-producing countries, but also by the air forces of Austria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. Only Germany and Spain have the most advanced model, the Tranche4. Austria allegedly paid 114 million Euros for each of the Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 models in 2008. How much is the Erdogan cabinet budgeting to buy 40 Typhoons from a European consortium, in order to count the $1.4 billion left in the US after being excluded from the F-35 program towards the purchase of at least $10 billion worth of F-16s (which has been blocked by Congress)?

Türkiye decided to buy S-400 air defense missiles from Russia after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, in which Erdogan saw the United States as a protector of Fethullah Gulen, and the United States subsequently removed Türkiye from the F-35 program, of which it was a co-producer.

When CHP member Veli Ağababa asked “Why aren’t you using the S-400s,” which were reportedly purchased from Russia for $2.5 billion, Güler replied, “Where are we going to use it, is it a washing machine?” Güler’s answer became a subject of jokes on social media, but the issue remains serious.

Tense visit to Germany

Will these and similar questions be answered during Erdoğan’s visit to Germany? It may be difficult; the issues are many and the atmosphere is tense. The biggest gain of this visit seems to be that it will be completed without any accidents and without dragging the relations between the two countries into a serious crisis.

The Berlin program shows this. According to the information YetkinReport obtained, Erdoğan will have his first meeting with his official counterpart, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, after landing in Berlin in the late afternoon. After that, there will be a dinner hosted by Scholz, a working dinner with 4-5 participants from both sides in addition to the two leaders. Whatever will be discussed will be discussed there.

Since the meeting is not organized in the format of a formal negotiation, there will be no joint press conference like the one Scholz held with Greek Prime Minister Kiryakos Mitsotakis on November 14. Such a press conference would raise questions that could embarrass both leaders in front of their respective publics. It will also allow both leaders to send a message to their own media that “I have slammed my fist on the table”, no matter what is said inside.

Hamas attack changed the mood, now Eurofighter

It was believed that this visit would have been an opportunity to improve both Türkiye-Germany relations and Türkiye-EU relations had it not been for the Gaza Crisis that started with the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. But Erdoğan and Scholz’s opposing positions on Israel and Hamas and their indirect duel of words changed the situation.

For example, it was foreseen that Erdoğan would stay overnight and watch the “Friendship Match” between the Turkish and German men’s national football teams the next day. It is no longer expected.

On top of this already complicated picture, there is now the issue of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets that Türkiye wants to buy (as Güler explained) if the UK and Spain convince Germany. Let’s see what Scholz will say to his own media after dinner in Berlin and what Erdoğan will say to the journalists he invited on the plane.

Murat Yetkin

Journalist-Writer

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