By Karolos Gadis
former Greek Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina
and Deputy-Ambassador in Ankara and Washington D.C.
It is well known that the Missile Technology Control Regime – MTCR was shaped within the G7 Meetings in April 1987. The MTCR goal focused on curbing the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons specifically delivery systems that could carry a payload of 500 kg for a distance of 300 km.
In 1992 MTCR expanded his scope including nonproliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles for all weapons of mass destruction. Today 35 states participate to MTCR, including India, joining on 27.06.2016.
Undeniable confirmation of Turkey ‘s unwillingness to participate, is the fact that the latter entered to MTCR much later, in 1997, while the overwhelming majority of NATO member states including Greece acceded during the period 1990-1993.
Amongst NATO member states, Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia do not participate.
MTCR is not an “agreement” or “treaty”. We have to consider it as an “informal political understanding”. Therefore, MTCR does not impose any legally binding obligations on its partners.
Despite the fact that there is no connection to or dependence with the United Nations, MTCR goals go along with U.N. policy and initiatives regarding control and non proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Turkey’s missile defense system
As the “indispensable background” for expanding its missile defense system, Turkey focuses on two “alibis” : Iran and ISIS. Thousands of articles by Turkish and international analysts – some of them “on demand” – have been used in support and justification of Turkey’s anti-missile development system.
Statistics diverge regarding Turkey’s military spending : Global Fire Power ranks Turkey in the 15th position in global level with 18,2 billion dollars, while Global Security upgrades the number to 22,6 billion dollars for 2014, ranking Turkey again in 15th world position. (note : All data and references contained in this article are free in Internet).
In the whole enrichment of Turkey’s armament, we have to take into consideration its participation from the beginning, 1999, to the multinational consortium, with main actor USA, for the construction of the super-aircraft Joint Fight Striker-JFS or F-35. This early participation to the consortium gives Turkey preferential rights on the aircraft purchase.
In parallel, we have to take into account that Turkey has proceeded to the signature of an agreement with Russia, 2009, for the construction of four nuclear reactors in Akkuyu city, near Mersina. All four reactors, each of them will produce annually 1200 MW, is planned to be in function in 2019.
On 1st October 2013 Turkish Government announced that the Chinese company Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC), would construct its first long range air and missile defense system. Needless to add that the international community had already imposed sanctions to CPMIEC because of its turnover and involvement in Pakistan and Iran!…
Many analysts observe that Turkey could cover, at least in a very great extend, its defense needs within the already existing NATO systems. Turkey rejected this possibility, obviously, because it would be “obliged” to share the data of these systems with Israel!
Yes, Turkey preferred in this case to proceed with the signature of an agreement of 3,44 (additional) billion dollars!…
In order to appease the expected Allies’ worries, Turkey started “parallel discussions” with the American companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, specialists on Patriot system, but also with the European (French-Italian) Eurosam, constructor of air and missile systems SAM and SAMP/T.
In November 2015, Turkey announced the cessation of any discussion with all the stakeholders and that its first long range air and missile defense system will be carry out by two Turkish companies Aselan and Roketsan.
In February 2016, Turkey did not exclude the “cooperation” of the abovementioned Turkish companies with Lockheed Martin and Raytheon or with Eurosum!
In November 2016, Turkish Minister of Defense Fikri Isik confirmed Turkish-Russian discussions on the matter and “positive approach of the Russian side for a potential agreement”. Furthermore, Turkish Deputy Minister of Defense Ismail Demir stated that “Turkey is ready to discuss with any interested party, including Russia and China”.
In the whole political consideration of this issue, we have not to miss from our mind what it is underlined by many analysts concerning “Erdogan’s hate for the West” and his continuous public statements for Turkey’ s strengthening and development of the relations with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, projecting a rather Chino-Russian organization as an “alternative” against EU and as far as it is possible against NATO.
On the perspective of Turkey’s cooperation with China or Russia in this specific area, many defense analysts did not dissimulate their scepticism , since they consider it as a “trojan horse” within NATO.
In April 2014, Turkish Minister of Defense Fikri Isik stated : “The production of military and specific armament material in the factories is submitted to MTCR control and, any buyer needs permission from the producing countries in order to acquire this material. Turkey is a signatory part and, therefore, we need permission from every supplier company for covering our needs in heads and bombs. In that respect, we shall fail if any interested country does not allow its company to supply us. We want to put an end in this problem and produce ourselves the material we wish”.
As expected, the abovementioned statement created strong concerns and severe criticism from international officials who consider this initiative as an attempt to overpass indirectly MTCR rules.
Nevertheless, criticism has been produced also by Turkish analysts. A very well known, in international level, Turkish political analyst, Burak Bekdil, in his article entitled “Does Turkey really need long range missiles?” in the website “Al Monitor”, 07.02.2014, underscores, inter alia :
“In late 2011, likely to the pride of millions of Turks, the state scientific research institute, TUBITAK, announced that its scientists would soon finish a missile with a range of 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) and in 2014 another with a range of 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles). Another missile with an 800-kilometer range was ready for precision tests”.
(NOTE : This has already been realized, 03.12.2016, according to the official press release of the Anadolu News Agency) .
“This is a curious program, not only in terms of military technology but also in regard to international politics and security. With Turkey as the epicenter of a radius of 2,500 kilometers, some of the cities that could in theory experience Turkish missiles overhead include Algiers, Amman, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Copenhagen, Damascus, Geneva, Jeddah, Kiev, London, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Vienna, Warsaw and Zurich. Which of these cities stand to be a future security threat to Turkey?”
During the recent months we are witnesses of the following developments :
On 12 May 2017, Turkey has proceeded to the first successful test of its surface-to-surface missile bearing the title “Bora”(Storm). This kind of missiles bear a conventional head of 470 kg, range of 280 km and are constructed by Turkish state company Roketsan, parameters which led Turkish Minister of Defense Fikri Isik to state that “Turkey has already the capability to construct its missiles by its own forces. We have full self-confidence”.
It is to be noted that the ambitions of the constructors of Bora missiles are extended up to 1.000 km for operational range, factor which obviously generates additional concerns to NATO officials, taking into consideration Turkey’s obligation to inform NATO and other relevant international organizations on every modification in its defense missile system concerning targets in a range more than 100 km.
Recently, Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), an anti-missile system jointly developed by U.S.A., Germany and Italy, is already in the course of negotiations. Offering a “customized partnership tailored to Turkey’, MEADS’ representative Mirko Niederkofler underscores: “This partnership offers unique opportunities to improve Turkish capabilities”.
A very important asset of MEADS system is its radar with a 360 degrees watching capability, a very long operational range and the capacity to distinguish “the friend from the enemy” (!)
One basic difference between MEADS system and the Russian system S-400 is that the former has an operational range up to 1.000 km while the latter 3.500 km. On the contrary MEADS have an advantage on the vertical launch.
Which is the stake?
Specialists on the matter observe that, contrary to the common conviction, ballistic missiles very often lack in accuracy, it is likely to be intercepted and, they can carry a limited “load” (an average from 500 to 1000 kg). On the contrary, a conventional aircraft F-16 is capable to carry 4 or 5 times more “load’ and during a war period constitutes a flexible advantage in the air.
Then, why Turkey insists so much to the development of its defense missile system?
Then, which is the meaning of Turkey’s participation to the NATO?
Most importantly, which are the potential goals of its defense missile system?
An interpretation based on a good scenario focuses on Erdogan’s wish to “brag” before his own people that “he has succeeded to do so”, a wish enriched with colors of a neo-ottoman approach.
Nevertheless, many analysts remark that the option “missiles” is usually taken by rogue states, since the missiles can easily carry biological, chemical or nuclear heads.
The reaction of a NATO member state Ambassador in Ankara, January 2016, was very characteristic :
«It is puzzling from a NATO perspective that this ally wants to develop offensive missile capabilities. Turkey is part of the security umbrella. We are not sure if any Turkish effort for offensive missiles makes strategic sense…despite Turkey’s legitimate perceptions of increased military threat in its region».
It is to be underlined that Turkey’s defense system is characterized as “offensive”, and this cannot pass unobserved.
In late November 2016, Turkish Minister of Defense Fikri Isik delivered triumphal statements that “very soon we start negotiations with Russia for the purchase of the system S-400 Triumph”.
Within less than three months later, the Turks seem to opt for the MEADS system, without, however, having confirmed it.
Unsteadiness or maneuver? The reply is given by the Russians themselves who are increasingly reluctant as to how a country, being a NATO member could “use” the S-400 technology, whilst this technology has been planned against NATO’s potential threats!…
In confirmation Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated, October 2016, that “Russia has not plans to sell S-400 system, except to its strategic partners India and China”.
Many political analysts observe that the Russians are aware that the discussions could hardly have a positive result, however “they talk in order to talk” and take advantage from that.
On the other hand we have to take into consideration that today, 60% of foreign investments in Turkey comes from Europe and more than the half of Turkey’s exports has as destination European countries.
It is obvious then to the Turks that it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to “leave” the West and “go” to the East, but they can blackmail the West that “they could realize it” (!).
In the Press of 14 July, I read that “The Turkish Ambassador to Russia Huseyin Dirioz stated ”that the fact that Turkey is a NATO member, is not an obstacle for the purchase of S-400 system, since Turkey is a free country to deploy a “multidimensional” external policy”. “Turkey has agreed to pay 2,5 billion dollars for the purchase from Russia of the most advanced system of missile defense, S-400. This agreement is a sign of Turkey’s distance from NATO, an Alliance which kept Turkey within West for more than six decades”, according to Bloomberg News.
In this context we cannot overpass Erdogan’s last year statement in CBS, as to the prospects of reevaluation of Turkey ‘s relations with the United States and NATO : «We are not considering this right now. We are moving along with NATO as we have always done».
To which extend the formulation “not right now” could become key-words?