The growing military hegemony of the Turkish Republic

The growing military hegemony of the Turkish Republic
The growing military hegemony of the Turkish Republic

“From now on, before you is Turkey, which does not lose either in diplomacy or in war. What our army gains on the fronts, we are not inferior in the negotiations."

- Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu. This commentary focused on Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria.

Unfortunately, Turkey to this day remains a big mystery for the Russian information space. Meanwhile, this country is actively aspiring not just for the title of a regional power - it is diligently trying to break into the "major league" of the political space. It is worth recognizing that these attempts are more than successful, and in today's article we will briefly consider the reasons for the sharp increase in Ankara's global influence.

Before proceeding directly to the topic of our conversation, I, as an author, would like to make a small reservation. As usual, many readers of the Military Review are accustomed to seeing the military presence as the main and central component of political influence. Meanwhile, such views and opinions are deeply mistaken - the army is only an element of the system of the general strategy of the state. For its successful use, a whole complex of factors is required, first of all - competent diplomacy and developed analytics. For this reason, I ask you not to look at the article below as the principle of the system of state influence - again, it will only describe its individual element.

It would be worth starting our conversation with one extremely simple and entertaining fact. So, the Republic of Turkey is the second country after the USA by the number of military operations and other military activity abroad. Right now, more than 50 thousand Turkish soldiers and officers are serving outside the borders of their state - and this is no less than almost 15% of the total number of Turkish ground forces.

Since the time of the Ottoman Empire itself, the Turkish armed forces have not had such an extensive, such a global military presence in a number of regions of the world. The ambitious president of the republic, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sent his troops to Libya and in a matter of weeks changed the course of a long civil war. Turkey has a regular military presence in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Qatar, Mali, Congo, Kosovo, Northern Cyprus, Azerbaijan and a number of other states. The Turkish navy patrols the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, defending Ankara's claims to the region's energy and territorial resources amid escalating tensions with European Union members Greece and Cyprus. The effort is costly.

The military budget of the republic as a percentage of the gross domestic product increased from 1.8% in 2015 to 2.5% in 2018 - and all this despite the general decline in the pace of the Turkish economy.

Now let's get down to a direct review of the countries in which Turkey flexes the muscles of its military machine.



Ankara has sent significant forces to Libya: the navy and ground forces, as well as the air force, represented by squadrons of attack drones. The official goal was simple and transparent: support for a civilian government recognized by the UN.

Subsequent events turned the already difficult conflict into a complex game of European power blocs - Anglo-Turkish and Franco-Egyptian.However, Turkey successfully supported the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli and defeated the army of Khalifa Haftar, an extremist marshal supported by France, Italy, Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Naturally, the incident had a serious economic motive: first of all, Ankara came to save its business contracts and millions of dollars of investment, which were threatened due to the protracted conflict. Having ensured the protection of the Sarraj government, Turkey received political support from Libya as well - the country agreed to conclude a deal on the delimitation of sea borders. This, in turn, strengthened Ankara's claims to the Eastern Mediterranean and gave her substantial arguments in territorial disputes with Greece.


Turkey's military invasion of Syria is one of Ankara's largest foreign operations since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the end of World War I.

In 2016, Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent troops to Syria to fight both the jihadists of the Islamic State (an organization banned in the Russian Federation) and the US-backed Kurdish groups associated with militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK is an organization that is fighting to create an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey). Turkish troops have also taken over cities in northern Syria and created a buffer zone, which is currently home to more than 4 million refugees.

Turkey several times expanded the area of ​​the operation, stopping in its expansion only after 2019 - then Ankara reached separate agreements with the United States and the Russian Federation, having received a number of guarantees both on the Kurds and on the Bashar al-Assad regime.



Turkey has been using the territory of Iraq for several years to conduct military operations against the infrastructure of the PKK militants in the north of the country. In addition, Ankara has a number of military bases originally set up to support a peacekeeping mission that began back in the 1990s. Initially, they were intended to protect the Kurds themselves, or rather, to prevent clashes between their groups. Over time, control by the United States and Great Britain has weakened, and now Turkey claims that its military presence is a deterrent against PKK terror. Among other things, Ankara is now building a new military facility on the territory of Iraq - it will be a large and well-equipped base.


Turkey has been steadily building up its forces in Qatar since Ankara sided with the gas-rich Gulf state in 2017 against a regional alliance led by Saudi Arabia. In addition, Turkey and Qatar are united by the support of the Muslim Brotherhood (an organization banned on the territory of the Russian Federation) - a political movement that equally worries absolutely all monarchies of the Persian Gulf. They see him as a threat to their power - which is quite natural given the Arab Spring uprisings in the early 2010s.


In 2017, Turkey opened its largest overseas base located in Mogadishu. Hundreds of Turkish troops are training Somali soldiers on ambitious plans to help rebuild this country devastated by decades of clan war and the rebellion of the Islamist group Al-Shabaab (banned in the Russian Federation). Turkey has been strengthening its position in the Horn of Africa country since Erdogan visited it in 2011 - Ankara is active in the fields of education, health, defense and security. In 2015, Ankara pledged to build 10,000 new homes in the country - with agreements on defense and industry signed. And in 2020, Erdogan said that Turkey received an offer from Somalia to participate in geological exploration to find oil off the coast of the country.


In August 2020, the Turkish naval forces accompanied the country's exploration and drilling vessels in the eastern Mediterranean Sea - thus, Ankara defended its claims for energy reserves in the region. Turkey and Cyprus are in conflict over offshore gas reserves around the island, divided since Turkish forces captured the northern third in 1974 following a coup d'état attempt (during which a military junta in Athens sought to unite Cyprus with Greece). Tensions in this conflict are fueled by both Turkey and the separatist Turkish Cypriot government - they were the ones who issued the license to explore for natural resources, which, in turn, are claimed by the internationally recognized government in Nicosia. The Republic of Cyprus is a member of the EU and officially has sovereignty over the entire island, while the self-proclaimed state of the Turkish minority in the north is recognized only by Ankara - which, however, does not prevent the latter from having its troops there.


Turkish troops are in Afghanistan as part of a coalition of more than 50 countries that support the Afghan security forces in their opposition to the Taliban (an organization banned on the territory of the Russian Federation) - an organization of Islamic fundamentalists who want to subjugate the entire country. Ankara has a long history of relations with Afghanistan - back in 1928, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk offered military support to the country's king Amanullah in order to suppress the uprising of radical Islamists who rebelled against the monarch's decision to send Afghan girls to secular Turkey for training.

At the moment, Turkey is the only country in the NATO bloc that retains its military contingent in the country after the withdrawal of the main ISAF forces.


The Turkish Armed Forces also have a presence at a military base in Azerbaijan and full access to the air force infrastructure.

The countries hold joint military exercises on a regular basis, tens of thousands of Azerbaijani servicemen undergo training in the territory of the Republic of Turkey. Turkey also pledged to modernize the military equipment of Azerbaijan and is supplying this country with a large number of modern weapons - strike drones, missiles, electronic warfare and communications. Turkey provided direct support to Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, after which the countries became even closer - at the moment they signed a number of serious agreements in the field of defense and the military industry.

Among other things, Ankara plans to deploy three of its bases on the territory of this country, including one naval base on the Caspian coast.

Other countries

The Turkish military has been participating in NATO peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina since the war in the 1990s. Ankara skillfully uses this factor, promoting its influence in the region through the local Turkish communities.

Turkey is also active in Sudan - it plans to create centers for the training of the local army since the reign of the ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir. Erdogan promotes the economic interests of the Republic in this North African country - and this is done for a reason. Ankara really wants to ratify the agreement on the lease of Suakin Island for 99 years - this will allow Turkey to build a naval base there and expand its military presence all the way to the Red Sea.

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