At the beginning of the XXI century, Turkey embarked on the path of a radical review of the political regime in the country, some foreign policy priorities, the restructuring of the system of domestic political relations. The process of gradual removal of the army from politics began, the army began to lose its privileges and its independence, increasingly transforming itself into an effective tool for the foreign policy of the ruling party. It is noteworthy that against the background of the ongoing changes, the government began to consider strengthening Turkey’s authority in the international arena in the context of modernization and increasing the combat capability of the army. For this, Turkey uses not only its own resources, but also accepts assistance from its allies. So, for example, the deployment of the American Patriot anti-aircraft missile system contributed to a significant strengthening of the air defense system and at the same time strengthening Turkey’s position in the Middle East. In this regard, the question of the development prospects of the Turkish army and its role in the life of Turkish society is on the agenda.
Transformation of the political role of the army
Establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 by Marshal M.K. Ataturk began with the coming to power of the military. For decades, the country's armed forces not only ensured the security of Turkey, but also remained the guarantor of secular principles in the conduct of the country's foreign and domestic policy. Before the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, no political party that has an Islamic orientation and helps strengthen political Islam in the country could not count on a long stay in power. At the first signs of a violation of the secular foundations of the state, the army directly or indirectly contributed to the removal of this party from power or its complete closure. In 2002, the AKP managed to win the parliamentary elections thanks to its well-thought-out economic program. At the same time, the AKP was positioned not as pro-Islamic, but as a conservative-democratic party, comparing itself with European Christian-Democratic unions. Thanks to a successful economic policy and the absence at that time of a clear pro-Islamic line, the AKP easily managed to win the parliamentary elections of 2007.
Until 2008, that is, the time when active legal proceedings began against representatives of both opposition forces and the military elite, the army was a privileged regulator of the internal political process in the country. That all changed with the beginning of the Ergenekon (“Prodrodina”) case, when a series of arrests of former and current military, intellectuals, journalists — those who were allegedly involved in the conspiracy against the government — swept across the country.
So far, the trial of the Ergenekon case has not come to an end, but a similar trial in the Baloz (Molot) case ended in favor of the ruling party. Currently, an investigation into the February 28 case is underway, and there is good reason to believe that it will also end not in favor of the defendants.
The trials of members of the armed forces for preparing a military coup against the ruling party led to the complete dismissal of the army from politics and strengthened the position of the AKP. Given the weakness of the opposition movement, the army remained the only serious political actor who, although not explicitly, but quite effectively, regulated Turkey’s internal political course.
Against the background of the ongoing changes, the government began to consider strengthening Turkey’s prestige in the international arena in the context of modernizing and improving the army’s combat capability. For this, Turkey uses not only its own resources, but also accepts assistance from its allies.
The AKP managed to eliminate its main rival due to a cautious approach to this issue. Without advertising their true intentions, the party since 2007 has pursued a policy of amending the country's constitution. The amendments, which were approved as a result of the popular referendum in 2010, significantly limited the participation of the army in the political process. In particular, the role of the military tribunals was reduced and the participants in the 1980 coup were deprived of immunity from prosecution. The next step on the path of legislative removal from the policy of military structures could be to change the 35 article of the Internal Regulations of the Turkish armed forces, which defines the main goal of the armed forces of the country as "the preservation and protection of the Republic of Turkey." About this in early October 2012, said Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag. In fact, on the basis of this particular article, the revolutions of 1960, 1971 and 1980 were accomplished.
The adoption of a new “Political Document on the National Security of the Country” or the “Red Book” in 2010 was a serious victory for the AKP in the legal arena. This document, which is also called the “secret constitution,” contains the state’s national security strategy, identifies the main challenges and threats to the country. If in the 2005 year, the country's armed forces were actually engaged in the preparation of this document and it was their position that was spelled out in it, in the 2010 year this duty was assigned to civilians, and in particular, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Therefore, it is not surprising that the creation of a security belt around Turkey was called one of the main priorities of the state.
In addition to legislative and judicial initiatives, the Justice and Development Party seeks to change the training system for young soldiers and officers in order to completely eliminate the threat of coups. In military schools, training is conducted on the basis of Kemalist principles, which imply the preservation of the secular nature of the state. In October 2012, the Minister of Education, Omer Dincher, expressed support for the idea of democratizing military schools and introducing the fundamentals of Islam into the training program for young military. Such activities of the AKP are aimed at completely removing the military from politics and unhindered implementation of the new ideology of Turkey, namely, moderate Islam.
Thus, it is obvious that the Turkish government is implementing an integrated approach to solving the problem of military intervention in the political sphere. Already, the army is difficult to regain lost public confidence and restore its credibility, so the possibility of returning the military to politics through a coup d'état seems extremely unlikely.
Turkish army in international context
Against the background of the ongoing process of removing the army from politics in the international arena, the authority of the Turkish armed forces is increasing. Turkey is increasingly beginning to participate in peacekeeping operations under the aegis of NATO and the UN, to demonstrate its military capabilities and political ambitions. Turkey was involved in UN peacekeeping operations in Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti; NATO military operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo. Currently, Turkey is one of the 15 countries that provide the most significant police forces to participate in peacekeeping and stability operations.
With the advent of the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East and North Africa, Turkey received a real opportunity to take the position of a regional leader. Such large and influential regional powers as Egypt and Libya were destabilized and became an arena for the confrontation of internal and external political forces. Iran has been and is still under siege. On the one hand, besides Syria, he no longer has allies in the region, and on the other hand, economic sanctions limit his ability to pursue an active foreign policy course. Under these conditions, Turkey, having expressed support for opposition forces in Arab countries, quickly became a regional “hero”. However, the Turkish leadership understood that in the event of an armed conflict in the region with the participation of foreign forces, all the laurels from victory would be won by the winners, Turkey itself would not get anything - and moreover, it would no longer influence the regional situation.
Therefore, Ankara changed its foreign policy course and staked on demonstrating its military potential to the whole world, in effect declaring the key role of its armed forces in the process of shaping new realities in the region. The NATO military base in Izmir became the command center for the conduct of the Libyan NATO operation and a base from which combat aircraft departed to conduct bombing.
At the moment, all attention is riveted on Syria. Statements by Western politicians about the presence in this country of chemical weapons make a real threat of foreign intervention. The situation is aggravated by the increasing instability on the Turkish-Syrian border, which arose after one of the Syrian shells fell on the territory of Turkey, causing the death of several people. Turkey responded by immediately mobilizing various types of troops on the border with Syria, bombing Damascus and adjacent territories.
It is worth noting that even before this incident, there were shootouts on the Turkish-Syrian border, which could have been initiated by the Syrian Kurds. During the conflict in a neighboring country, Turkey has repeatedly called upon the international community to create in the north of Syria a so-called “buffer zone of security” in which military operations will not be conducted, but Syrian refugees will be accommodated, which Turkey is forced to accept on its territory. Therefore, the fall of the Syrian projectile gave the ruling party a convenient excuse for escalating the conflict between Turkey and Syria. But here is not so simple.
Currently, Turkey uses cooperation within the framework of NATO to realize its own interests. That is, both Turkey and the United States are interested in overthrowing Bashar Assad, they will act together. At the same time, neither Turkey, nor the United States, nor the NATO forces are profitable to launch full-scale military actions against the Syrian government or to conduct a military operation following the example of the Libyan one, which provoked the sharpest criticism of the alliance. Another thing is maintaining the situation of uncertainty on the border, taking advantage of which, Turkey can fully demonstrate its military power and attract the attention of NATO. For NATO, this is beneficial because at present the United States does not have sufficient capabilities and a desire to conduct military operations in Syria, interfering in the internal political Syrian conflict. Turkey’s presence in the region and its participation in the Syrian conflict can help NATO solve this problem by someone else. In February, 2012, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, announced that NATO was pursuing a policy of establishing peace and security in the Middle East and that Turkey would support this initiative with all its might. That is, in the Middle East, Turkey acts as an ally and a spokesman for the interests of NATO, which corresponds to its own goals.
At the moment, the beginning of the military invasion of Syria has been postponed thanks to the efforts of Russia and China. Russia, like Turkey, is seeking to strengthen its position in the region, but not with the help of military force, but exclusively with diplomatic resources. Moscow reacted negatively to Turkey’s decision to deploy the Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems on the border with Syria, which NATO plans to deploy in 2013. Russia has repeatedly called on Turkey to start a direct dialogue with Damascus, but Turkey refused to restore relations with the administration of Bashar al-Assad, while openly announcing support for the Syrian opposition. The visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Turkey at the beginning of December 2012 was supposed to help develop a common vision by the leaders of the two countries on the Syrian problem. However, the parties have not been able to develop a unified approach to achieving the main goal - to stabilize the situation in Syria. On the Syrian issue, both Turkey and Russia have taken positions of principle, therefore, if this status quo is maintained, our countries will not be able to reach consensus on this issue.
In this case, the Turkish army acts solely as a tool for a new foreign policy of the country, which is not officially proclaimed, but is actively being implemented in practice. Turkey is increasingly moving away from its image of a peaceful power, relying on military force and power in the image of its closest ally, the United States.
Modernization of the Turkish army
The Syrian scenario may turn out for Turkey to test the loyalty of NATO and the United States. Turkey has a chance to prove that cooperation with NATO is an absolute priority for it, including over its own foreign policy installations, and also to demonstrate its military potential. And for this you need an efficient and modernized army.
As of 2012, the Turkish armed forces numbered about 700 thousands of people — the country's army is second in number in NATO after the USA and sixth in the world. However, the problem of the Turkish army is the lack of a sufficient number of modernized weapons.
Currently, a significant part of the weapons at the disposal of the Turkish army was purchased in the United States and Israel, with some types of weapons from Turkey have to be fully imported. However, Ankara is not interested in the re-equipment and modernization of its army through the purchase of foreign equipment. The first priority for Turkey is the development of its own military-industrial complex. At the beginning of 2012, the Department of Defense Industry of the Ministry of Defense of Turkey presented a plan for the development of the military-industrial complex to 2016. According to this plan, by 2016, Turkey intends to enter the top ten countries with the largest national defense industry.
Already, Turkey is actively developing its own ANKA UAV, which is scheduled to start mass production in 2013. In November, 2012 signed an agreement to supply 10 with these UAVs from Turkey to Egypt. Also in 2013, the mass production of the Turkish T-129 attack helicopter will begin.
In December, the Turkish satellite Göktürk-2012 was launched in December 2, transmitting images from around the world to the command center, and at the end of October 2012 at the arms exhibition in Washington, Turkey presented its new rocket, Djirit. A distinctive feature of this rocket is the equipment of a laser homing head, which has almost no analogues in the world.
15 November 2012, the company Otokar, belonging to the holding Koch, presented the first battle tank, developed and assembled in Turkey. Thanks to the high-precision sight, this tank can even hit moving targets with great efficiency. In addition, the tank is equipped with special protection of the crew against chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
As part of the modernization program of the armed forces, the Turkish rifle “Mekhmetchik-2” is being developed. In July, 2012 became aware that Turkey began developing a program for the production of ballistic missiles capable of hitting the target at a distance of up to 2500 km. Projects to create their own combat corvettes, submarines, an aircraft carrier and a fighter are actively developing in Turkey.
Yet, NATO continues to play an important role in the modernization process of the Turkish army. US fighter-bombers F-16, which form the basis of the strike power of the Turkish Air Force, were involved in the bombing of Syria in October 2012 and the territory of Northern Iraq. Helicopters assembled in the United States by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation constantly provide air cover during combat operations against the Kurds in the east of the country. The issue of deploying the NATO Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems on the Turkish-Syrian border was positively resolved.
It is obvious that Turkey seeks to modernize its armed forces through the development of its own military-industrial complex. Many projects in the field of weapons development, which Turkey effectively implements at one time, are a good indicator of the prospects for the national military-industrial complex, which in a few decades will be able to compete with the West for certain types of weapons. And yet, for the time being, Turkey is forced to purchase foreign weapons and military equipment, first of all, it concerns artillery, which make a tangible contribution to strengthening the country's armed forces.
In conclusion, it can be said that the transformation process of the domestic political and foreign political role of the Turkish army is in full swing. After some time, the army will be completely deprived of the opportunity to participate in the internal political process. On the other hand, the importance of the Turkish armed forces for international peacekeeping and combat operations, including those outside the region, will increase. Along with this, there will be an active modernization of the Turkish armed forces, both with the help of developing our own military-industrial complex and with the assistance of NATO.
The greatest fear for the countries of the Middle East and Russia is caused by the growing foreign policy ambitions of the ruling party. Davutoglu’s constructive and innovative foreign policy course (“zero problems with neighbors”) has undergone a significant transformation since the beginning of the Arab Spring and has turned from a constructive into an aggressive one. A key change has taken place in Turkey’s foreign policy - from a country that is only claiming regional leadership, Turkey has become a leading regional power. Foreign Minister Davutoglu has repeatedly stated that Turkey will “continue to lead the transformations in the Middle East” in the future and will remain “the owner of the new Middle East.” Now Turkey needs to consolidate this position in the region and, in particular, make it legitimate. Therefore, cooperation with NATO on the Syrian issue is so important for Turkey. In the event of a military invasion of Syria, the Turkish army will play a decisive role in the operation, and Turkey will become the "legitimate" mistress of Syria and the Middle East.
As for relations with Russia, despite the absence of a common position on the Syrian issue, they are steadily developing and strengthening. Still, Turkey’s further orientation towards NATO and its pursuit of a policy that destabilizes the region rather than brings peace can significantly complicate Turkish-Russian relations. Therefore, it is so important for Russia to involve Turkey in the dialogue and to hinder the forceful resolution of the Syrian problem.