At the height of the Turkish – Iranian rapprochement, Ankara made news when it announced that it had removed Iran, Iraq, Russia, and Greece from the “Red Book” – Turkey’s national security document. The move, which coincided with Turkey’s defense of Iran’s right to uranium enrichment, touched off a rash of ill-concieved op-eds and articles questioning Turkey’s ideological orientation. (I am not going to touch on Turkey’s Iran nuclear policy, but if you are interested click here or here. Briefly, the articles trying to answer “who lost Turkey” were ill-concieved and failed to take into account Turkish national interest.)
Despite Ankara’s emphasis on an all-inclusive foreign policy, the military and the AKP have been busily developing systems to bolster Turkey’s capabilities to strike hard to reach places. Turkey’s drone program is aimed primarily at increasing the military’s ability to monitor and strike the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). The program has been beset with problems but I am confident that if Turkey continues to dump money into the program it will, at some point, be able to work out all of the kinks. (This is a tacit vs. explicit knowledge issue)
Turkey has also been working on developing a cruise missile. The program began in 2006 and the first prototype was tested in 2010. The modular standoff missile (SOM) is powered by the French Microturbo-made TR-40 turbojet engine. The engine was developed to power small drones and, obviously, cruise missiles. In the future, Turkey plans to develop its own turbojet engine based upon the TR-40 and the U.S. made Teledyne CAE J402. The U.S. engine is used to power the Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile, which Turkey first imported in 1986. The missile has a range of 185 km, but Turkey has made known that it plans to extend the range first to 500 km and then to 1,500 km. The missile uses INS/GPS and Terrain Matching guidance and is designed to strike command and control facilities, surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites, parked aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters (HAS), strategic assets and surface ships. (The PKK doesn’t have all of those) Turkey hopes to develop a version for the F-4, F-16, F-35 and the Navy.
The range suggests that Turkey wants to have the ability to engage hard to reach targets in the region. Thus, there appears to be a disconnect between the Foreign Minister’s stated policy and the wants and needs of the military. Logically, Turkey is following global trends and wants to replicate American cruise missile capabilities. Moreover, it sees the development of hi-tech military equipment as necessary to ween the country from its over reliance on foreign military suppliers. Lastly, the AKP has made the expansion of the domestic arms industry a political priority and appears eager to expand Turkey’s share of the global arms market.
It is important to separate rhetoric – i.e. the aspirational wants of the Turkish Foreign Minister – from the actions that are currently taking place in the country. Turkey’s military programs are not solely aimed at increasing it capabilities against the PKK, but also include a serious push to develop hi-tech and low cost smart weapons to increase the country’s military effectiveness. Thus, Ankara clearly remains wary of its neighbors despite having removed them from the “red book”.
The cruise missile program pre-dates the recent regional tensions stemming from the Arab Revolts and overlaps with the promotion of Davutoglu’s “Strategic Depth/Zero Problems” foreign policy. These actions are far more indicative of a country intent on advancing its own interests, rather than one pursuing foreign policy based upon an ideal of no problems with anyone. Thus, analysis of Turkish actions should focus squarely on how Turkey’s actions, rather than focusing on the rhetoric employed by the leadership (whether it be liberalist in the case of Davutoglu or confrontational in the case of Erdogan).
The cruise missile program is a nice illustration of the disconnect between symbolic actions meant to advance a utopian ideal of Turkish foreign policy, and the everyday decisions intended to maximize self interest. In the end, Turkey is looking out for Turkey and its foreign policy, while certainly more independent and inclusive in the recent years, is still driven by national interest.