On the new Turkish naval strategy
Turkish Naval Forces Commander Adm. Murat Bilgel outlined the new Turkish naval strategy in the latest issue of the Proceedings magazine of the United States Naval Institute. In the same issue, naval force commanders of other NATO member countries also outlined their new perspectives ahead of the strategic turn in the coming NATO summit in May in Chicago.
In the Chicago summit, NATO is expected to adopt a new strategy called “Smart Defense,” which was announced months ago by its secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and is mainly based on sharing budgets and capabilities among NATO members while focusing on the use of high technology to enhance efficient striking capacities while minimizing the loss of soldiers’ lives.
Therefore, one of the two main factors framing the needs of the new Turkish Navy is in parallel to the new NATO needs. Adm. Bilgel summarizes this as “focusing on sophisticated, modular designs that allow us to move toward economy in our operations with fewer crew and lower fuel costs. The objective is to maintain and develop a credible naval force despite budget constraints.”
The other main factor is in parallel to the new Turkish military approach, which is integrated with the Turkish foreign policy and economy needs.
The aim of protecting “lanes of communication on the high seas to assure global maritime security and protect national interests” fits that purpose, which officials hope to achieve through procurement and the use of vessels which are new to the Turkish Navy.
Those include “a multipurpose landing platform with organic short take-off and landing aircraft,” air-independent propulsion submarines and unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles.
The news appeared in the media at a time when the oil and gas exploration activities around Cyprus have become a part of the international political moves between the Turkish, Greek Cypriot and Israeli governments. The Turkish admiral uses the term of “high seas” while naming the objectives. By doing that, he doesn’t mean the Atlantic or Pacific oceans; it is most likely that he means international waters of (perhaps the Black Sea as well) the Mediterranean Sea where Turkish commercial and security interests are focused.
That includes the ready-to-strike capability in the eastern Mediterranean against possible terrorism targets in parallel to Turkish national and/or NATO needs, where the whole political geography of the region is in transition due to the Arab Spring.
The new naval strategy suggests an extrapolation for the next 15 to 20 years to include the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic in 2023 and possibly covers the possible solutions to the Kurdish problem in the framework of political changes in Iraq and Syria.
As the United States focuses on the higher seas, that is to say the oceans and the Pacific Ocean in its trade competition with China – and Russia on that front, Turkey is likely to grow as a regional naval force in its region for the security of the trade routes here.