The future of Russian-Turkish military-technical cooperation


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military correspondent Viktor Litovkin)

Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, due to arrive in Moscow on June 28 for an official visit, will discuss bilateral military-technical cooperation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Historians say the foundations of such cooperation were laid in 1920 when Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, visited Moscow and requested help from the Bolshevik government. The Kremlin subsequently agreed to issue ten million gold rubles in aid to Kemalist leaders. That was a bold decision because Soviet Russia faced a civil war, foreign military intervention and socio-economic ruin in 1918-1922. Nevertheless, Moscow also sent a group of military advisers, plus rifles, machine guns, ammunition, hand grenades, armored vehicles, airplanes, and steel weapons to Turkey. Such assistance enabled the young Turkish Republic to assert itself.

A new stage of bilateral military cooperation began in 1992 when Moscow agreed to supply Russian weaponry and military equipment worth about $100 million to Ankara. Notably, Turkish Gendarme border patrol and commando brigades received BTR-80 armored personnel carriers and Mi-8-MTSH/Mi-17 Hip multi-purpose helicopters. Corps General Erdal Ceylanoglu, commander of Gendarme security forces in Southeast Antalya, and Brigadier General Dursun Karaduman, commander of the 21st Gendarme border patrol brigade, said these weapons had demonstrated their effectiveness during operations against illegal paramilitary separatist units.

Moreover, Gendarme and SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) units received 7.62-mm Kalashnikov AK-47, AKM and AKMS assault rifles, 7.62-mm Kalashnikov PKM light machine guns, 7.62-mm Dragunov sniper rifles (SVD), and 40-mm RPG-7 anti-tank rocket launchers. Turkish artillery units received 107-mm TR-107 multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) similar to the Russian Airborne Force's 107-mm lightweight MLRS, as well as medium-sized TR-122, T-122 and STR-122 rocket launchers firing the same 122-mm free-flight rockets used by Russia's BM-21 Grad (Hail) MLRS.

In April 1994, Russia and Turkey signed an intergovernmental agreement for military-technical and defense industry cooperation, the first such document between Moscow and a NATO country. Under this ambitious agreement, the Russian defense industry was instructed to supply and upgrade numerous weapons for the Turkish Army, Navy, Air Force and Gendarmerie, but the program was never fully implemented for several reasons. Nevertheless, bilateral cooperation has become more active since the joint Russian-Turkish commission on military-technical cooperation was established in May 2001. The commission has so far held one session in Ankara and one in Moscow. Moreover, documents on the protection of intellectual property related to military technology and classified information were signed during Vladimir Putin's Turkish visit.

Russian experts said Turkey annually receives an estimated $200 million worth of Russian weaponry and combat equipment, mostly ammunition, components, and spare parts for previously delivered equipment. However, even this large amount falls short of the potential of Russia's defense industry, the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces, and the country's financial resources.

Military experts said Ankara has NATO's second largest army in terms of strength and combat potential. Annual sales to the Turkish arms market range from $3 billion to $5 billion, and the 1997 program for modernizing Turkey's Armed Forces provides for the allocation of $27 billion until 2007. For its part, Russia is ready to sign lucrative arms-sales contracts with Ankara. Although the United States is trying to compel Turkey to buy its weapons, Russia can supply weapons and military equipment that are no less effective than those being offered by NATO.

Moscow apparently has every reason to make such statements. In 1997, Ankara announced a tender for the best reconnaissance and strike helicopter and said it would buy 145 helicopters worth $1.5-2 billion. Under the terms of the tender, production was to have been located at Turkish enterprises and foreign companies were to supply the required components. At that time, Russia offered its Ka-50 Hokum coaxial helicopter to Turkey. A Russian-Israeli consortium upgraded the helicopter, which received new avionics and night sights and was re-designated the Erdogan (Falcon). The Ka-50, which has Vikhr (Vortex) guided supersonic anti-tank missiles, a 30-mm automatic cannon, and a bulletproof cockpit, can carry rocket projectiles and free-fall bombs in external stores. The Kamov Company also agreed to produce these helicopters at Turkish enterprises under a Russian license and allowed Ankara to sell them to third countries. The Russian offer, which carried a very low price tag, stipulated no restrictions on their combat use, either.

However, the U.S. company Bell Texton, which wanted to sell its far-from-new AH-1-Z Super Cobra helicopter, exerted unprecedented pressure on Turkey with the help of President George W. Bush. The Ka-50 outperformed the Super Cobra in almost every case, including in comparative tests, and consequently, Turkey's Undersecretary for Defense Industries at the Ministry of Defense, Ali Ercan, decided to sign the contract with Russia in December 2003. But he was fired some 45 days later, and the tender's results were annulled on May 14, 2004.

Turkey has now announced another helicopter tender, and the Erdogan helicopter will be assessed after President Ahmet Necdet Sezer completes his visit to Moscow. Apart from helicopters, Russia has offered to begin licensed production of its T-80-U or T-90 main battle tanks with 120-mm NATO-standard guns at Turkish enterprises. Moscow is also ready to help master production of BTR-80 or BTR-90 armored personnel carriers and Tiger armored vehicles and to supply short-range or medium-range guided supersonic anti-tank missiles that can pierce any armor. It would also be possible to jointly produce search-and-rescue ships, integrate Russia's Strelets surface-to-air missile systems with similar Turkish-made Aselsan missiles, implement joint military space projects, etc.

Although Turkey is a NATO member and uses NATO-standard weapons, this presents no problem to the Russian defense sector because its enterprises assemble 5.56-mm Kalashnikov AK-101 and AK-102 assault rifles and Pecheneg machine-guns, 155-mm Msta-S self-propelled guns and other Western-type weapons. They can also install GPS receivers on any weapons system. In short, Russian defense enterprises can cater to just about any client. For instance, the Greek air-defense system, which comprises Russian-made Osa-10 and Tor-M-1 SAM systems, as well as the hard-hitting S-300-PMU SAMs, completely meets NATO standards.

The ability to withstand pressure from major Western companies wishing to railroad profitable contracts at any price, as well as official determination and financial solvency, are very important. But the Russian defense industry is ready to honor its commitments in any situation.

I am sure that President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey will hear these arguments at the Kremlin and in talks with other Russian officials.

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