Officials predict more interest in Turkish defence industry over Russian war in Ukraine

The head of the Turkish defence industry is banking on an increased interest from customers as a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine last month, Hurriyet Daily News reported on Saturday. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomatic Forum, the chief of the Defence Industries Presidency (SSB) Ismail Demir remarked that said that it was his belief that Turkey will become a popular supplier of military equipment in the wake of the war. Pointing to the increased insecurity felt among the Baltic states as well as Balkan countries, Demir said that they are in an "awareness and preparatory period" for enhancements of their defence capacities.

Turkey, a military ally of Ukraine’s with good relations with Russia, has provided millions in military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces. Included in this package are Ada-class stealth corvettes and, more infamously, TB-2 Bayraktar armed drones. Before the war, Ukraine operated approximately 20 TB-2s and they have dealt some significant blows against the invading Russian forces despite some losses. 

Turkish officials have played down any role in how Ukraine uses the TB-2s in action. After its first drone strike on a separtist howitzer last October, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it had no say over how Ukraine or any customer employed its systems and Ukrainian authorities subsequently began identifying the system as “Ukrainian” over Turkish.. After another batch of Turkish drones arrived after the war began, Turkish diplomats played down their delivery as the result of a private transaction than direct aid against Russia. 

Demir’s predictions echo past pitches to other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa to consider purchases of Turkish military equipment. Within NATO, Poland is the only other operator of the TB-2 while Latvia  has hinted at an interest in the platform. Further away, Turkish allies in Qatar, Libya and Azerbaijan all operate the drone while others like Kazakhstan have signaled their interest. 

However, Russia’s war on Ukraine has also returned a level of scrutiny to Turkey’s own ties to Russia. Ankara have strived to maintain neutrality and has encouraged both sides to accept its mediation, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled out severing ties with Russia. 

At Antalya, Demir was questioned about plans for the Russian S-400 missile system that is Turkish service. The missiles, delivered in 2019 and the source of U.S sanctions on Turkey, were tested in October 2020 and a second batch from Russia was in the works before the invasion. Asked about the status of the second batch, Demir said that they remain under discussion.

“We’ll think about their fate [of the defense projects] when things calm down,” he said.


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