Friday, 16 May 2014 00:00

Developments in Turkish Defense Industry and ASSAM’s Answer to Questions on Turkey-Africa Relations

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Interview with Retired General Adnan TANRIVERDİ, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ASSAM on Developments in The Turkish Defense Industry and Turkey-Africa Relations...





Q-1 The Warhead Production Facility, which is announced to be opened this year, is considered a very important step in this direction. What do you think about the steps taken from Turkey in this field as ASSAM?

A-1 Turkey understands that independent policies towards its national objectives cannot be implemented when the warfare weapons and tools it needs to ensure its security against the foreign countries, whether through grants or through procurement, are obtained from another countries.

In the last decade, in which it has ensured political stability within this understanding, it has attached importance to defense industry production and implemented important projects that allow it to produce main combat vehicles with its own resources.

Turkey is now capable of making defense industrial products, from infantry rifles to aircraft, from low-altitude defense systems to warships, drones to satellite systems. In addition to participating in multinational production programs, it has realized and strives to realize and implement many other projects such as rifles, warships, training aircraft, attack and general-purpose helicopters, fighter jets, mine-resistant vehicles, armored land vehicles, amphibious vehicles, cruise missiles, smart munitions, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, 3rd generation tanks, self-propelled and towed cannons. It has become the fifteenth in the world ranking and the eighteenth among the defense industry exporting countries, with the resources it allocates for defense and produces 55% of the needs of the Turkish Armed Forces itself.

 For countries, effective defense systems are essential for getting and maintaining peace rather than winning a possible war. This may be possible by having weapons with range that will allow them to reach their interests.

Turkey is located in the continents of Europe and Asia, also has borders to Africa. It has to take this geopolitical position into account both when forming defense systems and determining foreign policy goals. In other words, range becomes important when forming weapon systems.

I believe that warhead production should be considered as the beginning of the production of medium and long-range ground-to-air and ground-to-ground missile systems. Turkey's geopolitical position dictates the production of intercontinental ballistic missile systems. Government officials also make investments accordingly.

Q-2. What are turkey's biggest deficiencies in terms of defense industry and external dependence and how should it be resolved? 

A-2 Defense industry investments which uses advanced technology are expensive investments as they require extensive research and development "R&D" studies. As a result, while manufacturing countries and companies sell their products, in addition to international control systems, they impose effective restrictions on sales to third countries and supply of spare parts with the agreements made.

Turkey's most important need is to minimize the external dependence of critical parts of its own weapons and vehicles. In order to achieve this, the private sector should be promoted within a plan.

Q-3 Turkey has signed agreements with African countries such as Kenya, Zambia and Uganda in the field of police forces trainings. As ASSAM, what do you think about Turkey's active role in Africa in the field of security?

A-3 Turkey has historical and cultural ties with half of the countries in Africa. In addition, its geopolitical position makes it to be interested in African Countries.

Almost all African countries gained their independence after the World War II. They need support in all areas in order to develop and keep up with the times. They need not only support but also support for free, only for the purpose of ensuring that countries stand on their own feet.

Since 1998, Turkey has put taking a close interest in African Countries among its foreign policy objectives. In order to give momentum to its political, military, cultural and economic relations with African countries, the "Expansion Action Plan to Africa" was prepared, "Strategy for the Development of Economic Relations with African Countries" was prepared at the beginning of 2003 and 2005 was declared as the "Year of Africa".[1]

On 18-21 August 2008, the First Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit was held in Istanbul, and documents titled "Turkey-Africa Cooperation Istanbul Declaration: Cooperation and Solidarity for a Common Future" and "Framework for Cooperation for The Turkey-Africa Partnership" were unanimously adopted at the summit attended by a total of 49 African countries and representatives of 11 international and regional organizations, including the African Union. Turkey gained observer status in the African Union on April 12, 2005, and was declared one of the strategic partners of the African Union by the decision taken at the Tenth African Union Summit in January 2008, and became the 25th non-regional member of the African Union in the same year. [2]

 In 2009, Turkey, which had an embassy in 12 African countries, opened a representative office in 35 African countries, while at the beginning of 2008, 10 African countries had an Ambassador in Ankara, and today 27 African countries have an Embassy.

Turkey has close social, economic and political relations with over 35 African countries above the Sahara and below. Some of them have activities within the framework of military training cooperation agreements. Almost all young African States need training support for internal and external security forces at the leadership level and in subjects that require special expertise. Turkey provides this opportunity to most countries free of charge and in military aid packages.

Considering the rapid development of Turkey-African countries' relations in the last 10-15 years, I believe that Turkey should consider its military training cooperation activities as a relationship of mutual trust and not as an attempt to take an active role in the military field.

Q-4. What are the common threats against Turkey and Sub-Saharan Countries?

A-4 As I mentioned above, it would not be right to consider Turkey's activities with Sub-Saharan or other African Countries for military and internal security training or the supply of defense industrial products as a cooperation against the common threat. Because it is not possible for the internal and external threat to these African Countries to target Turkey, and human aid is the basis of Turkey's relations with African countries.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has changed the purpose of the "Expansion to Africa Policy", which has become an "Africa Partnership Policy" on its website; To contribute to the establishment of peace and stability on the African continent; To help the political, economic and social development of African countries; to provide free of charge assistance in the fields of political, economic, commercial, humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, security, public diplomacy and mediation; To contribute to the development of Africa's resources in a way that benefits Africans; to develop bilateral relations on the basis of equal partnership and mutual benefit.[3]

Many non-governmental organizations, professional organizations and businessmen from Turkey have started humanitarian aid campaigns, seeing the suffering, misery and desperation in the field of health due to poverty. Turkey's first thought about relations with the state, government and people of Africa is within the framework of humanitarian aid.

Therefore, I think it is more correct to consider the relations as initiatives in line with the aims of Turkish Foreign Policy in Turkish-African relations, rather than as initiatives against the common threat.

Q-5. What will be the effect of the agreements in the fight against terrorist organizations in the region?

A-5 Turkey cares ensuring peace and stability in Africa and contributing to the development of African Countries. Turkey contributes to 5 of 6 UN Missions currently in Africa with its personnel and finance.  It contributes to UN missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur and South Sudan, Ivory Coast and Liberia financially and by allocating police personnel.

In addition to contributing to the establishment of stability and economic development by supporting the central authorities, it also contributes to the fight of the countries against separatist forces and terrorism within the law by helping internal and external security forces with their training primarily on the fight against terrorism.

In addition, I believe that the state terrorism against the Islamic region and discriminatory with external support in some critical regions such as the Central African Republic, Mali and Nigeria should be carefully studied together with preventive measures.


Retired General

ASSAM President of Board of Directors

[1] Türk Dışişleri Bakanlığı; “Afrika Ülkeleri İle İlişkiler”

[2] Türk Dışişleri Bakanlığı; “Afrika Ülkeleri İle İlişkiler”

[3] Türk Dışişleri Bakanlığı; “Afrika Ülkeleri İle İlişkiler”


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