The NATO summit in Vilnius concluded, doors have been opened to Sweden’s membership. Meanwhile, tensions are increasing in the Black Sea. The Turkish government has meanwhile announced new measures in the economicy policy that mount up to a fundamental turn.
Retired Lieutenant General Ismail Hakkı Pekin brings all these factors together in his interview.
Now, after the NATO summit, a positive atmosphere has started to be created in the Turkish press, at least partially. The President also talked about the beginning of a new era from a new era. First , do you think this is a realistic expectation? Can NATO’s relations with Türkiye turn into a solid and smooth alliance ?
This is a difficult subject, because it is not possible for us to have a smooth relationship with NATO countries, most of which are also members of the European Union. European countries and our allies generally look in the eyes of the United States. They do what the United States says. For example, it is difficult for Sweden to say that ‘I can do this job’. Sweden’s structure is different and it is not in an easy position to give us what we want. So its in trouble. That’s its democratic structure, that’s its own structure. For years members of the PKK who fled from Türkiye have settled there.
The PKK has a certain organization there. They even have deputies in the parliament from time to time and have people in the administrative apparatus, just like the Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization.
Therefore, it is difficult for us to run these relationships as smoothly as we would like to. This was not a job that could only be done with a signature. The same for Germany and for other countries as well.
But they did n0ot leave Türkiye any choice. Why is Türkiye in such a difficult situation economically? Because it exports there. And the current economic administration expects something from there. There are important factors such as both export and direct investment.
In the summit, Türkiye said ‘I am in NATO and will continue the NATO business’
We always say on this subject that something was going on in secret, but in the end, they always put the following pressure on Türkiye: Are you on this or that side? Türkiye also decided its siding. Something like ‘I’m in NATO, we continue with the NATO business’.
Another questios is how long that can be continued. You know, until 2013 it was like that. After 2013, the situation got a little different, changed and we made it till today.
But nowadays, I can say that Türkiye’s conditions pushed Ankara towards Europe. And there is of course also the effect of the war. There are some problems between us and China. Maybe we have not gotten enough help from China. One of the reasons for this may be the incidents in East Turkestan. Or Türkiye’s approach there. Türkiye’s relations in the region with Israel, Iran and other regional countries may also have played a role.
Therefore, I always questioned why Türkiye was forced to this stance. What would happen if we didn’t? Would the same things come from there? Most likely, Türkiye would have had much more difficulty. There would be constant pressure, sanctions would come gradually. Maybe there were even threats. After all, Türkiye came up with a beneficiary approach.
The debate is not only about Sweden’s membership in NATO. Together with that, it is demanded that Türkiye shows its side, it’s attitude towards Russia. And Türkiye has made its stance clear.
If we look at what we got from there, I don’t think we received anything related to the solution of the PKK-PYD problem. Because after all, the United States of America is behind that organization. The F-16s were probably on the agenda. With this issue, the US forced Türkiye to act in line with its own plans.
America has a global perspective to which they wanted to include Türkiye as well, after having included Sweden. The whole European Union, or all of Europe, is pretty much behind America. Of course, when I say behind, these are always relative concepts.
I mean, what happens when the US gets stuck? How far will they follow Washington’s path. The US presented Russia as a bogeyman, forcing everyone to take up arms against Russia, forcing them to take precautions. They put Ukraine forward and scared everyone.
Türkiye needs credit
I guess we had to find our place too. Let me say it again: This economic situation and other conditions inevitably led Türkiye to take this decision, because if we didn’t do this, we would be under a lot of pressure. There are countries where we want to borrow money from, not just in Europe, but in the south as well, such as the Gulf countries.
Their money is in England and America after all . It is not up to the will of Türkiye or the Gulf countries to direct that money. This happens when America says ‘ yes ‘ to it . So unfortunately, are living in such a world. But is it all over? Maybe not.
There is this: NATO’s new concept has been released. This is an important initiative in the shaping of the world, in the separation of countries .
Everyone started to assemble their own group, because the world is heading there. The USA is regrouping with itself to Europe. Therefore, it encircles Russia in the region from the Arctic Ocean to the wider Black Sea basin, that is including the Caspian Sea. It is openly trying to encircle China. Most likely including India. They will also be involved. India is somewhere in the middle right now.
Türkiye had to pay for the mistakes she made in the last 20 years or even before. And unfortunately, Türkiye has entered such a labyrinth that now everyone thinks we are saved. Yeah, maybe we’ll catch a breath for a moment.
in the NATO concept I just mentioned, there are jobs waiting for Türkiye. This plan has been prepared for a year by military and civilian bureaucrats of both NATO and countries. So what will the force structure be like? What forces will be established? Where will it be discussed?
Who will command them next? In which regions, for example, will an active command be established? There is such a study. How does Türkiye feel about this? The entry of Sweden is both a prestige issue for America and a presidential prestige issue related to elections, a tool to use the Scandinavian Peninsula countries against Russia in the Arctic region.
So what kind of obligations did we take? This is what we really need to discuss. Will we threw aside Montreux in the Black Sea, will there be ships in the Black Sea? What kind of mission did Türkiye take in the Black Sea?
What will Türkiye do in the South Caucasus? Or what will she do in the Caspian? All these need to be answered. These plans are ready now, because all these studies are completed before going to the presidency.
So maybe Türkiye will take a short breath. But there are things that the United States of America in the south of Türkiye supports. The United States and other states support the PKK-PYD elements and Türkiye cannot operate there.
The United States brought Greece and Türkiye together
It has become more difficult for Türkiye, because when she makes a move, many relationships need to be reevaluated. Yes, we are in a difficult situation with the F-16s. Yes , we need F-16s. The air force needs to be strengthened. Perhaps a different defense doctrine could have been introduced earlier. Until we built our own aircraft, we could apply a different defense in that defense doctrine. Then we could return to the conventional system.
Meanwhile, America needs a power or power structure in our region. That’s why they brought Türkiye and Greece together, trying to soften relations. Because there is the Straits as the only exit for the Russians. The protection of the Turkish Straits, if anything, the control of the Aegean Sea after it, needs to be controlled. Therefore, the problems in Türkiye’s art of management should be shelved, even if not resolved. If we know the Greeks, these are not problems to be solved easily. Thus, not much has changed regarding the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean problems. So there is relative relief. But basically no change.
The US anyhow had to provide the F-16
They already have to give the F-16s. If the United States has such a plan, if there is a situation to leave China behind or to get ahead, both economically and militarily, then it has to give the F-16 anyway. If they needs Türkiye in the Southeast, they have to give provide them. If they don’t Türkiye cannot do its jobs within NATO.
The European Union is against our membership. For most of the Europeans, France, Germany, etc, it’s hard for them to say ‘yes’ to our membership. Türkiye is a country of 85 million people.
There is also a cultural difference, which perhaps exceeds this cultural difference in terms of religion. We saw France in that regard as well. So they will always push to one side and there will always be trouble. There is a visa problem, is it solved or not? They don’t want us to go in there. So a lot of people have been waiting for a visa for 6-7 months .
The customs union can be updated. We have already suffered a great loss since the establishment of the customs union. It needs to be updated. A country that is not in the customs union, not in the European Union, sells its goods cheaper. Türkiye imposes customs on it. This clown needs to change. There may be something about this. But do they give up their profits? Or do they want other concessions? We should also take a look at it.
What has changed after the summit?
Sweden has joined NATO. Nothing else changed. In other words, there is a softening in the relations, Europe has made some promises, America has made some promises. regarding the delivery of F-16s. But as I said, regarding our main conflicts with Europeans or with with NATO countries, nothing has been solved. We didn’t fix these problems. There is the PKK/PYD now mentioned in NATO documents. But the main problem is not mentioning them, the main problem is the cutting of foreign support for terrorism.
Western countries permit the PKK’s fundraising. If they could eliminate the PKK there, thayt would be very important for Türkiye. Foreign support comes to the PKK mostly from the US. There were also French elements in Syria. Without outside support, neither the PKK nor others would be able to act. However, at the moment, the USA has established and trained an army of 130,000 people on our border.
Last night on a TV channel I was told that Mr. Biden shot a video of thanks to Mr. President Erdoğan. If it were me on his place, I would also have shot a video of gratitude, because they have done a very important job. They have to be grateful to President Erdoğan. Was there anything that the President could have done? That is another questions.
But we are in such a tight situation regarding to fix the economy. We need to tighten your belt to fix the economy. If don’t do this, we will fight, we will continue to the end. If you can afford it, then it’s fine. But we are so connected. We have a separate problem with Greece. We have a separate problem with the Armenians. We have a separate problem with Europe. So we never recovered.
I wish we hadn’t sneered when issues such as the mixed economy came to the fore. Maybe it was much better. US National Security Advisor Sullivan made an important speech at a US think tank on March 22, 2023.
There, Sullivan says, ‘we absolutely must achieve economic supremacy ‘. And he talks about hegemonic nationalism. It’s not just about finance, ‘we need to put industry in our own country and where we control it’, he says .
They again impose neoliberalism on Türkiye
So an industry-based economy wants a real production-based economy . It is not a financial economy. Now, Türkiye should also learn from that. If we had paid attention to these issues, perhaps we could have become self – sufficient in many subjects, agriculture and other subjects. But now we are in need of others in everything, including agriculture.
They tell to Türkiye again to follow neoliberal policies, market policies and letting capitalism handle this. You should have a look at this too. Really, capitalism isn’t getting it done. So you are saying that money finds its way at work, goes through, focuses on certain investments. This time the men kept money, making it the main source of livelihood in neoliberalism. So money is the main factor, production is zero.
Sometimes we talk about the national defense industry. Currently, our defense industry is at the point of an epochal change. For example, we produced the ‘Hürjet’, right? It needs an engine. We buy the engine from America, 100 of it. We will catch the age when we make a motor ourselves.
The National War Fighter aircraft is another example the F16 engine. We’ll try it for a while. There are many sub-technologies. How far ahead are we in those technologies? For example, we still do not have a chip factory. Here, a chip factory would be established. Intel was probably running it. It was to be established in Türkiye. Then they stepped in. Established it in Israel. $25 billion capacity. So we have such problems.
In other words, these can happen with a multi-planned economy, policies, policies that we have accumulated. We can get past these. If we act the other way, I think it’s okay, if we say let’s continue again, we will come to a dead end anyway. I think we might have such a problem.
Well, you also served in NATO. Does it matter if it goes into these documents ?
The important thing is this. Application on reconciliation. How do we control this? So can it work? The Secretary-General, Stoltenberg is setting up a terrorism-related unit with a subordinate job. I think he’s setting up such a unit in Sweden.
Now, will this unit only monitor terrorist activities between Türkiye and Sweden? Or will it monitor terrorist activities between all allies and Türkiye? I doubt that. Let’s say it’ll observe on all of them. Then it provides a report. They said that Germany gives money like this or that. He overlooks them. I wish I didn’t even know what he’s doing. Sweden does this .
Now which authority shall we send this to? Are we going to send these findings to an international court ? So, the decision has been taken, but not implemented. What happens then? Are there any sanctions? In my opinion, Europe should abandon NATO’s hypocrisy and respect Türkiye’s territorial integrity .
In other words, they try to divide Türkiye, or at least divide the countries in our south. They must be involved in activities. Unless we are strong, we cannot prevent them from these plans.
Türkiye has experienced this in the Crimean War of 1853-1856 with Britain. We made the same promises to England. They even took Türkiye to Europe, you know, after the 1853-1856 Crimean War. But the Ottoman Empire was still divided . In other words, these intentions are trying to complete the unfinished business against Türkiye in this region.
If America doesn’t leave, those who apply its policies pay the price
America has to leave this region. Otherwise, those who apply their policies will pay the price. will pay. Just as today Ukraine is in a war through Zelensky, and if Ukraine gives enough weapons, equipment and materials and keeps Russia busy, tomorrow maybe they will put us in the same position.
So, for example, one of my fears is this: Türkiye has the Turan principle, you know. They can use this region within the framework of this principle. It ‘s a typical job for the British. The British did this very well in the past. They did something like this between the Arabs and the Ottomans.
This is a very critical thing. Another issue, a writer in Le Monde newspaper recently evaluated. You cannot divide Türkiye by religion, sect or ethnicity. There is no war on these issues. But you can divide Türkiye along cultural criteria. There is a group educated within the scope of the basic philosophy of the republic. On the other side, there is a different group that values religious values more. They are thinking of doing it in the same country, in the form of killing the people of the same country against each other. So there is such a plan.
Greater Middle East Project. But their mouths they got it in their eyes. Now we and other countries are suffering the consequences. Do they do the same here? Türkiye should prevent this. How? For example, they are very insistent on the Black Sea issue. We cannot allow their navies to enter the Black Sea. Likewise in the Eastern Mediterranean. Likewise, by making peace with Syria as soon as possible.
However, the President said that ” Ukraine deserved to join NATO “. Then the five commanders of that Nazi Battalion were sent, and their respective photographs were published. This seemed to me like a set up event. So it’s more geared towards the West. It is also important in terms of measuring Russia’s reaction. You have relations with Russia. Russia does not act too harshly on this issue at the moment. It needs us. We are the windpipe of Russia right now.
When something happens tomorrow, Russia will suffer, it can leave us in the middle when we need something. So, I think we need to pay attention to this as well.