BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
The Russian invasion of Ukraine ignited a new international arms race.
The U.S. announced a new USD 2.5bn arms aid package this week alone to be sent to Ukraine. The total cost of U.S. arms aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the war has reached USD 27.5bn.
The Ukrainian administration, which has resisted the Russian forces, which seemed invincible at the beginning of the occupation, has started to search for tanks from all over the world to counterattack and take back the lands occupied by Russia. Indeed, this was one of the main agenda items at the NATO Defense Ministers meeting held at the Rammstein military base in Germany on January 20.
The fact that the ministers of NATO countries chose a military base in Germany for the meeting instead of Brussels, where the Alliance’s headquarters are located, is a message in itself. The host country Germany was forced to allow sending of the German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine at the meeting.
Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, the three Baltic states, issued a joint statement, calling on Germany to officially supply the Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Poland went further. The Polish Prime Minister has announced that if Germany does not give the green light for tanks, Poland will form a smaller coalition of countries and take action to send tanks to Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz still draws a resisting image despite all these reactions. However, the coalition partner, the Green Party, started to mobilize. Annalena Baerbock, the Minister of Foreign Affairs from the Green Party, has officially announced that they will not oppose it if Poland wants to send German Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
When the tank issue was on the agenda, of course, French President Macron could not stay out of it. Macron also announced that they are working on the idea of sending French-made Leclerc-type tanks to Ukraine.
TURKEY IS ALSO IN SEARCH OF FIGHTER JETS
While Ukraine is constantly keeping the tank issue on the agenda against the Russian invasion, the AK Party government is also struggling to develop its fighter jet inventory.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar is busy looking for alternatives to the F-16 fighter jets, for which the U.S. makes all sorts of excuses for the purchase, so to speak. Akar discussed the purchase of fighter jets with his British counterpart, Wallace, during his visit to London right after the NATO meeting, according to the international news flow. There are Eurofighter jets, co-produced by European countries, in the arms purchase package that Akar has started to negotiate. The package also includes C-130J transport aircraft and frigates. The cost of the entire package, which is the subject of the meeting, is said to be over USD 10bn.
The main reason why the AK Party government started negotiations with the UK to purchase Eurofighters while continuing the F-16 negotiations with the U.S. is that the balance of Turkish-Greek fighter jets in the Aegean has entered a difficult period for Ankara.
While Turkey was excluded from the fifth-generation fighter jet F-35 production project due to the AK Party’s decision to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia, Greece further developed its inventory in this area. The statement made by the Greek Foreign Minister Dendias last weekend explains the situation.
“Suppose Turkey succeeded in persuading the U.S. to modernize the F-16s. When Turkey receives the first modernized F-16s, Greece will have 83 viper-level F-16s and 24 Rafale, a 4.5 generation aircraft. Then it will get its first F-35s, the fifth-generation fighter jets,” Dendias said.
The situation is clear. The effects of the mistakes made by the AK Party government in foreign policy are deep enough to put future generations in trouble.