Ankara is implementing a strategic plan for the control of the three maritime zones surrounding the country.
▲ Parade of members of the Turkish Naval Force [Nérostrateur].
ANALYSIS / Lucas Martín*.
Several recent Turkish actions indicate the implementation of the so-called "Blue Homeland" doctrine.
Among the various facts to be taken into account we can take as an initial element the agreement signed with one of the two contenders for power in Libya, the GNA to be more precise.
Through it, the GNA de facto handed over control of Libyan territorial waters to Turkey while establishing a maritime corridor for Ankara in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The importance of having de facto control of these waters is not only the enormous volume of maritime traffic that passes through them, but also the fact that they contain strategic natural gas reserves and are also a transit area for several gas pipelines supplying Europe.
If we add this treaty to Turkey's movements in the Mediterranean, the Aegean, as well as its involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Libya, we see that they are but different but complementary parts of an ambitious plan that Ankara has been carefully plotting for several years to gain maritime control of the Eastern Mediterranean and adjacent areas. The ultimate goal of this plan is to give Turkey economic and energy independence that will ensure the country's growth in all areas.
"Mavi Vatam" - Blue Homeland
The so-called "Gerasimov Doctrine", which theorises the evolution of military conflicts and provides guidelines for action in today's framework , is well known. But it is much less well known that a country like Turkey developed its own doctrine almost two decades ago in an attempt to outline the geostrategic moves needed to achieve basic objectives for the Turkish nation's development and achieve its leading role in the international concert.
The father of this plan is Admiral Cem Gurdeniz, and it was first presented in 2006 under the name "Blue Homeland Doctrine".
The Admiral bases his theory on three pillars, which would take too long to discuss in detail. However, it is interesting to dwell at least briefly on the second pillar. Under this, Gurdeniz defines what he considers to be the areas of maritime jurisdiction that belong to Turkey and that he values as vital for its survival and development. These encompass areas of the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. By defining these he establishes territorial waters, the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
agreement The admiral himself acknowledges that the problem is far from being in the Black Sea, where an agreement was reached with the former Soviet Union to establish the limits of the continental shelf in 1978 and later, in 1987, the EEZ. Moreover, after the demise of the USSR, agreements were reached with Georgia, Bulgaria and Ukraine.
The issue is centred on the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Precisely the current epicentre of events.
The current established limits, EEZ agreements, etc., have been imposed on Turkey by the EU, according to our protagonist, who considers them particularly burdensome with regard to the Greek zone and Cyprus. Turkey places the onus on the EU to prevent Turkey's development to some extent, which is interesting when Turkey itself has tried to join the Union.
The pivot on which Turkey's recent actions have hinged is defiance. And this is found again in the admiral's own words, which state that the "Blue Homeland" is "challenging and notoriously challenging the current map".
But despite what it may seem, this is not the final goal of the "Mavi Vatam" doctrine. This challenge is the way to achieve its real goal, which is none other than to achieve control and consolidation of the three maritime areas surrounding the country in order to exert its influence at both the regional and international level and to gain the energy resources necessary to sustain Turkey's economic and demographic growth without having to rely on third countries.
But as is rule in these matters, history always plays a key role, and this time is no different.
The Turks continue to view as an affront the Treaty of Lausanne, signed in 1923, which confines the country to its current borders and boundaries. This invalidated the far more beneficial Treaty of Sèvres, signed by the Ottoman Empire after the First World War.
At Lausanne, the fragmentation of the empire was de facto dictated, defining not only Turkey's borders, but also those of Greece and Bulgaria, concluding Turkish sovereignty over the Dodecanese islands, Cyprus, Egypt, Sudan, Syria and Iraq. Kurdistan ceased to be a unit, split between several countries, and Armenia was divided between Turkey and the USSR. The conditions limited the Turks' ability to act, placing the country under the umbrella of Western powers, status which has been maintained for almost 100 years since signature.
In order to understand the current status , a number of factors and circumstances must be taken into account that form the basis of the current situation.
During the Cold War period and with the existence of the communist bloc and its military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, the West's protective umbrella over Turkey became more of a necessity forced by circumstances than an imposition. The Ottoman country's geostrategic status made it of vital importance to both blocs, and in the event of hostilities it would be one of the first territories to suffer the consequences. As a vivid example of this geostrategic core topic , it is worth recalling the role played by the American instructions equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles located on Turkish soil in the negotiations to de-escalate what later became known as the "Cuban missile crisis".
But from the distant 1960s to the present day, the world has changed completely. The balances of power have shifted, and events since the beginning of the 21st century, and especially during the last decade, have led today's leaders to believe that their time has come.
At the time, the fall of the communist bloc and Russia's period of weakness began to lay the groundwork instructions for an idea deeply rooted in Turkey today, the main thrust of which is that the protective umbrella of the West is no longer so necessary (it should not be forgotten that this umbrella was also seen in some ways as a corset).
The consolidation of this idea has coincided with a period of great economic and demographic growth in the Ottoman country, with forecasts of reaching 90 million inhabitants by 2030. Both parameters have major economic implications, as they imply an increase B in the country's energy needs. If these needs are not met, it will not be possible to sustain this population growth or to match it with an adequate industrial development .
The basis of the essential industrial development is energy independence. This is one of the factors core topic that can enable the various projects to go ahead. At present, energy needs are covered by supplies from third countries. The main exporters of energy resources to Turkey are Russia, Iran, Iraq and Libya. This external dependence is one of the reasons for the spectacular development of Turkey's military capabilities in recent years and its direct involvement in various unstable scenarios: maintaining an uninterrupted supply of energy. This is one of the main reasons for the interventions in northern Syria, northern Iraq and Libya.
However, this is not the only reason for such interventions; there are other political motivations, commitments that compel Turkey to take sides in one way or another. The Kurdish problem, worthy in itself of a monograph, is one of them.
But despite possible political motivations, the main focus of the "Blue Fatherland Doctrine" is the need to achieve energy independence. This requires taking control of the necessary energy resources and achieving freedom of action in this field.
There are two spheres that he defines to achieve this goal. The first would consist of the establishment of a security and immediate control of the seas surrounding the country: the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Sea, area . The second, of a strategic nature, extends to the Red Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Arabian Sea, including the Persian Gulf.
Turkey's dominance of the maritime space includes control over the oil and gas reserves in these waters. This position of maritime dominance is reinforced by establishing alliances with the countries in the area, providing them with support, setting up military instructions on their territory and providing military equipment and training to their armies, thus securing their support. This is a fact, and Turkey already has instructions in Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Qatar, to which it supplies its own weapons systems and with which it has various military agreements.
An aside is in order here. These moves are not welcomed by all countries in the region, some of which see their current position and their own aspirations to grow in power and influence in the region as threatened. The existence of a dominant regional power does not usually leave much room for manoeuvre. It is also important to quote here the words of the father of the "Blue Homeland" doctrine: "Turkey does not need an ally to protect the homeland. The homeland is the homeland. Our continental shelf is our homeland and we have to protect it.
However, he claims that in the future relations between Italy, Tunisia, Libya and Turkey will be the main axis of the Mediterranean. He deliberately leaves out countries such as France, Greece and Spain.
area Traditionally, the Turkish Naval Force's usual area of operations was the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. Recently, however, it has expanded its area of operations to the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, and even operates closely with Pakistan. partnership .
This strategic vision, centred on the dominance of the sea, apart from the reasons given above regarding the control of energy resources, can be explained by Turkey's conviction that its special rugged terrain already offers a natural defence and deterrent against any land-based aggression.
Moreover, the "Blue Homeland" doctrine is based on the assumption that Turkey must be an eminently maritime power. It is therefore a realistic doctrine of self-defence of the maritime areas that are rightfully Turkey's, to protect them with an eye to future generations.
Thus, the maritime borders, which stretch across three different seas, are so far perceived as the nation's weak point. And this is precisely what is in the process of being transformed.
reference letter This view has its historical roots in the former Ottoman Empire, which Admiral Cem Gürdeniz refers to on numerous occasions in his writings. It was this view that led Erdogan, shortly after coming to power, to initiate a comprehensive programme of development and modernisation of his naval force known as "Milgem". In this project , heavy investments have been made all over subject, and no effort has been spared, because in order to achieve the development of an armed forces, especially in its maritime aspect, that will sustain the goal of establishing itself as a regional and international power, it is core topic an independent technological development of Turkish industry.
In recent years, the Turkish defence industry has undergone a dramatic evolution, demonstrating the effectiveness of its developments in the Libyan, Syrian and, more currently, Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. Great emphasis has been placed on the development of warships, unmanned aerial systems (UAVs) and advanced weapons systems of high quality. The chapter on UAVs is particularly significant, and should be the subject of an in-depth study, including from a national point of view in Spain.
Once again, there are two clearly defined intentions here. On the one hand, to achieve a state-of-the-art technological level in its armed forces that will support the achievement of the objectives outlined above, and on the other, to position itself as reference letter in the field of arms exports, to earn revenue and to be able to influence the countries of its interest and their policies in the same way as the United States, China and Russia do.
More specifically, theMilgemprogramme framework has built four anti-submarine corvettes, an intelligence gathering vessel, four surface warfare frigates and four anti-aircraft frigates. The programme also includes four state-of-the-art corvettes for the Pakistan Navy as a way of exporting its advances, enhancing the already close partnership relationship between the two countries and, of course, providing economic benefits for the arms industry.
Similarly, 33 new landing craft capable of transporting both troops and armoured vehicles have been delivered to the Turkish Naval Force. Turkey's amphibious assault capabilities, development and further development, are a factor in a possible increase in tension with Greece, especially with regard to claims over the islands to the east of the country and its waters.
The development of naval warfare capabilities is completed with the production of six new submarines from invoice German-built under licence of HDW in Turkey itself, namely the model U-214. These new submersibles are equipped with an AIP system that allows them to remain for long periods without surfacing, and join the ten that the Ottoman country has operated so far.
This is one of the most significant in terms of its destabilising capacity. Until now it has been Greece that has maintained a certain technological superiority in this field. But the entry into service of the new Turkish units, entrance , significantly changes the balance of power. In addition to serving as perfect intelligence gathering platforms, especially in the SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) and COMINT (Communications Intelligence) disciplines, submarines are excellent deterrent weapons, capable of denying an entire fleet access to an extensive area.
The most significant element of Turkey's pretentious programme is an amphibious assault ship (LHD) called the "Anadolu". This ship, with very similar characteristics to the "Juan Carlos I" operated by the Spanish Navy, is a qualitative leap in terms of the capabilities it provides, as it can not only transport landing barges, but also operate different types of helicopters, UAVs and, where appropriate, vertical take-off fighter aircraft from its deck.
Currently, the only such aircraft compatible with the ship is the American F-35 B, which is the vertical take-off and landing (VSTOL) variant. Turkey was one of the nations that had decided to acquire this fighter aircraft, albeit in its A version, which is the standard version for the air force, the first units of which were already scheduled to be delivered to submission .
But the Ankara government's decision to acquire state-of-the-art Russian anti-aircraft equipment, such as the S-400 system, has led the US to veto its continuation of the F-35 B procurement programme. In fact, the first aircraft destined for the Ottoman country have been sold to the USAF. In any case, Turkey's intention was not to acquire the VSTOL version, which leaves Turkey's real intention as to which aircraft will equip the ship open to question.
The project will be completed with the construction of a second amphibious assault ship, the "Trakya". The possession of two units of this subject provides the Turkish naval force with capabilities far superior to those of its neighbours in the region, giving it the ability to project its amphibious force in strategic operations and in two theatres simultaneously.
The real value of these capabilities is not the operational capability itself, but the deterrent capability it represents.
Turkey's involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Libya has provided the Turkish Armed Forces, and within these its naval units, with enormous and valuable combat experience that has been very useful for update and improving its doctrine and operational capabilities. This, together with the high quality of the training quality of its units, the quality of its equipment and the technological and weapons development described above, are the three pillars necessary for the implementation of the "Blue Homeland" doctrine. The great unknown is how the other regional powers, which are directly affected by the advance of this strategic plan, will react.
In conclusion, it can be said that interests are multiple and often intersecting, affecting not only the countries bordering this area of the Mediterranean, but also powers such as Russia and France and international organisations such as NATO.
Incidents between supposedly allied nations have already occurred, even leading to France's withdrawal from NATO's Mediterranean operation due to a problem between a French and a Turkish frigate, and resulting in an attack on Turkish positions by "Rafale" aircraft from instructions in the United Arab Emirates, but whose nationality remains unclear.
status There is no doubt that Turkey's attitude, and the implementation of its plan, puts the Atlantic Alliance in a weak position, as one of the reasons behind the plan is Turkey's perception that it no longer needs the protection of the Western umbrella for the defence of its interests.
On the other hand, Turkey is playing with the trump card of holding the key to the door of entrance to the torrent of migrants from Syria, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea to the EU. And it will use it as a pressure measure in the face of any European reaction or stance against its interests.
The Eastern Mediterranean has regained the leading role in world geopolitics that it had in the 16th century, only this time we have new powers such as Russia that also claim their space and their need for a permanent and strong presence in the area. We cannot ignore the relationship between this Russian need and the Crimean conflict and the strategic need to be able to control to some extent both sides of the Bosporus and ensure the Black Sea fleet's access to the Mediterranean.
All these economic, energy and political interests are creating a very complicated status where the "internal" conflicts in Syria and Libya also come together, creating an over-presence of military units, combatants, private military companies, weapons systems, aircraft, UAVs, etc. that at any moment, and due to any unexpected error, could lead to an incident that, however slight, could have unforeseeable and irreparable consequences.
* The author is an infantry lieutenant colonel and geopolitical analyst.
Kasapoglu, 'The Blue Homeland': Turkey's largest naval drill. Anadolu Agency 27 February.
SETA Security Sadar Turkey's geopolitical landscape in 2020
Kara Harp Okulu Bilim Dergisi, "An assesment of eastern mediterranean maritime boundary delimitation agreement between Turkey and Libya" Science Journal of Turkish Military Academy Haziran /June 2020
Eyal Pinko, "Turkey's Maritime Strategy Ambitions: The Blue Homeland Doctrine (Mavi Vatan)" Research Institute for European and American Studies(www.rieas.gr) April 2020