As a bridge between Asia and Europe, with its straits connecting the Black Sea with the Mediterranean and a geopolitical location at a point where the Central Asian, Caucasian and Middle Eastern natural energy transport corridors intersect, Turkey draws the attention of the entire world. It is surrounded by Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Greece and Bulgaria. Currently there is armed conflict in Iraq, and armed conflict with PKK guerillas in the southeastern part of Turkey. The region is a very difficult one, with a history of armed conflict that will likely persist for some time in the future. Although the costs of providing security have been substantial for Turkey, it should be emphasized that Turkish security forces have on the whole been able to protect citizens against security risks and safeguard the national interest. Turkey is a founding member of NATO and Turkish armed forces joined the peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Somalia, have participated as a part of the Afghanistan International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and have taken on tasks under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). As of 2008, 1.04 million people were on active military duty in Turkey. Despite these demanding conditions, the share of defense expenditures (through the Ministry of National Defense) in the general consolidated budget has gradually decreased since 2002, stabilizing below 2.5% of GDP (2008) until recently. Although Minister of Foreign Affairs A. Davutoğlu recently called for a strategy of “zero problems” with neighboring countries, Turkey’s traditional conflict with Greece, which is also a NATO member, has caused a perception of threat related to the disputed waters of the Aegean Sea. Moreover, Turkey’s role in the Middle East also requires a strong military capacity. The professionalization or modernization of the Turkish armed forces is another aspect of current discussions. Turkey seems to be in a process of defining a clear defense policy, while seeking to eliminate all confusions domestically and internationally.
Security is one of the areas where the clash between the elected government and the old republican elite, particularly the military, is most obvious. While Turkey’s membership in the NATO is not openly questioned from any side, there are strong undercurrents in the military that evidently favor a closer relationship with Russia, China and the Shanghai Five, while clearly opposing EU membership. The military pursues a clear-cut policy for Cyprus. It regards Turkish troops on Cyprus as a sine qua non for Turkey’s own security and strategic interests. The generals oppose any political concessions and demand that Turkey block the NATO membership of the Greek-dominated Republic of Cyprus, thus obstructing closer cooperation between NATO and the ESDP. In all these issues, the government is known to favor a more flexible policy.
TESEV-DCAF (2006) Almanac Turkey 2005: Security Sector and Democratic Oversight, TESEV
SIPRI, Military expenditure of Turkey, Of The European Communities, Turkey 2009 Progress Report, (accessed, 26 July, 2010)
Günter Seufert: Geringer Wille zur Einigung auf Zypern, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin 2010.