“You can buy as many aircraft, submarines and ships as you like; it won’t be enough,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar recently warned Greece. The fact is, they probably will be enough and they’re certainly causing concern, otherwise why would our neighbor’s top defense official make such a statement?
If it had come from some well-known champion of friendship and peaceful coexistence between the two people, it would be an entirely different matter and the statement could be interpreted as the genuine desire of a person who abhors war. But when such words come from the defense minister of a country that is involved directly or indirectly in so many military operations and that so often states its determination to uphold its perceived “sovereign rights” in the Aegean and the East Mediterranean, they denote frustration and, perhaps, even concern.
The prospect of the successful completion of a well-designed procurements program by Greece is a game changer. An air force with 18 modern Rafale jets and 84 upgraded F-16 Vipers, on top of another 38 F-16s and 24 Mirages – depending on how the plan works out in the end – is by no means a negligible defense development.
Without accounting for the older – the sensation of previous decades – Phantoms of each country, the balance of power in the air is anything but that of a “gnat” facing a “superpower.” The Turkish Air Force has 233 American-made F-16s against Greece’s 154, not to mention its dozens of French Mirages and the Rafales that will start arriving in 2021. Hence, when Akar says “they won’t be enough,” he is most probably annoyed by the prospect.
The Turkish defense minister also opined that the state of the Greek economy is so terrible that any defense spending will cost Greek citizens their salaries, the food on their tables and the clothes on their backs. His comment comes at the same time as The New York Times – not some ill-intentioned Greeks – is warning about the state of Turkey’s economy and a society pushed to its limits, with many citizens facing the prospect of hunger and even pondering suicide, skyrocketing inflation and a plummeting Turkish lira – and all that before the advent of the pandemic.
The Turkish people are naturally unhappy about this situation and more and more are turning against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which explains, in part, the latter’s aggression on the foreign policy front in recent years.
Arms procurements undoubtedly come at the cost of other needs in any society. But this self-evident truth does not seem to be inhibiting the Turkish president who, apart from his neo-Ottoman ambitions, is also pursuing wars and conflict with other countries in order to divert domestic public opinion from their everyday difficulties.