Turkey’s most senior military official is visiting Moscow.
Consultations with Russia
General Hulusi Akar, chief of the General Staff, is to meet his opposite number General Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s military. Gerasimov is also the first deputy defense minister.
Gerasimov is also the first deputy defense minister. The pair would discuss “military cooperation and regional issues,” a Turkish military statement said.
Relations between Ankara and Moscow have warmed over the last few months.
Between the downing of a Russian SU-24 Russian fighter in November 2015 and the attempted coup in July 2015, Turkey has made an 180-degree turn in its foreign policy. In August, Erdogan spoke of President Putin as a “respected friend,” inviting him to visit Turkey.
The turnaround started in June when Ankara offered an apology to the Kremlin. Erdogan extended his “condolences” to the family of the Russian pilot killed in November 2015.
In July, Russia offered swift support for Turkey’s democratically elected government, without any concerns about the rule of law standards that Europeans and Americans have expressed. And President Putin dropped the famous “stab in the back” language.
The question of how close Turkey is coming to Russia is a concern.
Purging of NATO officers
Turkey is purging its best trained and most experienced NATO military staff in Europe and the United States.
In a classified military dispatch seen by Reuters at the beginning of October, it appears that NATO envoys in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.K were ordered to return home on September 27. Of the 50 Turkish military staff stationed at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, only nine remain. Turkey has dismissed approximately 400 NATO military envoys since July, but the pace continues.
They are recalled, arrived in Turkey, and dismissed, arrested, and imprisoned. The purge focuses especially on air force commanders.
In August Rear Admiral Cem Gurdeniz said that many in Turkey treated the coup as a blessing. In a much-cited interview with Hurriyet, the retired Admiral spoke publically about a “Eurasian camp” in the military that does not want Turkey to allow for an independent or autonomous Kurdistan, or the “loss” (reunification) of Cyprus, that believes NATO no longer serves Turkey’s interests.
Is this about Iraq?
The enemy of the enemy is not always a friend. Although Ankara and Washington are experiencing bilateral difficulties, Turkey also has a Syria policy that is not compatible with the Russian worldview.
Exchanging views on the Syrian and Iraqi fronts could be one of the reasons the Chief of General Staff is visiting Moscow, especially as Iraqi troops are on the outskirts of Mosul. That would qualify as “regional consultation,” which leaves the nature of the “military cooperation” to be clarified.