KYIV, Ukraine – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Thursday agreed to expand the supply of one of the Ukrainian Army’s most sophisticated weapons, a long-range armed drone operated by Turkey. The production unit, first used in combat in Ukraine last fall, angered Russian officials.
Erdogan’s decision to supply arms and return to Ukraine diplomacy is a public rebuke to Moscow and another complicating factor in the interweaving of cooperation and conflict between Turkey and Russia. history. opponents for supremacy in the area around the Black Sea.
The promise to supply Ukraine with more weapons, especially offensive weapons like Turkish drones, is an extremely sensitive issue for Moscow, which says its security is under threat. threatened and they had no choice but to mass troops on the border of Ukraine. The Ukrainians, while welcoming diplomatic support, have said that what they need is mainly more weapons to thwart any attacks.
The Turkish leader’s visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to announce the arms deal comes as diplomatic lines are being drawn in the crisis, with the US, UK and other nations drawn Eastern Europe will send weapons to support Ukraine in the event of war with Russia. A shipment of American anti-tank missiles and small ammunition continued on Thursday with the arrival of a Saturday cargo jet to Kyiv.
At the same time, Russia also rejected claims by the Biden administration that it would send more troops to NATO countries, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov accusing the United States of “sparking tensions on the continent” Europe”. Russian Defense Minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, on Thursday said the Russian military will send more troops and equipment for military exercises in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, adding for tens of thousands of troops deployed here.
President Emmanuel Macron of France pushed for a diplomatic push in separate phone calls with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The calls are intended to lead to a summit of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Europe to help defuse the threat of a Russian military invasion.
Erdogan’s visit to Kyiv was mainly to show support for Zelensky’s government, but the Turkish leader also offered to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine, showing he is on the right track. the fine line between supporting Ukraine and breaking the complicated relationship with Russia.
“We are ready to do our part to end the crisis between the two friendly countries of which Turkey is a neighbor on the Black Sea.” So far, no government has brought him up on the idea.
Turkey is a member of NATO but also maintains economic and military-industrial ties with Russia. And the two countries were also on opposite sides in the two Middle East wars, in Syria and Libyaand in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the South Caucasus.
Understanding Russia’s relationship with the West
Tensions between regions are growing and Russian President Putin is increasingly willing to take on geopolitical risks and assert his demands.
Mr. Erdogan said on Thursday that he wanted to “relieve tensions rather than add fuel to the fire” of the conflict, but did not back down from the arms supply deal to Ukraine, first negotiated in 2019 and extended with a new agreement. suitable on Thursday.
Turkey sold Ukraine a Bayraktar TB2 drone that the Ukrainian military first used in its war with Russia-backed separatists last October. The drone destroyed a separatist artillery several kilometers away, taking the rebels by surprise.
The missile attack showed the military balance in the war in eastern Ukraine with NATO-supplied weapons, angering Russia. Mr. Putin referred to the drone attack last fall in speeches when stressing his case that Russia’s security was at stake.
And in December, Putin directly opposed the drone sale in a phone call with Erdogan, saying Ukraine’s use of armed drones by Turkey was “sabotage”. ” and “provocative activities”, according to the Kremlin bulletin.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Aleksei Reznikov, said on Thursday that Turkey had agreed to localize drone production at a factory outside Kyiv. The Ukrainian version of Bayraktar will fly with domestically produced engines. Reznikov said Turkey will also buy some of these drones for its armed forces.
The site will also become a training center for Ukrainian drone pilots, Reznikov said.
Mr. Zelensky praised the drone deal, clearly Russia’s many years of opposition to Ukraine’s acquisition of Turkish drone technology and its urgent demand for the summer. Last fall, NATO countries stopped arming Ukraine.
“This is new technology, new jobs and enhanced defense capabilities of Ukraine,” Zelensky said.
Early on Thursday, in an attempt to reassure Moscow, the Turkish Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, stressed Ankara’s commitment to a treaty that limits NATO forces’ access to the Black Sea through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits controlled by Turkey. The accord, the Montreux Convention, prohibits aircraft carriers from passing through the strait and restricts other warships from making short voyages in the Black Sea.
In 2014, during a conflict in Georgia when Washington was trying to deter Russian military action, Turkey refuses to allow American warships to enter the Black Sea.
Erdogan’s military deals with Ukraine and Russia, including the purchase of Russian air defense systems, have drawn criticism from NATO member states. That system, called the S-400, brings Russian technology inside the territory of a key Western ally; American officials were furious at the move.
But Thursday’s pledge to arm Ukraine at a time of war threat with Russia sent a clear signal, as did the martial arts-themed reception Erdogan received in Kyiv.
During his visit, Mr. Erdogan watched as an elaborate parade of the Ukrainian military honor guard and brass band in the grounds of the Tsar Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv, used for official visits.
As the war ended, Mr. Erdogan greeted the soldiers with a quote in Ukrainian associated with the country’s post-2014 struggles with Russia, another quote that, although symbolic, was indicative. side in the conflict.
Understanding the escalating tension in Ukraine
“Pride for Ukraine!” Mr. Erdogan said. The soldiers shouted back, “Glory to its heroes!”
Turkey and Ukraine also signed an agreement to increase trade between the two countries to 10 billion USD from about 7 billion USD at present. The countries also signed agreements to increase cooperation between their police forces and an agreement on even closer coordination between their defense ministries.
To date, seven US cargo jets have carried a total of about 600 tons of military support, including anti-tank weapons and small ammunition.
Shipments include additional Javelin anti-tank missiles, which the US has supplied since 2018. Britain has shipped about 2,000 light anti-tank missiles, known as NLAWs, to Ukraine in the past two weeks.
With US approval, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, said they would deliver more Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger air defense missiles, plugging some holes in their shabby air defenses. of Ukraine. Poland also said it would send anti-aircraft missiles.
Andriy Zahorodniuk, Ukraine’s former defense minister, said in an interview on Thursday the shipments may have reached a critical juncture. With additional supplies from the UK and the US, Ukraine now has more anti-tank missiles than Russia has active main battle tanks, although Russia’s total tank stock is still large. than.
Ukraine does not need to achieve a so-called “equal capacity” with the Russian Army – which is not possible under any circumstances – to prevent a military intervention, he said.
“Infiltrating someone’s territory is much harder than defending it,” he said. “The mission in defense is to inflict an unbearably high level of casualties.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/world/europe/ukraine-turkey-russia-drones.html Turkey, a sometimes wavering NATO ally, backs Ukraine