Turkey Blasts ‘Unauthorised’ German Search On Libya-bound Ship

Turkey accused the German navy on Monday of conducting an “unauthorised” search on a Turkish-flagged cargo vessel in a bid to enforce a United Nations arms embargo on Libya.

But the European Union’s Operation Irini — tasked with halting arms shipments to the strife-torn north African country — said it had made a “good faith” effort to get Turkey’s consent for the inspection and aborted it as soon as Ankara made its objections clear.

The Turkish foreign ministry said Germany’s Hamburg frigate stopped and searched the Roseline A commercial vessel without permission on Sunday evening off the coast of Greece’s Peloponnesus peninsula.

Footage filmed by the vessel’s crew and aired repeatedly on Turkish television showed a quarrel between crew members and armed German soldiers who landed on the ship from a helicopter.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the vessel was carrying paint and humanitarian supplies headed to the Libyan port of Misrata.

“This intervention was carried out with the consent of neither our country as the flag state nor the ship’s captain,” the Turkish ministry said.

Footage filmed by crew shows a German soldier landing from a helicopter onto the Turkish cargo ship
 Demiroren News Agency (DHA) / –

“I am strongly condemning this unlawful intervention,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay added.

Ankara on Monday summoned the EU and Italian ambassadors as well as the German embassy’s charge d’affaires to the foreign ministry, conveying a diplomatic note protesting the “unauthorised” inspection, the foreign ministry said.

The action was “against international law,” the ministry said in the note, adding that Turkey reserved its right to compensation.

But both the operation’s European command and officials in Berlin said Turkey raised its objections only after the German soldiers had boarded the vessel.

“Everything went exactly according to protocol,” a German foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

Operation Irini said in statement that it had “made good faith efforts to seek (Turkey’s) consent”.

A screen grab from a video shot by Roseline A crew shows German soldiers searching staff members of the Turkish cargo ship

A screen grab from a video shot by Roseline A crew shows German soldiers searching staff members of the Turkish cargo ship
 Demiroren News Agency (DHA) / –

“When (Turkey) made it clear that it denied the permission to inspect the vessel, Operation Irini suspended the activities during which no evidence of illicit material was found,” it said.

Operation Irini’s official website says the mission reserves the right to board ships without permission when conducting so-called “friendly approaches”.

Libya has endured almost a decade of violence since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Turkey backs the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in western Libya and views the EU mission as biased in favour of the eastern command — backed by the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia and France.

The warring sides agreed a ceasefire deal last month that paves the way for national elections on December 24.

But the process remains fragile and four EU powers involved in efforts to end the conflict issued a joint statement Monday threatening sanctions against “all Libyan and international parties” standing in the way of peace.

Operation Irini said the aborted inspection of the Turkish vessel was the fifth since the mission was officially launched on March 31.

Turkey last sparred with EU powers over inspections when a French frigate under NATO command sought in June to search a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship.

Paris then complained that one of its ships was subjected to radar targeting by Turkish frigates while trying to inspect the cargo.

Ankara denied the charge.

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Erdoğan insists Turkey is part of Europe, but won’t tolerate ‘attacks’ – POLITICO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he sees Turkey as part of Europe, but stressed that Ankara will not give in to “attacks” and “double standards,” amid months of tensions with Brussels.

“We see ourselves as an inseparable part of Europe … However this does not mean that we will bow down to overt attacks to our country and nation, veiled injustices and double standards,” Erdoğan said Sunday in a speech to members of his AK Party, according to Reuters.

He added in more conciliatory remarks that “we do not believe that we have any problems with countries or institutions that cannot be solved through politics, dialogue and negotiations.”

Turkey is still formally a candidate to become an EU member, although EU and foreign affairs ministers decided to effectively freeze accession talks in June 2018.

More recently, tensions between the EU and Ankara have been rising over Turkey’s drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean in search for natural gas in disputed waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus. The EU earlier this month extended its sanctions by one year over what it described as “Turkey’s unauthorised drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean” and EU leaders will discuss whether to impose further sanctions at a meeting next month.

Further fueling the conflict, Erdoğan called last Sunday for a “two-state” solution in Cyprus during a high-profile visit to the Turkish-Cypriot north of the island, which has been divided since Turkey’s 1974 invasion.

The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell responded last Thursday, saying: “It is important that Turkey understands that its behavior is widening its separation from the European Union.”

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Turkey projects power in region, furthering Erdoğan’s ambitions

The list of conflicts into which Turkey has inserted itself, either with military hard power or strong rhetoric, seems to be ever growing: Syria, Iraq, Libya, Cyprus, even France.

It’s been able to do so because around the region, the United States and the Europeans have increasingly absented themselves. But using that power – decisively, in the case of supporting Azerbaijan against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh – also means potentially coming into conflict with a great power like Russia.

Turkey’s economy can be another limiting factor, but the temptation to act is great, not only to improve President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political standing, but to improve the nation’s self-image.

“There is clearly a resurgent Turkey – one that has more self-confidence – [that] defines its role in the world as having a military footprint outside of its borders,” says Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, an expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Turkey wants to be a regional hegemon, and to get to that it understands it needs to be an active player in conflict zones,” Ms. Aydıntaşbaş says. “President Erdoğan himself feels that … it’s his calling in life to make sure Turkey emerges as a great power.”


The cease-fire agreement ending six weeks of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh was greeted in Turkey as a “sacred success” for “brotherly Azerbaijan” in its fight with Armenia.

But the elation in Ankara was not simply due to its ally’s battlefield gains, which reclaimed ground lost to ethnic Armenian separatists in the early 1990s.

For Turkey, the outcome was also the latest successful example of its assertive and game-changing use of military hard power, which has so far redrawn geopolitical realities from Libya and Syria to the southern Caucasus.

The moves take advantage of a vacuum left by now-absent U.S. and European actors, analysts say, in order to realize Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ambitions of regional preeminence – and to enhance his popularity at home.

The result is that Mr. Erdoğan is the latest exemplar of the effectiveness of gunboat diplomacy, even as traditional military players withdraw from the field. If there is one important caveat, though, it is that Turkey’s ambitions have also brought it increasingly into competition with another power, Russia.

“There is clearly a resurgent Turkey – one that has more self-confidence – [that] defines its role in the world as having a military footprint outside of its borders,” says Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, a Turkey expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

“Turkey wants to be a regional hegemon, and to get to that it understands it needs to be an active player in conflict zones,” Ms. Aydıntaşbaş says. “President Erdoğan himself feels that … we’ve already entered a new age of great power competition, and [that] it’s his calling in life to make sure Turkey emerges as a great power.”

“Often all of these things are regarded [abroad] as Turkish adventurism, whereas in Turkey they are a source of pride,” she says. “The government does not see these as adventures, [but] as milestones that are building up a Turkish empire in a new age.”

In Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia brokered the cease-fire after President Vladimir Putin and Mr. Erdoğan spoke. Nearly 2,000 Russian troops are to monitor the cease-fire lines. Turkey’s peacekeeping role is still to be determined, but Mr. Erdoğan submitted a bill to parliament today to approve deployment of peacekeeping troops for a year.

Turkey’s expanded influence

Few think Azeri troops could have broken the years-long stalemate with Armenia without Turkey’s ironclad support and weaponry. Ankara’s arms sales to Azerbaijan increased six-fold this year, rising to $77 million in September alone – making Azerbaijan the biggest client for Turkish weapons – Reuters reports. Turkey also reportedly deployed Turkish-trained mercenary fighters from Syria.

The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is hardly the only arena in the region – and beyond – in which Turkey has exerted influence:

  • Timely Turkish military intervention in Libya last spring, on behalf of the United Nations-recognized government in Tripoli, is credited with blocking a takeover bid by Khalifa Haftar, a renegade general who had Russian, French, and Saudi support.
  • Since 2016, Turkey has played increasingly effective military roles in Syria and Iraq to limit the reach and power of ethnic Kurdish militias it calls “terrorists” – even facing off directly with U.S. Special Forces units and, last spring, Russian forces over Syria’s northwest enclave of Idlib.
  • Turkey is locked in a tense maritime dispute with Greece and Cyprus over newfound energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • And, further compounding Turkey’s fractious relations with Europe – and bolstering Mr. Erdoğan’s claim to be a leader for all Sunni Muslims – the Turkish president in late October rejected government efforts to limit the practice of Islam in France after a spate of Islamist attacks, saying President Emmanuel Macron “needs treatment on a mental level.”

Such nationalist and pro-Islamic activism plays well for Mr. Erdoğan at home, where a struggling Turkish economy has dented his popularity.

“There are inherent limits to how far this can go, and the limit is really the Turkish economy, because it is very interdependent with the Western economy,” says Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish diplomat and head of the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM).

Smoke rises from a burning house as cars and trucks climb the clogged road from Kalbajar for Armenia, leaving the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh Nov. 14, 2020. The territory is to be turned over to Azerbaijan on Sunday as part of territorial concessions in an agreement to end six weeks of intense fighting with Armenian forces.

Turkey’s assertiveness abroad has been aided by two concurrent changes in the global order, he says: A United States that is “much more disinterested in this part of the world,” coupled with the “continuing ineffectiveness of the EU as a foreign policy actor.”

“This combination has opened up space for mid-power countries like Turkey to exert themselves more assertively in the regional theater,” says Mr. Ülgen. “The domestic dimension is that the [ruling] AK Party has espoused a narrative of a strong Turkey abroad, and hard power tactics tend to nurture this narrative.”

A report by Al-Monitor news website noted that Mr. Macron “followed the tried and tired analysis that everything [Erdoğan] does abroad must be for ‘religious’ reasons. Others claim that Erdoğan is overreaching politically and militarily…. And yet the Turkish juggernaut keeps marching on.”

Russia sees encroachment

Turkey’s moves have also caught the eye of other intervening powers, notably Russia, which has seen Turkey on the opposite side of frontlines in both Libya and Syria. Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan – a former Soviet Republic – is viewed by Moscow as encroachment in its backyard.

The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, for example, stated that Turkey had made “an unprecedented breakthrough into the political space Moscow always considered exclusively its own.”

The result of the war is “disastrous” for Russia, says Ruslan Pukhov, director of a Russian defense think-tank. “The harsh reality is that Moscow’s influence in the trans-Caucasus region has sharply decreased, while the prestige of a successful and pugnacious Turkey, on the contrary, has grown incredibly,” he told the Financial Times.

Indeed, the Kremlin made clear last week that Turkey is not mentioned in the cease-fire deal and that – despite Azeri statements – any Turkish forces deployed are not official peacekeepers.

Even the fact that Russia is treating Turkey as a player is indicative of how the character and quality of Turkey’s regional reach has changed since the Arab Spring in 2011. Back then, Mr. Erdoğan took a “victory lap” tour of Tunis, Cairo, and Tripoli, buoyed by the widespread belief that Turkey presented a model of a successful and modern Islamic state for the post-dictator era.

But the credibility of that model soon disappeared, lost in the clouds of tear gas fired against protesters during the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, and then eroded further by Mr. Erdoğan’s own increasing authoritarianism.

“A decade ago, Turkey presented itself as a model for the region, with its soft power instruments,” says Ms. Aydıntaşbaş of ECFR. “Today it’s an actor in the region with hard power instruments. There is a great interest in the use of hard power, and each and every time that becomes a reality, the lesson for the next international incident is that it works.”

How to use influence?

Turkey has been on a learning curve of interventions since it first crossed into northern Syria in 2016. Ms. Aydıntaşbaş recalls visiting Syrian territory controlled by Turkey back then and finding local Turkish authorities “very self-consciously talking about this as an experiment.”

Though Turkey’s military footprint has since extended much farther, it is not clear how Turkey will use its influence in a place like Libya.

“This is not really thought through. And there is a reason that Western countries are so gun-shy about the use of hard power in the Middle East, precisely because the returns are so little and the costs are so heavy,” says Ms. Aydıntaşbaş.

“For Turkey, there is a great appetite, because it helps Turkey’s self-image, it helps the president’s own standing, and it is now defined as an ultimate destiny for the country,” she says.

The fact that many Turks favor intervention abroad – even if it is too early to tell if it makes Turkey itself more secure, or improves the economy – is a key reason behind it, says Mr. Ülgen of EDAM.

“The way you have to analyze the activism in Turkish foreign policy is less from the standpoint of the end result, and more in terms of its implications for domestic power,” says Mr. Ülgen.

“It’s really more about whether this foreign policy activism helps President Erdoğan’s popularity at home – and it does – at a time when that popularity is under stress because of the economic malaise.”

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Turkey and USA mastermind new conflicts near Russia

Turkey, which took an unceremonious attempt to establish its influence in the Caucasus, is provoking other conflicts on the borders of Russia, with the help of the United States. It is possible that Abkhazia may become another point of tensions after Karabakh.

According to political analysts, the recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Abkhaz counterpart Aslan Bzhania testifies to Moscow’s readiness to work in this direction.

The previous meeting took place in Moscow at the Victory Day parade on June 24. Until recently, the two leaders have not conducted full-fledged personal negotiations.

At the meeting in Sochi, Putin voiced an idea to discuss the development of relations between Russia and Abkhazia. For his part, Bzhania noted that this is the first time, when he has such a meeting with the president of Russia.

Vladimir Putin pointed out that Russia provides 70 percent of the republic’s total economic turnover in such sectors of economy as tourism, agriculture and telecommunications. In addition, Russian doctors help Abkhazia in the fight against the pandemic, so the cooperation continues constantly.

We would like to recall here that since the recognition of Abkhazia’s independence after the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in 2008, Russia has been a key donor of the republic. In 2020, the state budget of the republic amounted to 10.3 billion rubles, while the volume of financial assistance that the Russian Federation provides to Abkhazia reaches 4.7 billion rubles.

Vladimir Evseev, the head of the Caucasus Department of the Institute of CIS Countries said that the meeting between the presidents of Russia and Abkhazia was necessary to find solutions to revitalize the Abkhaz economy.

More importantly, Russia and Abkhazia need to join their effort not to let Turkey gain a foothold in the region.

Turkey has been actively increasing its influence in areas of Russia’s interests. Therefore, the presidents of Russia and Abkhazia discussed the issue of changing the legislation of Abkhazia. It is believed that Russian citizens will be able to buy real estate in Abkhazia some time in the future. This is the Russian contribution to the economy of the republic

The Allies.CSTO website, the official publication of the Collective Security Treaty Organization has recently published an article about Turkey’s increased appetites in the regions of Russia’s interests.

Political scientist Andrei Areshev noted “a sharp rise in Turkey’s activity in the Caucasus” not only in economic, but also in military-political forms. All this prompts Moscow to revise its relations with Abkhazai and take them to a new level.

Yevseev added that Turkey was trying to use regional conflicts to expand its influence in order to deploy its military bases everywhere. To gain control, Ankara may push Georgia to another act of aggression against Abkhazia.

At the same time, political scientist Niyazi Niyazov does not share this version and believes that it is more expensive for Ankara to get into Abkhazia from the point of view of international law, because the international community does not recognize the independence of Abkhazia. In such a status, there can be no real foreign economic activity there, and Russia is responsible for virtually everything, the expert summed up.

In addition, the authors of Daily War suggest that after Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey and the United States will try to take Crimea away from Russia.

“It will be up for the Americans to do most of the work here, but they will not be able to do anything without the Turks either,” they write.

The experts refer to the following reasons for concern:

  • In Ukraine, the number of public organizations working about the Crimea, represented at the OSCE forum, increased sharply – from 3 to 15!

  • The “International Religious Freedom Alliance” created by the US State Department will focus on supporting Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami* and Jehovah’s Witnesses*. The first of the two is recognized in Russia as a terrorist group, while the other one is an extremist one. However, these two organizations, the activities of which are banned in the Russian Federation, operate freely in Ukraine. Therefore, until 2014, they had a wide network in Crimea.

The US project to support Hizb ut-Tahrir* found support in the Turkish delegation at the OSCE forum. No wonder, because the supporters of this international terrorist group are from among the Crimean Tatars, and Tahrir* militants would be ready to do a lot to see Crimea as part of Turkey, if not of the “global caliphate.”

*terrorist and extremist groups, banned in Russia

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Repairing the Rift with Turkey

Can a Biden administration repair the U.S. relationship with Turkey—a geostrategically important NATO ally whose partnership with Washington gradually deteriorated in the past few years?  Short of policy towards the big threats—Russia, China, North Korea, Iran—it is hard to think of a more important security issue facing the incoming team.  Turkey can be a critical player in helping the U.S. handle—or, if we get it wrong, mishandle—the first and last of those other threats. The importance of this pivotal Muslim country between Europe and the Middle East is much greater than commonly perceived.

The temptation for the incoming administration will be to punish Turkey for its many transgressions. The autocratic ways of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his heavy-handed military reprisal against Syrian Kurds—critical U.S. allies in defeating the Islamic State—and his purchase of Russian missile defense systems have left Ankara with few friends in Washington. Clearly, Erdogan’s Turkey is a country to shunt aside as much as possible, no?  Some would even have NATO’s other twenty-nine members kick Turkey out of the alliance, notwithstanding that there is no mechanism by which a NATO member can be expelled or even suspended.

Any of that would be a mistake. The United States should certainly speak up and openly criticize Erdogan’s deepening autocracy. But in the meantime, it should also face reality. For all his own flaws, Erdogan still leads an important country—and is still the only person that the United States can attempt to do business with even if there are major disagreements between the two countries. Moreover, for all of his mistakes in regard to the Syria conflict over the years, they are no worse than our own failures and missteps in the Middle East over the last two decades. Turkey is bearing the brunt of the Syrian conflict as much as any other neighbor, hosting as many as four million refugees who would otherwise likely flood western Europe.

Yes, Erdogan’s friendliness with Putin is a major concern. But the alternative of a Russian-Turkish war that would drag the United States, as a NATO ally, into a conflict with Moscow would be much worse. After all,  Russia and Turkey are not natural partners. In fact, they are on the opposite sides of conflicts in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus between  Armenia and Azerbaijan. And in  2015 Turkey downed a Russian jet on its border with Syria—the first time a NATO country shot down a Russian plane in half a century.  As troubling as things are now, therefore, they could be much worse—and may get worse if we are not careful.

To put things on a better and less dangerous track, progress is needed in addressing two major problems with Turkey. They are not only impediments to improved bilateral relations, but real security issues in their own right with potentially large consequences for American and allied well-being if not handled adroitly. This is why instead of confronting Ankara with coercive diplomacy, the Biden administration should propose Turkey a conditional reset.

The urgent problem concerns the S-400 air defense system Turkey purchased from Russia. The less urgent but highly important second problem is Syria.

The S-400s will include Russian involvement in its operation—meaning that Moscow could gain intelligence about any aircraft flying in Turkish airspace, most notably the stealthy F-35 that Turkey was on track to purchase and helped build as a partner of the project. Without a resolution of this matter, Turkey’s role in the F-35 program will remain suspended, and it will not be able to acquire the aircraft. Moreover, the U.S. Congress stands ready to pass severe military and financial sanctions as further punishment against Ankara over the S-400.

Turkey recently tested but has not fully activated the S-400. If Erdogan is serious about a reset, then Turkey should openly commit not to activate the radar, and declare its willingness to buy a NATO compatible system. In return, the Biden administration should declare that Turkey is reintegrated in the F-35 jet program and consider offering Turkey financial and potentially technical incentives for its purchase of Patriot missile-defense systems.

The transactional model for a reset with Ankara should also cover Syria. The war there is winding down—but the postwar situation is far from settled. Although U.S. support for Syrian Kurds has always targeted the Islamic State, Turkey believes Washington supports Kurdish autonomy and eventual statehood in northern Syria. Making things worse, the Syrian Kurds that Washington supports are part of a Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, officially designated as a terrorist organization by U.S. law. A reset of Turkish-American relations in Syria will therefore require major diplomatic acrobatics.

The Biden administration should not leave Syria and abandon the Kurds as Trump contemplated. Instead, it should find more convincing ways to prove Ankara that the U.S.-Kurdish military cooperation is about fighting the Islamic State, not pursuing Kurdish independence. In return for a clear Turkish military commitment against ISIS and after making progress towards a trilateral peace understanding between Syrian Kurds, the Assad regime and Turkey, the United States could phase down its security cooperation with Syrian Kurds. Behind the scenes, the Biden administration should also work for a peaceful solution to Turkey’s own Kurdish problem by putting pressure on the PKK to disarm.

With movement on these two issues, we can at least enter a period of successful transactional diplomacy and national security policymaking with Ankara. There will be no close relationship as long as Erdogan is in power. But there need not, and must not, be anything akin to an adversarial relationship either.

Omer Taspinar and Michael O’Hanlon hail from the National Defense University and the Brookings Institution.

Image: Reuters

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How Turkey Brought Down its Own Air Force

Here’s What You Need To Remember: Numerous senior and field-grade officers were purged. More than 300 F-16 pilots were dismissed. This defanged the Turkish military as a political threat, and strengthened the increasingly authoritarian rule of Erdogan and his neo-Ottoman Justice and Development Party, which has imprisoned many journalists. But it left a gaping question: who would be left to fly Turkey’s jet fighters?

Fighter pilots aren’t cheap. The U.S. Air Force estimates that training a new pilot to fly a plane like the F-35 costs $11 million. And that doesn’t count the priceless experience of a veteran pilot who has been flying for years. That’s why the U.S. Air Force is willing to offer half-million-dollar bonuses to retain experienced fighter pilots.

So a nation that throws its fighter pilots in jail is not just wasting money, but also an extremely valuable resource. Yet in the name of politics, Turkey’s government has purged its air force so badly that it can barely fly its F-16 fighters.

The trouble began on July 15, 2016, when members of Turkey’s military “allegedly” launched a coup to topple the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The word allegedly is used for a reason. Despite being pros at overthrowing civilian governments (with four successful coups between 1960 and 1997), the 2016 effort was laughable. Soldiers attempted to isolate Istanbul by erecting roadblocks on the Bosporus Bridge—but only blocked the lanes in one direction. Youtube video showed soldiers with Leopard tanks surrendering to police and civilians. As Erdogan was flying back to Istanbul from vacation, two Turkish Air Force F-16s had his aircraft in their sights—but failed to shoot it down.

And the vaunted Turkish military was supposed to be NATO’s Cold War southern bulwark against the Soviets? If so, it’s a wonder that the Kremlin never seized the Bosporus.

All of which had skeptics wondering whether the coup was actually a false-flag operation by the Turkish government, aimed at providing (or provoking) an excuse to quash secular Turkish generals and covert followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. Either way, the coup fizzled in less than an hour, and then Erdogan’s government took its revenge.

Numerous senior and field-grade officers were purged. More than 300 F-16 pilots were dismissed. This defanged the Turkish military as a political threat, and strengthened the increasingly authoritarian rule of Erdogan and his neo-Ottoman Justice and Development Party, which has imprisoned many journalists. But it left a gaping question: who would be left to fly Turkey’s jet fighters?

With war raging in Syria, and Turkish forces grabbing parts of northern Syria, Turkey’s military is keeping busy (including an F-16 that shot down a Russian plane over Syria—the Turkish pilot who did it was one of those purged). It hardly seems a propitious time to decimate your pilot cadre.

The Turkish government has been looking overseas to make up the shortfall. However, the Washington has rebuffed a request to send over U.S. flight instructors, though Turkish pilots are receiving basic flight training in the United States. Turkey has also sought assistance from Pakistan—which also flies F-16s—though training Turkish pilots could violate U.S. arms export rules. In a sign of desperation, “the Turkish government has issued a decree that threatens 330 former pilots with the revocation of their civil pilot license, unless they return to Air Force duty for four years,” notes an Atlantic Council report.

“It is unclear how the decision to compel a return to service will impact unit morale,” the report added.

Now, enter Russia—a traditional enemy of Turkey for centuries, and one of whose jets was shot down by the Turks over Syria. Yet Turkey is seeking to buy Russia’s S-400 long-range anti-aircraft missiles, which only ratchets up tensions between Washington and Ankara over Syria and other issues.

Turkey has also signed an agreement with Franco-Italian missile maker Eurosam to develop a long-range anti-aircraft missile. And why is Turkey suddenly so interested in surface-to-air missiles? “In aftermath of 15 July, with the operations against the Turkish Armed Forces, there was a reduction in the number of F-16 pilots, creating a need to develop our air defense,” said Turkish analyst Verda Ozer. “This is the reason for the S-400 purchase.”

But even the S-400 wouldn’t totally solve Turkey’s air defense travails. “Since the Russian S-400 system cannot be integrated into NATO infrastructure, it cannot be used to protect against missile defense,” Ozer notes. Hence, Turkey needs two systems: the S-400 to shoot down hostile aircraft, and a Eurosam weapon to intercept ballistic missiles.

Perhaps it would have been easier not to get rid of those F-16 pilots.

Michael Peck, a frequent contributor to TNI, is a defense and historical writer based in Oregon. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, WarIsBoring and many other fine publications. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This piece was originally featured in 2018 and is being republished due to reader’s interest.

Media: Reuters

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F1 news, Turkey GP, practice, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, track is a disaster

A frustrated Lewis Hamilton said he was baffled and terrified by the treacherous nature of the track after winding up fourth for Mercedes in Friday’s opening practice for this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.

The 35-year-old Briton, who is seeking to seal a record-equalling seventh world title in Sunday’s race, said his day’s practice had been “a little bit of a disaster” at the Istanbul Park circuit.

“This is such a fantastic circuit and I really don’t understand why they spend millions to do a resurface of the track,” he said.

“I know it’s been sitting around for a long time, but maybe they could have just cleaned it instead of wasting all their money.”

The track has not been used for a Formula One race in nine years since the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix and in cool and damp conditions it offered very little grip.

“Now, it is worse than Portimao (Portugal) with its new surface so, for us, the tyres aren’t working and you can see it’s like an icerink out there,” Hamilton said.

“You don’t quite get the enjoyment of the lap as you would expect here at Istanbul and I don’t see that changing.”

He said every lap was a very challenging experience: “It’s terrifying – the whole way round. There are wet patches all over. So, you’re on slicks, accelerating and it goes so fast.”

media_cameraLewis Hamilton was terrified by the conditions. (Photo by Antonin Vincent – Pool/Getty Images)

He explained that due to the cold his tyres were not working properly and, on such a smooth circuit, his problems were exacerbated by oil seeping from the new asphalt.

The new surface was only 10 days old and the surface of the circuit had been washed overnight before opening practice making it near-impossible to generate heat in the tyres.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who topped the times in both practice sessions, agreed with the six-time champion’s assessment.

“Well, it can’t get any worse basically,” he said.

“We’re still miles off and it’s like driving on ice. Worse by far than it was at Portimao. At the end of the day, it’s the same for everyone so we just have to adapt to it.

“I hope it’s not going to rain as it will be like proper driving on ice so maybe we will have to switch to spikes or something on the tyres. That would be quite interesting. So, let’s see.”

Charles Leclerc, who was second for Ferrari, was another who slithered and spun, but said he felt satisfied with a competitive showing to finish up ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

“After a while, I really enjoyed it,” he said.

The Finn is the only driver who can stop Hamilton lifting his seventh title on Sunday and, drawing on his experience of winter rallies in Finland, he said he had enjoyed the change.

“At first, it was a long way from what we are normally used to in F1, but I enjoyed it. I was playing around a bit and it was fun,” Bottas said.

Bottas needs to outscore Hamilton by at least eight points to keep his title challenge alive.

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Alex Albon was fifth and admitted he was concerned about the slippery conditions ahead of Saturday’s qualifying.

Max Verstappen topped the timesheets. (Photo by Tolga Bozoglu-Pool/Getty Images)
media_cameraMax Verstappen topped the timesheets. (Photo by Tolga Bozoglu-Pool/Getty Images)

“It’s bad,” he said. “I don’t know what we are going to do in qualifying. I don’t know if everyone’s going to go out in the green light and we all just drive around on softs the whole session with a flood of fuel in to do a race run.

“That’s what it feels like everybody is going to do.”

It was a rough day for Renault as Daniel Ricciardo (15th) and Estaban Ocon (12th) struggled.

“Overall, I would say it was a challenging day for us,” Ricciardo said. “We found something towards the end of FP2, so we did end today on a positive note and hopefully that sets things up for better pace tomorrow.”


1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:28.330
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.401
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.575
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.850
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +1.033
6. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) +1.359
7. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.614
8. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +1.692
9. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) +1.967
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) +2.577
11. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +2.774
12. Esteban Ocon (Renault) +3.050
13. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +3.163
14. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +3.168
15. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +3.330
16. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) +3.602
17. George Russell (Williams) +3.972
18. Romain Grosjean (Haas) +4.240
19. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +4.447
20. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) +5.158


Originally published as Hamilton ‘terrified’ by F1 disaster

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Turkish Grand Prix: Max Verstappen quickest on slippery Turkey track

Second practice is live on 5 Live Sports Extra and the Sport website at 12:00 GMT

Max Verstappen led a Red Bull one-two in an unrepresentative first practice session at the Turkish Grand Prix on a low-grip track.

Verstappen’s team-mate Alexander Albon was second, ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri.

The Istanbul Park circuit, holding its first race since 2011, was resurfaced two weeks ago and drivers were more than 10 seconds off the pace expected.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was 15th and team-mate Valtteri Bottas ninth.

Briton Hamilton will be champion as long as he does not lose more than seven points to Bottas.

With Mercedes expected to lead the way, that effectively means the 35-year-old will clinch the title if he wins the race, or if he finishes second to Bottas as long as the Finn does not also set fastest lap.

Hamilton, who can clinch a record-equalling seventh world title on Sunday, was more than five seconds off the pace.

Verstappen was 0.241secs quicker than Albon, who was 0.189secs faster than Leclerc.

There were a number of spins throughout the session as drivers struggled with the low-grip surface, with Bottas, Verstappen and Gasly joined by Alpha Tauri’s Daniil Kvyat and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi.

And the session was briefly red-flagged early on when Leclerc slid wide and knocked over the bollard marking the entry to the pit lane.

It was a tough session for McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who was called into the pits with an engine problem.

The team said they had found an electrical issue and sent him out again, only for the Spaniard to stop on track saying the problem was “engine, power steering”.

Williams driver George Russell is to receive a grid penalty for using more than the permitted number of engine parts this season, after exceeding his allocation of internal combustion engines, turbos and MGU-Hs, the hybrid device that recovers energy from the turbo.

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Whole Foods Thanksgiving turkey insurance: How does it work?

Is it navigating the frenzied holiday crowds at airports and train stations? Waiting in hours-long security lines, then boarding your hours-long flight? Maybe it’s the stomach ulcer you get trying to circumvent the inevitable knock-down, drag-out political fight at the dinner table. Or the bleary, 5 a.m. queue outside Walmart on Black Friday, in hopes of bagging a discount crock pot or Xbox console.

If you answered any of the above, you’re wrong! It’s the turkey.

Roasting a well-seasoned, fully cooked, unburnt holiday turkey is a deceptively tricky feat that has eluded home chefs for decades. It doesn’t even need to be delicious, just edible, but that hasn’t stopped amateur bird basters across the country from bungling the Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Thankfully Whole Foods—here to save your coronavirus-ridden 2020—is helping out this year. Together with Progressive, it’s offering “turkey insurance,” or a $35 Whole Foods gift card, to customers who “commit a turkey cooking fail.”

“As we anticipate more smaller Thanksgiving gatherings and first-time cooks tackling turkey preparation this year, the Thanksgiving Turkey Protection Plan allows customers the freedom of culinary exploration, knowing all is not lost should their cooking go astray,” Theo Weening, vice president of meat and poultry at Whole Foods, said in a statement.

To qualify for the insurance, customers must purchase a Whole Foods-branded turkey between November 11-22. Then they must horribly botch the cooking of said turkey, after which they should submit a claim with a receipt, explanation, and photograph of the carnage to TurkeyProtectionPlan.com. Claims will be limited to the first 1,000 submissions, beginning on Thanksgiving day.

According to the National Turkey Federation, around 40 million turkeys are eaten over Thanksgiving each year. That’s 40 million chances for dashed dreams and dry meat—but at least, now, there’s a $35 gift card for that.

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