Maritime struggles: Turkey is not going to play from the sidelines - NEDRET ERSANEL

Maritime struggles: Turkey is not going to play from the sidelines

We can discuss "Why and how Turkey broke its silence with respect to East Turkestan and Uighur Turks?" or the Sochi Summit, for which preparations were made in Moscow and Ankara, which will host Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

But I would like to discuss matters from a maritime perspective today, because the seas are "struggling" as much as the ground.

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China is getting ready to sell its first aircraft carrier Liaoning to Pakistan. Of course, we know that carrier by another name: Varyag. Why and how would such a carrier be sold to Pakistan?

There is no problem for us; the question is simply to understand the balance of the waters. A Soviet-made aircraft carrier is purchased by China, passed through the straits, revived, and is now going to join sister country Pakistan's fleet.

Even mention of such a thing will be enough to raise India's hair. India's relations with Beijing are as sour as with Islamabad. Its rapport with the U.S. may have triggered this gift. The matter is naturally related to the Afghanistan crisis and the disputable U.S. presence here.

It has not been a week since the U.S. defense secretary paid a secret visit to Afghanistan, and contrary to U.S. President Donald Trump’s pullout announcement, implied that the American troops stationed there would not be withdrawing so easily. The more the map is revealed, it is seen that these tensions are along the sea route as much as the ground leg of the Silk Road.

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Let us continue to swim around this topic...

There is no doubt that knowing where the most gossip about Varyag came from will help us make sense of simultaneous developments.

Let us read from the Turkish Naval Forces' official statement: "The opening ceremony of the AMAN-2019 drill hosted by Pakistan on Feb. 8-12 was held in Karachi. Our TCG Gökçeada frigate, and the U.S., U.K., China, Australia, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Oman naval elements joined the drill.

Just look at the country collages. The Arabian and the Indian Ocean! All the flags that want a share of the strategic treasure the region promises... What else could be the topic of gossip but Varyag, which coincided with the drill?

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Once this drill is over, everybody is going to return to their homes/ports, but Turkey will remain. Pakistan and the Turkish Naval Forces will/are separately conduct(ing) a bilateral drill, Turgut Reis-3. The aim is to develop bilateral relations.

They are sister countries after all. It could be said what more is there to develop. The participants of the first drill of course understand Turkey remaining as they leave.

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The task of Gökçeada and the "special forces" in it does not end here. Look at the route: Sudan, Djibuti, Doha, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Jordan's ports will be visited, with bilateral naval drills held with these countries' naval forces.

Then, it will be time to go back home. Not really. The United Task Force is going to be backed in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the North Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean.

Maps and more maps through a vessel...

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Let us elaborate a little.

Defense Minister Gavin Williamson of the U.K., who joined the AMAN-2019 drill, made statements about the new aircraft carrier "HMS Queen Elizabeth's" first task, Pacific on Feb. 11.

"The U.K. and U.S.'s F-35s will be on the aircraft carrier. This will increase the range and its fatality. The U.K. and U.S. are going to strengthen the close partners factor. We are going to take action. Otherwise we will be seen as paper tigers. The U.K. must be ready to use hard force."

The speech becomes increasingly interesting.

"Russia and China's actions are blurring the war-peace boundary. We can make interventions that comply with the 'global U.K.' understanding. The U.K. has the biggest opportunity in 50 years to redefine its role. New alliances may be established, old ones may be revived."

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Simultaneous waves that seem "small" but are nauseating should also be noted.

For example, the Australian prime minister stated that he signed a deal for the construction of 12 attack class submarines worth $50 billion for the Royal Fleet (Feb. 10).

"Prime Minister Morrison, who spoke at the ceremony held for the deal signed between the defense minister on behalf of Australia and the minister of armed forces on behalf of France, described the deal as a "bold plan."

For example, the Iranian Naval Forces also announced that they will be launching an important drill in late February. The drill location is the waters where the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea.

It is unknown how much Tehran can show its power in the drill set for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, but its area of choice is in the region where the "waters are starting to boil."

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Shall we set our sails home now?

We lowered the Ufuk Corvette into the water on Feb. 9. Our first intelligence vessel. It was celebrated with the motto, "Turkey's eye in the seas." You have probably seen its technical specifications in all press outlets. It is one of the leading vessels in its category.

Of course, the reason behind Turkey's focus on the naval forces is a strong national security threat. Speaking at the ceremony, the president said, "The need has become extremely urgent after the Syria-based threats, the developments in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions."

If you take this statement as is, it might be thought that we are leaning toward a solely defense-based security understanding. This is not the case. Gökçeada's four-day story and the places it passed shows that Ankara is not "playing along the sidelines" years ago.

Hence, the question most asked at the ceremony that day was, "When is our aircraft carrier going to be completed?"

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