Turkey

The Ukraine War and Turkish Defense Industry

While the ongoing war in Ukraine is an existential threat for the Ukrainians, it is a matter of showing strength for the Russian government, and a matter of securing the eastern borders for the Europeans. If Ukraine falls under the Russian control, the country may become a de facto Russian territory and life will probably become more difficult for Ukrainians. However, if the resistance of the Ukrainians become successful, it will severely damage the image of the Putin administration. Even in the current conditions, it can be said that the Russians have already lost in some aspects, as victory can be achieved through illegitimate means such as razing cities and using heavier weapons. Now for the Russians, victory is only possible by using more deadly weapons, which nobody wants to witness.

The losses of Europe and America are also numerous, but let’s leave them aside for now and look at what waits Turkey, particularly its defense industry. Although the Turkish government opposed the Russian invasion, it did not cut relations with Russia and tries to remain neutral. If it had joined the US-led Western bloc regarding sanctions, it could probably face unprecedented damages.


While Turkey did not hesitate to support Ukraine by selling Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs, the Western world avoided sending heavy weapons to Ukraine other than MANPADs. For example, Poland has Russia-made jets and the US wants them to be delivered to the Ukrainian army in exchange for F-16s, but instead, the Poles want the Americans to give them to Ukraine. There are Russia-made weapons in some other NATO members but none of them wants to be cannon fodders. Thus, Turkey is the only country sending/selling advanced weapons to Ukraine. Despite this fact which Russia dislikes, the Russian government still trusts and respects the Turkish government and welcomes Turkey’s mediation diplomacy. It is Turkish government’s such honest policy that saves it from likely Russian sanctions.

However, it is obvious that there are negative repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine War for Turkey, particularly for Turkish defense industry. Turkish defense companies have made cooperation agreements with many Ukrainian defense companies and already started to work with them before the war. Those companies were expected to contribute Turkish defense industry in terms of competitive procurement, technology transfer and joint production in missile, engine and aircraft technology. However, most of them became targets of the Russians and were destroyed. While this situation will cause a lot of trouble for Ukraine, it will affect Turkish companies as well. Yet, it is still possible to turn it into an advantage and minimize the damage.

As of now, many Ukrainian scientists, including those with rare talents such as nuclear physicists, experts of engine manufacturing, weapons designers, etc. have all been given the opportunity to work in Turkish universities. If Turkish authorities give more attractive incentives to Ukrainian scientists, they can work in operating nuclear power plants, production of aircraft and tank engines and air defense systems. For sure, Turkey’s indigenous defense and energy projects can be progressed faster.

Everyone may accept that factories and production lines are just the body-makers of products. When they are destroyed, only production stops but the “know how”, which we can call the spirit of the product, remains in the brains of scientists. Ukrainian scientists once had the experience of producing and preserving 3000 atomic bombs and operating Ukraine’s nuclear power plants. It is wrong to think that if they work in Turkey, their knowledge and labor will harm Ukraine’s interests. When the war is over in the future, they can go back to their country and serve it again. However, until that time, they can help Turkey to level up in many areas. We wish the war never broke out but it happened, and many qualified scientists remained idle. Since Turkey needs these brains, it can welcome them on the basis of mutual benefits.

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About the author

İbrahim Karataş

İbrahim Karataş

İbrahim Karataş is a columnist at Yeni Akit, a daily newspaper based in Istanbul.

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