Turkish Israeli rapprochement on the Eastern Mediterranean: geostrategy and possible reflections on military project of PESCO framework

Therefore Turkey has made an official application to the Netherland which is the EU country responsible for the coordination of the PESCO Project. While Turkey made its application to PESCO, It is very interesting that Poland which is a member of the EU and NATO announced that will purchase Bayraktar TB2 UAVs from Turkey. It is the first time a NATO member will acquire Turkish drones in accordance to that Poland will buy 24 Bayraktar TB2 drones from the private Baykar company, which has also exported the TB2 model to Ukraine, Qatar and Azerbaijan. Turkey also promised sending F-16 jets to Poland to assist NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Operation. Even it seems to be cooperation inside NATO’s framework, It was actually Turkey’s message its commitment to principles which is “binding and inclusive European legal framework for investments in the security and defence of the EU’s territory and its citizens through NATO membership rather than PESCO structure. It was the Turkey attemps to balance between Atlanticism and Eurocentrism structure inside European continent.

PESCO certainly points to further security cooperation among European Union. Given the fact that NATO is an “intergovernmental” cooperation platform which having Article 5 provides that “if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked” and PESCO is a cooperation mechanism carried out under the umbrella of the European Union, whose main character is “supranational-supra governmental” not having mutual defense clause thus PESCO’s chances of success are less than NATO. In 1952, three years after the establishment of NATO, 6 countries that established the European Coal and Steel Community, which forms the core of the EU, signed the European Defense Community Agreement in which France having Eurocentrist approach aimed to establish supranational military alliance as an alternative to NATO by keeping USA “outside” and Germany “under control”.If this supranational alliance structure could not be implemented for whatever reasons, In this regard the efforts to establish an alternative “European Army” within the framework of PESCO or to create a “European security architecture” can not be successful for the same reasons.

The presence and activities of Atlanticists who advocate a tight security cooperation under the leadership of United Kingdom and USA are well known in almost all European Union countries. The main approaches of the Atlanticists towards European security, are to continue with NATO and to avoid new institutional structures that will be an alternative to NATO. Considering that Atlanticists, led by England in the past, are still in power in many European countries such as Denmark, Netherlands, Czechia, Poland and Hungary, it is very difficult to establish a tight security partnership that will cover the whole EU. Atlanticist structure is also strongly advocating bilateral military cooperation inside NATO members therefore Poland decision to purchase Bayraktar TB2 UAVs from Turkey should be should be evaluated from this point. Secondly, some countries prefer a security partnership under the umbrella of NATO rather than the EU, as they are unwilling to transfer sovereignty because of the fact that intergovernmental” security cooperation under the NATO roof does not require a transfer of sovereignty however security cooperation under the EU roof, which also has a supragovernmental / supranational character, will force them to transfer sovereignty.

It should be underlined that PESCO will be a more successful security partnership than NATO in solving political problems in Europe. It is known that the support given by its allies within the EU is very decisive in Spain’s resolution of the separatist Basque region and ETA terrorism problem. Likewise, during the Catalonia conflict, European Union gave full support to Spain and remained silent for Madrid to resolve this issue by resorting to violence when necessary. European Union still can not find military solution to disbute of  Gibratlar region the long lasted conflict between United Kingdom and Spain due to fact that UK’s Atlanticists approaches.

Likewise, As Atlanticist wing having strong power with collective security of NATO because of this, European Union have not been able to formulate common security policy regarding Turkish Military Operataion to Northern Syria as Turkey having strategic advantage of Incirlik Aribase which is also important airbase for Israel, United Kigdom and USA’s geopolitical formulations to the middle east. France would like to strenghten PESCO military structure for common European Security therefore French President Emmanuel Macron expressed that NATO was suffering “brain death” because of a lack of co-ordination among allies, notably over Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria in October 2019. As France struggling for PESCO in order to create policy for common European security, on April 21, 2021 , nearly one thousand active service members of the French military joined dozens of retired French generals in signing a letter that stops just short of calling for a coup against the elected government in the name of “putting an end to chaos for domestic policy in France. While civil –army dispute come out inside french domestic policy, under this circumstances Turkey applied for PESCO Project as well as selling Bayraktar TB2 UAVs to EU member Poland in which Poland already deployed a marine patrol aircraft and a military mission to Turkey’s Incirlik Base. This event by itself is clearly indicate how geopolitical formulations on Middle East preventing to create policy for Common European Security. French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that Europeans cannot be protected without a “true, European army”, as he marks the centenary of the World War One Armistice

When the increasing number of actors in the Eastern Mediterranean and the discourse of these actors are analyzed, it is seen that the new cold war launched over hydrocarbon reserves has gradually shifted attentions from the economic field to the geopolitical field. Among those actors European Union is seen that most unprepared actor having struggles within itself. Due to post-Brexit uncertainties, the inability to cope with rising populism, and the complexity in French domestic politics therefore European Union can not propose projects transforming the geopolitical game in the Mediterranean Sea. It is possible to say that the EU has a very limited ability to transform the Eastern Mediterranean and follows an attitude that supporting the Greek administration of Southern Cyprus. In short, Europeans have remained far from the negotiations between the Russia-Turkey and have become an instrument of the NATO policy based on anti- Russia sentiment.

Europeans have remained far from the negotiations between the Russia-Turkey and have become an instrument of NATO policy based on anti-Russia sentiment. In order to acknowledge the existence of their own exclusive economic zones Greek Administration of Cyprus contemplated a strategic game which dragging large international companies aimed to confront Italy, France and Turkey with each other as a matter of course Israel, Eygypt and Syria become part of the game later on. In this concept, Italian ENI, French TOTAL, American energy giant EXXON Mobil and Qatar Petroleum are operating in Eastern Mediterranean Sea. NATO member countries Greece and Turkey are also carry out their own military activities in the region. Greece is a member of the European Union and Turkey is not. Therefore, Greece has asked the EU for military support. As a result of these initiatives, the EU decided to activate the security organization PESCO and started preparations for sending naval military force. In line with this decision, the dispatch of French and German naval forces to the region was planned, and financial support to the Greek Cypriot Administration was also considered. In this way, the European Union has aimed to disrupt the natural gas and oil exploration activities carried out by Turkey and at the same time, EU aims to show military power to the international community.

PESCO has emerged as one of the steps taken within the framework of the “European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP)”, which the sub-pillars of the “Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)”that have been identified as one of the important pillar of the European Union. While NATO, an intergovernmental defense organization, has a much more modest goal of cooperation, the EU countries that put forward PESCO are proposing tighter military cooperation.

In fact, the first move on PESCO appeared in the change of command ceremony of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) should not be missed from the attention. Turkey lashed out the decision by NATO to invite the Greek Cypriot which is not a NATO member. In the statement made by the Spokesperson of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hami Aksoy, pointed out that the invitation of Greek Cypriot to SHAPE Headquarters’ have been condemned as mentioning that headquarters is under the political control of NATO member countries and has the responsibility of action within the relevant framework.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, the ship ‘Saipem 12000’, owned by the Italian company ENI, wanted to search for natural gas in the third parcel in Turkey’s Continental Shelf / Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in February 2018. While the ship ‘Saipem 12000’ attempted to approach third parcel, it have been confronted by Turkish Naval Force. Even Saipem 12000 is belonging to Italy, Turkey suspecting that attempt organized by Greek Administration of Cyprus.

Considering the usage pattern planned by the EU with PESCO, Turkish decision makers are brainstorming on certain issues. What is the primary goal of PESCO by supporting Greece against Turkey ? Turkey is a NATO member country. Does Greece, unable to overcome Turkey with its NATO force, plan to achieve results through PESCO?

  • Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, which made all kinds of provocative attempts against Turkey in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, now seek a new balance against the Turkish military presence with the support of PESCO ?
  • Is the European Union planning to take control of energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean by putting forward ‘protection’ rationale through PESCO ?
  • There is a military naval base belonging to France in Southern Cyprus. What will happen if tomorrow this naval base starts to use the PESCO flag, in addition to being a French naval base?
  • PESCO, which was established with the signatures of 25 member states of the EU will fight against the Turkish Navy in Eastern Mediterranean Sea ?

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that their excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots. While PESCO give advantage to Greece on Mediterranean Sea then this situtation push to Turkey to held “consultative talks” in the Greek capital Athens on March 2021. The consultative talks are focused on resolving bilateral disputes in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, including achieving fair and equitable settlements to issues. It should be noted that Turkey’s NATO membership is important for the Atlanticist structure to ensure security in the Middle East through Incirlik Base rather than the security of the southeastern flank of Europe. For this reason, Russia’s invasion of Crimea and following an expansionist policy on Europe worried France the leader of Eurocentric structure on the contrary Russian invasion of Crimea were giving upper hand to United Kingdom which is the leader Atlanticist structure because of the fact that UK was in the process of leaving the European Union with the Brexit process therefore this process pave the way for Turkey left the European axis and entered the Russian axis through notorious 15 july, 2016 failed coup attempt. Under this circumstances, PESCO’s first success was the pushing Turkey to start consultative talks with Greece. This is very important because PESCO has shown for the first time that it was starting to find solutions for European security regarding military conflict. The result in Turkish deomestic policy have been break out similar to the civil-military relations of France domestic policy and a total of 104 retired Turkish navy admirals signed a “declaration” warning the Erdogan’s government to keep its commitment to the Montreux Convention as “featuring coup implications” upon this, Russia emphasized the importance of preservation of the 1936 Montreux Convention in order to ensure the regional stability and safety of the regional Black Sea straits regime as warning to Turkish Government.

At this point, Turkey applied for PESCO Project but on the other hand Turkey selling Bayraktar TB2 UAVs to EU member Poland in which Poland already deployed a marine patrol aircraft and a military mission to Turkey’s Incirlik Base. This was the Turkey’s balanced attempt between Atlanticist and Eurocentric structure in Europe because of the fact that Incirlik Airbase is important for Atlanticist structure for middle east security.

European Union particularly France should approach Turkey for containtment policy toward Russia through Ukraine thereforeEurocentric structure will be empowered on the way of United Europen Army.

If PESCO will brought on stronger position, there should be political solution on cybrus island because of the fact that Turkey is not member of European Union however Turkey and Greece both member of NATO it may create dilemma on security solution on Mediterranean Sea.

If PESCO will be emerged in stronger position with military structure on Mediterranean Sea ,European Union under the Deutch leadership should start privilige partnership process as providing security guarantee for Turkey.

Turkey should avoid full engagement to PESCO as long as it have not mutual defense clause like NATO’s article 5.


PESCO aims to improve the mobility of the European Union in the field of security and defense by covering transportation of military units, vehicles and equipment in Europe. Turkey just applied just one among 46 PESCO Project and Germany is coordinating six of these 46 projects. Considering the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is a matter of concern what will be the reaction of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus to Turkey’s application to participate in the EU’s joint defense project. Many European diplomats said, “We hope that cooperation with Turkey within the framework of PESCO will result in normalization between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece, as well as improving the cooperation between the EU and NATO.” According to Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

PESCO certainly points to further security cooperation among European Union. Given the fact that NATO is an “intergovernmental” cooperation platform which having article 5 provides that “if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked” and PESCO is a cooperation mechanism carried out under the umbrella of the European Union, whose main character is “supranational- supra governmental” not having mutual defense clause thus PESCO’s chances of success are less than NATO. However, each country signing the agreement is asked to prepare their national plans on how the EU can contribute to its common defense in return, the EU promises to support PESCO with a budget of 5 billion euros it have been allocated as of 2020.

If PESCO will have stronger position as collective security organisation like NATO then European Union and France under the Deutch leadership should start privilige partnership process as providing security guarantee for Turkey on Mediterranean Sea.

PESCO may provide de-escalation process between Greece and Turkey for short period of time but as long as PESCO would not have mutual defense clause such as NATO’s article 5, Turkey should avoid full engagement considering domestic civil-army relations conflict standing over there as it has been case in French domestic policy as well.

Turkey should play balanced game as approaching PESCO for Eurocentric security purpose while selling arms and weapons to NATO countries like Poland and Ukraine to show its commitment to transatlantic security as well. As of January 2022, Turkey announced rapprochement process  with Jerusalem which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also heralded that  Israeli President Yitzak Herzog may held first official visit to Ankara in this concept, Turkey also normalized relations with United Arab Emirates therefore President Erdogan also will visit Abu dhabi since Abraham Accord signed between Israel and Gulf Arab countries in which Abu dhabi considering to install israeli made “iron dome defense system” as such Turkey is hosting Kurecik radar system integrated to NATO for İsrael and Turkey security. All those geopolitical developments are constitute with  “Peripherial Doctrine” which have been formulated by David Ben Gurion first Prime Minister of Israel. For this doctrine; There are two important non-arab nations located in Middle East those are Turkey and Iran both would create balance of power in middle east historically. In this point,  Iran will be pleased by P5+1 at Vienna talks through easing sanctions as it was 2015 nuclear agreement in fact United States Presidency namely Biden administration willing to easing  sanctions as well, Last decade, Iran have played role as balancer country as Shiite axis upon moderate Sunni arab states, Turkey as NATO country  played role on Greece and Egypt as balancing  on Mediterranean sea on the way of “Abraham Accord” which is named as important and precious century deal as providing security in Middle East. Turkey played with its military and geostrategic capability on Libya against France as breaking down of Euro centric french influence on Gulf Regions and Turkey opened way for signing “Abraham Accord” for Gulf countries to normalize relations with State of Israel. Finally  all those developments was coming up as ripple effect or domino effect of the “peripherial doctrine policy”

What will happen if Israel and Turkey normalize relations ; Firstly it will have impact on two entities;  first one is Kurdish speratist or terrorist groups like PYD-YPG in Middle East latter one is Ukranians in Eurasia. if  Turkey and Israel normalize relations Turkey will get autonomous position in NATO and will move forward to Russia. İf Turkeys as second big army of NATO protecting  eastern bastion/ flank of NATO  with having autonomus position that will curb French power against United Kingdom so therefore French aspiration for creating United European Army as alternative army  to NATO or creating so called PESCO army purpose will be collapsed in this concept the United States has confirmed that it has decided to withdraw support from the EastMed gas pipeline project, which sought to transport Israeli natural gas to the European market via the Mediterranean Sea and Greece therefore British and USA influence inside NATO have been protected, As collapsing PESCO Project together with EastMed scheme then Russian influence even intervening Ukraina territory and implementing hard power policy  on  Eastern Europe will be rising up because of the fact that Russia intervened  world hearthland through removing Nazarbayev regime from Kazakhstan in which famous strategist Halford John Mackinder theory identified world island / Eurasia is passing through Kazakhistan therefore if any military crisis break out in future with NATO then Russia would already make sure security about their own on backyard of world hearthland namely it is Kazakhstan therefore Turkish Israel relations will have domino effect on Eurasia geopolitics with Turkish style balance of power  finally Turkey also will protect  its own autonomus position as selling  Bayraktar TB2 UAVs  to Ukraine. It is not coincidence that speaking to reporters ahead of Ukraine trip, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Isaac Herzog’s visit would happen ‘in mid-March 2022

Second effect will be on Kurdish speratist entity and civil military relations in Turkish domestic policy. After United States and Iran have  signed 2015 nuclear deal then Turkey and  Israel come together and both country appointed ambassador each other capital . So therefore Turkey started military operation Northern Syria against Kurdish speratist group namely terrorist PYD and YPG groups therefore civil military relations evolved to 2016 military coup attempt. Before three days ago of  coup attempt emerged,  Russian Strategist Alexander Dugin  who is senior advisor of President Putin visited Turkey who has positive and strong impact on Eurasian secular wing of Turkish Army to protect Turkish goverment against coup plotters . This event opened way for state centric Presidental system in Turkey as balancing against Iran. Russia was important country have agreement with Israel since 2015 on Syrian chessboard. Turkish goverment’s good relations with israel have affected Turkish domestic policy with regard to civil army relations and Israel have had positive effect on protecting Turkish goverment from military coup process through intelligence assistance of Alexander Dugin of Russia.

Mehmet Bildik is a political scientist on Military and Strategic Affairs. He is research assistant at the military and strategic affairs cyber security program of the The Institute for National Security Studies under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is special interpreter and political assistant to Council on Foreign Relations and The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee Delegations in INSS-Israel.He received his MA degree at Bucharest National School of Political Science and Public Administrative Studies, Security and Diplomacy Scholarship holder under the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

*Republished at a request from the author. The original is on Foreign Policy Institute website.


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