Turkey’s Military in the Caucasus

On 4 May 2015, heads of the armed forces of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia met in Ankara to discuss military cooperation and review recent joint actions. These joint meetings have taken place in 2013, in June 2014, August 2014, and April 2015. The last of which initiated the planning and implementation of joint exercises in the light of protecting the eastern part of the Southern Energy Corridor consisting of the multiple oil and gas pipelines originating in Baku and transiting through these countries.

Military cooperations can be very useful because we never know what might happen in the future and if it comes to some type of war, having more allies is always better than having enemies. This is especially good when two or more militaries can work together in all kinds of conditions. The main reason why two different militaries should work, and exercise together is that they are different, and they can learn a lot of things from each other. Every country has a different military training and that always leads to various outcomes when it comes to a battle because one military might have a better strategy or soldiers who are far better trained. By working together, they will be sharing some secret training exercises with each other and that will lead to a much more improved military force. Furthermore, they will know and understand how to fight as allies.

The actions of these three countries are notable as their neighbor Armenia is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and hosts Russian troops at the 102nd Military Base in Gyumri and the 3624th in Erebuni Airport by Yerevan. In the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, attack-runs were made against the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline, though no damage was incurred. Such an attack, if carried out successfully would threaten the economy of Azerbaijan and Georgia, while harming the energy security and oil sector of Turkey. While protecting the Southern Energy Corridor has been an issue for other countries and organizations including the United States and NATO, it is reassuring that the host-countries are taking the initiative to protect their interest.

Bilaterally, Turkey and Azerbaijan have a deeper set of politico-military agreements. Much of this is driven by the close nature of their languages, culture, and ethnic background. While Azerbaijan is a majority Shi’a state and Turkey has a majority of Sunni, the strong, some might say militant, a secularism that exists in both states allows for a range of cooperation. Both states are under “The Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Support” which was penned by President Gul and President Aliyev in 2010 and will last till 2020 unless extended to 2030. This pact promises the “use of all possibilities” in case of aggression. While parts of Azerbaijan and Georgia i.e. the Nakhchivan and Adjara autonomous republics are protected by an older treaty, the 1922 Treaty of Kars, the remainder of mainland Azerbaijan and Georgia are not. Thus, the habits of interaction which started during the Soviet period, continue to this day. Economically, Turkey and Azerbaijan have invested in each other’s economies notably with the pipelines, educational systems, and media. Even cooperation in vendettas spills over. With the influence of the moderately religious Gulenist Movement out of favor in the AKP-led government of Turkey, President Aliyev responded to requests by President Erdogan to minimize the influence of this group in his government and the society of Azerbaijan. Georgia and Turkey have a deeper economic relationship than political or cultural. As noted above, a part of Georgia is tied to Turkish protection historically. Moreover, the free-access to Batumi that is given to Turkish-bound trade allows for ease of entry to the state by air, land, or ship. The transport links and deepening of the Southern Energy Corridor bode well for Turkish-Georgian relations. Moreover, a Turkish-Georgian Free Trade Agreement has been in force since 11 January 2008. Although Turkey’s current economic situation is questionable, its long-term growth potential will assure that Georgia can rise with it. Although military cooperation is haltingly starting to take place, it is built on a platform of economic and political integration between Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. For it to continue, each country must look to improve its economic and political statue.