The recent declaration by ex-admirals from the Turkish navy has shown that the army has been at a watershed in terms of identity, Professor Ryan Gingeras from the Naval Postgraduate School said in a podcast with Ahval editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar.
Gingeras told Baydar that there were two important aspects in the recent declaration signed by 104 retired admirals, condemning discussions of Turkey possibly withdrawing from the Montreux Convention.
The admirals said the Montreux Convention was not negotiable and criticised the government for opening up the debate, Gingeras said. According to the declaration, the admirals see the convention that regulates warships’ passage from Turkey’s straits was a victory won by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern republic.
Another grievance the admirals declared was the Islamisation of the Turkish army, voiced over an active-service rear admiral’s visit to the leader of an extreme Islamic sect.
Concerns over Islamisation are not new for the Turkish army, Gingeras said, and some retired members of the army have already adopted an Islamist political outlook. Moreover, he said, Turkish Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar promoted officer corps based on their political loyalty, rather than performance, during his term as chief of general staff between 2015 and 2018.
Many administrative issues within the army were previously under the jurisdiction of the military, Baydar said, however, they have since been transferred to the ministry of defence through amendments to military school bylaws.
There is no formal change in relations between NATO and Turkey, Gingeras said, however, “it is difficult to say anything about future relations”.
According to Gingeras, two distinct tendencies are present within the Turkish army, one older than the other. The first is the more traditional one that has functioned as “a nation-building organisation” under the modern republic via conscription, while the second, more Islamically-conscious tendency now favours President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.
The extent to which such controversies radiate into the operational capacity of the army is yet to be known, the professor added, saying it was too early to say that the traditional identity of the army will change into a new one, Gingeras said.