Russia is warning Turkey over arms sales to Ukraine after a Turkish-made drone attacked Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine.
A Kremlin spokesman has warned that Turkey’s ongoing arms sales to Ukraine threaten to destabilize the region.
The warning follows Kyiv’s release of the video Tuesday showing a Turkish-made drone used for the first time against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Independent defense analyst Arda Mevlutoglu said Kyiv sees the Turkish drones as a potential game changer in its fight against separatists, which it has been battling since 2014.
“A single armed drone equipped with a couple of bombs may destroy a whole defense battery, or a very expensive electronic warfare system, or take out some armed vehicles. So, that asymmetry provides capabilities to armies facing significant threats such as Ukraine,” said Mevlutoglu.
Kyiv has purchased several Turkish drones and this month announced an agreement to build more in Ukraine itself – a prospect that analyst Ozgur Unluhisarcikli of the George Marshall Fund said will alarm Moscow. Turkish-made drones played a key role in Azerbaijan’s victory last year against the Armenian army over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
“The drones Turkey provided to Azerbaijan were a decisive factor in the battle, and Russia knows this,” said Unluhisarcikli.
Turkey has also, according to analysts, successfully used its drones in Syria and Libya.
Ankara is also seeking to cash in on the success of its drones with reported sales to Ethiopia and Morocco now pending. But analyst Mevlutoglu warns the Ukrainian drone sales pose a significant risk to Turkey.
“Turkey has good relations with Russia, especially in the energy sector. Russia is building a nuclear power plant in Turkey, and we have cooperation in Syria. So, Turkey has good relations with Moscow. On the other hand, we have very good relations with Ukraine, as [is] evident in the defense sector. In the event of a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Turkey would find itself in an extremely difficult situation,” said Mevlutoglu.
But some observers suggest Ankara could see its drone sales to Ukraine as powerful leverage over Moscow in a number of regional disputes that are going on between the two.