The French Military's Perception of the Turkish Military and Turkey's Expansion in the Eastern Mediterranean Etudes de l'Ifri, November 2021
In the summer of 2020, the Central and Eastern Mediterranean became the center of unusual tensions between France and Turkey. Given that these tensions were also military, which is uncommon for the two countries, the perception that the French military has of Turkey’s army and its doctrine is particularly relevant to address.
From the interviews that were conducted with French officers, it appears that for the French military, 2016 and 2020 are two milestones in the evolution of both Turkish political and military Turkish attitudes. From 2016 onwards, the Syrian and Libyan conflicts uncovered diverging interests between France and Turkey, with military implications for France. In the same year, Turkish military behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean started shifting, but was at first seen as of little consequence. Additionally, the failed coup attempt against President R. T. Erdogan decreased the level and quality of communication and cooperation between both militaries. In 2020, Turkish aggressiveness openly manifested itself in the Eastern Mediterranean, including directly against France with the Courbet incident. This attitude was criticized by the interviewees who specified that such behavior, along with unilateral actions and faits accomplis, would not be tolerated in the future. Yet, it also appears that the French military show respect for the Turkish armed forces. The latter are generally accredited with professionalism, reliability, efficiency, and determination. The interviews revealed no sign of animosity by the French officers towards their Turkish counterparts: sometimes, even the opposite was detected.