While Turkey’s current tensions with Greece and Cyprus are focused on lingering disagreements on earth, the Turkish military has already set its sights on the next generation battle with two of its neighbors in outer space, according to a classified document obtained by Nordic Monitor.
The detailed, 311-page document — prepared under orders from then-Chief of General Staff and now Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and signed by Gen. Yaşar Güler, the then-deputy chief of general staff who is currently chief — reveals that a special military department that only deals with Greece and Cyprus was mandated to monitor outer space developments in the neighboring countries.
The mission was “to advise the General Staff and Command on aviation and space issues related to Greece, Cyprus, the Aegean and the Mediterranean,” according to first assignment given to this special department. It followed with additional points that instructed the department “to follow the developments in the surrounding countries in the military context on aviation and space issues and to develop opinions” and “to examine and evaluate the impact of developments in international air and space law on Turkey’s airspace security and aviation activities.”
Eight-page General Staff directive for the Department for Greece, Cyprus, Maritime and Aviation:General_Staff_Greece_Cyprus_Dept1
Turkey and Greece, neighbors and NATO allies, are at odds over the boundaries of their territorial waters and airspace in the Aegean, where Greek islands are lined up along Turkey’s western coast. The delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf, a dispute that concerns Turkish and Greek rights to economic exploitation of resources on and under the Aegean seabed in an area that stretches between their territorial waters and the high seas, remains unresolved. The two countries have differences on a range of other issues, from demarcation lines of exclusive economic zones (EEZ) to airspace. Turkey also maintains troops on the divided island of Cyprus, the northern third of which it has controlled since 1974, after Ankara’s troops occupied the area in response to a coup sponsored by a Greek military junta.
The document indicates that more conflict is projected by the Turkish military leadership, this time in outer space rather than on land or sea or in the air.
All three countries are party to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which states that all nations can explore and use space. The treaty does not prohibit military activities in space, however, with the exception of the placement of weapons of mass destruction in space.
In his inauguration speech for the opening of the Research Center for Space Systems and Advanced Technologies on August 30, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “Turkey has taken its first steps into space entirely with its own technology. We are now in the space league.”
Stressing that a micro satellite launch project had successfully been tested, he claimed Turkey would achieve the ability to launch satellites, conduct tests, produce infrastructure and establish a space base.
“When our own satellite is launched into space, it will provide a secure flow of information in our country in times of war and peace. Our satellite will make it easier for our soldiers to work by providing real-time information and coordinates,” he said, adding, “The capabilities that will be obtained through this will also serve the goals listed in the national space program prepared by the Turkish Space Agency.”
“We have successfully carried out the tests for this project, which has strategic importance. Our first domestic rocket launched with national technologies went up to an altitude of 130 kilometers, exceeding the 100 kilometer limit, which is accepted as the the boundary of space,” the Turkish president explained.
TURKEY SET UP SPACE AGENCY
In December 2018, Erdoğan issued a decree establishing the Turkish Space Agency to run the country’s national space program. The program is personally overseen by Erdoğan’s former chief aide and now Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank, who announced that the program was aimed at boosting Turkey’s capabilities.
The classified document, prepared in April 2016, revised earlier directives issued by the General Staff for the mandate of the Department for Greece, Cyprus, Maritime and Aviation (Yunanistan, Kıbrıs, Denizcilik Ve Havacılık Daire Başkanlığı in Turkish) as well as other departments in the General Staff. The mandate to monitor outer space developments with respect to Greece and Cyprus was mentioned in the last three items for the Department for Greece, Cyprus, Maritime and Aviation.
The order revising the directives signed by Gen. Yaşar Güler, the then-deputy chief of general staff who is currently chief of general staff:General_Staff_Greece_Cyprus_Dept_Yasar_Guler
The department operates under the General Staff’s Directorate for General Planning and Principles (Genel Plan ve Prensipler Başkanlığı in Turkish) and has four divisions that separately deal with Greece, Cyprus, Maritime and Aviation. The issue of space with respect to Greece and Cyprus was assigned under the Aviation Division.
The revised directives suggest that the Turkish leadership has already decided that outer space could be another battleground between Turkey and neighbors Greece and Cyprus and wanted to get ahead of the game by issuing a new mandate to monitor developments in this field with a specific reference to those two countries.
The Greece Division is authorized to monitor and assess developments and problems in Turkey’s relations with Greece as well as follow internal developments in the neighboring country. Included in its coverage are the Greek islands, the Turkish minority in the Western Thrace and on the islands, the development of a military code of conduct in relations with Greece, migration and other matters. The Cyprus Division’s mandate was similar to the one for Greece.
The cover of the General Staff Headquarters’ Directive on Duties and Responsibilities:General_Staff_Greece_Cyprus_Dept_Cover_Directives
The Maritime Division looks into problems between the two countries in the sea. It was authorized to make analyses and assessments, contribute to policy, monitor practices for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and develop perspectives on cooperation with NATO and the EU. The Aviation Division is tasked with providing recommendations to the General Staff on aviation and space issues with respect to Greece, Cyprus, the Aegean and the Mediterranean.
The General Staff’s Directorate for General Planning and Principles functions as a key branch in developing strategy and tactics and helps shape Turkey’s National Political Document (Milli Güvenlik Siyaset Belgesi, or MGSB, also known as the Red Book) and Turkey’s National Military Strategy (Türkiye’nin Millî Askerî Stratejisi, or TÜMAS), two top secret policy papers that define Turkey’s national security interests.
The document is titled the “General Staff Headquarters’ Directive on Duties and Responsibilities” (Genelkurmay Başkanlığı Karargâhı Görev Ve Sorumlulukları Yönergesi). It was developed to promote better coordination among various departments at headquarters, to clearly identify the mandates and responsibilities for each department and to secure a smooth, efficient and productive workflow among various branches of the military.
The document was classified and circulated only within the internal servers of the General Staff and the relevant branches of the forces. No hard copies were allowed unless necessary and, in such cases, where a print copy was required, it was to be shared on a “need to know” basis. Violation was subject to administrative and legal action.
The General Staff warned about distribution of the classified general directives:General_Staff_Greece_Cyprus_Dept_Secrecy_Directives
TURKISH PROSECUTOR FORGOT THE CLASSIFIED DOCUMENT IN THE CASE FILE
The document was discovered in a court case file in the Turkish capital where investigating prosecutor Serdar Coşkun, a loyalist of President Erdoğan, appears to have forgotten to remove the classified documents before submitting the file to the court. They were collected from General Staff headquarters during an investigation into a failed coup on July 15, 2016. The documents, including an invasion plan for Greece as well as other documents, were found to have been exchanged among top commanders at the General Staff as they use a secure internal email communications system. Coşkun ordered the military to forward copies of all email messages from the previous two months including encrypted ones, on August 1, 2016.
The Turkish prosecutor ordered that all copies of emails be sent to his office:Serdar_Coskun_order
Ten days later, on August 11, 2016, the prosecutor assigned his trusted helper, a police officer named Yüksel Var, to collect emails from the General Staff’s internal servers and report back to him. A commission set up by military technicians under Var completed its work on February 14, 2017. In the end, the indictment filed by prosecutors Necip Cem İşçimen, Kemal Aksakal and İstiklal Akkaya in March 2017 with the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court included all the emails collected from General Staff computers. No communication was found in the emails indicating any hint of the failed coup, which many believe was a false flag operation orchestrated by Erdoğan and his intelligence and military chiefs to set up the opposition for persecution and a mass purge.
A review of the documents also indicates that the General Staff, which shared the emails at the outset, panicked eight months later over the possible fallout from the revelation of the sensitive documents and started sounding the alarm. The first warning letter was written on March 8, 2017 by Lt. Gen. Uğur Tarçın, head of the General Staff Communication, Electronic and Information Systems (Muhabere, Elektronik ve Bilgi Sistemleri, or MEBS). He warned the legal department of the General Staff that the documents contained secret documents about the national security of Turkey, classified intelligence reports and operations in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean. He said the documents must be kept secret and not shared with any unauthorized persons.
Acting on the advice of the MEBS commander, the General Staff’s deputy legal counsel Col. Aydın Seviş wrote to the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court on August 24, 2017, repeating the same concerns about the secret documents and urged the establishment of a commission to screen the documents. However, Turkish prosecutors appeared to have paid no attention to their concerns and included all the emails with their attachments of secret documents in the case file, exposing the highly classified information including the name of the invasion plan for Greece.
Col. Aydın Seviş sent a letter to the court expressing concerns about the secret military documents when they were already incorporated into the case file:General_Staff_warning_to_court