AL-MONITOR: Will Turkish drones help Ukraine reclaim territory?

As the Ukrainian news media buzzes with speculation that Ukraine may be planning to reclaim control of Donbass by Turkish drones, direct involvement by Turkey in the Ukraine-Russia conflict would cost Ankara dearly in its relations with Moscow

Fehim Tastekin
Saturday, 12 December 2020 02:05

Following the recent Azeri success against the Armenian forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, the Ukrainian news media is abuzz with speculation that the Ukrainian army may be planning to reclaim the country’s eastern Donbass region controlled by Russia-backed separatists, using the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones believed to have been a game changer in the Azeri-Armenian war.

Observers are asking whether Ukraine could repeat the Karabakh example to win back territories it lost to Russia and the separatists in 2014 and further escalate the conflict over the Black Sea Basin. Some reports went so far as to say that Ukraine might be planning to use these drones to surveil Russian-annexed Crimea and Kerch Strait linking Black Sea and Sea of Azov.

During his visit to Turkey on Dec. 2, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba Dmytro made no attempt to conceal Kyiv's expectations of Ankara. He said that his country expects Ankara to assume a “leadership role” in the Crimean conflict, pointing out Turkey’s historical ties with, which was part of the Ottoman Empire until the 18th century.

Increasingly militarized relations between Ankara and Kyiv inevitably leads Turkey to become more involved in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Aiming to counterbalance Russian supremacy in the Black Sea, Turkey has long tried to improve its relations with Ukraine, a policy that was also in line with NATO’s objectives to increase its clout in the Black Sea region. Although Ankara didn’t allow the annexation to upend Turkish-Russian cooperation in several fields, Turkey hasn’t really stomached the annexation and has maintained its support for Crimea’s return to Ukraine.

The conflict has been a catalyst for increasing defense ties between Ankara and Kyiv. Some also consider this cooperation Ankara’s way of pressuring Moscow in its own backyard as retaliation for Russian efforts to undermine Turkey’s agenda in the wars in Libya and Syria, where Ankara and Moscow support rival groups.

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