Show of Strength from Turkey-Azerbaijan-Pakistan: Three Brothers-2021 Exercise

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While the balance of power in Asia changes rapidly; The “Three Brothers-2021 Exercise” conducted by the Special Forces of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan in Baku between 12-20 September 2021 has once again attracted the attention of regional and global actors to the South Caucasus. The exercise, which was also attended by Turkey and Pakistan, which gave full support to Azerbaijan during the Karabakh War, is the first in history in terms of the armies of these three countries to gain experience of acting together.

In this context, the Ankara Crisis and Political Research Center (ANKASAM) presents to your attention the opinions of leading experts and academicians in its field to evaluate what the exercise carried out by the three countries means and its reflections for the region.

Dr. Emre OZAN (Turkish Foreign Policy Advisor of ANKASAM)

PhD. Emre Ozan states that there is an alliance relationship between the three friendly countries. “Turkey and Pakistan were the two countries that gave the strongest support to Azerbaijan in the last war in Nagorno-Karabakh. These countries have previously had friendly relations; however, this sincerity has only been demonstrated in bilateral relations. During the war, when Azerbaijan regained its occupied territory, a trilateral cooperation mechanism emerged between the parties. Not only on the Karabakh issue, but also to establish a trilateral friendship and cooperation structure on a broader scale. It is necessary to evaluate the exercise which is carried out in this context.” he said.

“As it is understood, trilateral cooperation is a product of the Second Karabakh War. As a result of this, the exercise reaffirms the support of Turkey and Pakistan in Azerbaijan’s own national cause. However, the purpose of the trilateral cooperation is not limited to supporting Azerbaijan. The three countries seek to functionalize their cooperation in the long term in the face of regional challenges. As a matter of fact, in the Caucasus as well as in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia triangle, there have been and continue to be significant geopolitical fractures in recent years. The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s rise to power is just one of them. There is indecision brought about by regional problems. Many issues, such as the fight against terrorism, refugee crises, energy policies, and global competition over the region, require regional co-operation.”Emre Ozan ended his remarks.

Prof. Sait YILMAZ (Universtiy of İstanbul Esenyurt)

Prof. Sait Yilmaz stated that “The efforts for rapprochement between the three countries are not new. It has been observed that Pakistan in particular has been trying to establish this trio for about 5 years. From the big picture, we can say that the balance of power in Eurasia was restored or revised before the war that would break out between the United States and China. The establishment of AUKUS between the US, UK and Australia confirms this. Those countries could include Japan, Singapore and states around the South China Sea that could ally with the United States against China. But the real boiling cauldron is Eurasia that will be terrorized in the period leading up to the great war on Southern China Sea. For Eurasia, the United States has chosen India as an ally, but this country is reluctant in alliance relations.”

“The Russians will not hesitate to directly target Turkey, even though they are now focused on protecting Siberia’s resources and the sphere of influence. In terms of Central Asia balances, Moscow wants to maintain own influence in its immediate surroundings and maintain its shackles on Turkish states. Russia suspects Turkey’s developing military and economic ties with Turkish states in Central Asia. These issues come to the fore more frequently in the Russian public. The activities of the Turkish Council are closely monitored. For example, in Bashkortostan, members of a group called ‘Bashkurt’ were accused of being a ‘separatist organization’ on suspicion of Turkism and the operation was carried out. Especially after the conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan began, the struggle between Turkey and Russia behind the scenes became clearer and the spy traffic towards Turkey increased.” Yılmaz has commented.

Yılmaz emphasized that the power asymmetry in Eurasia forced Ankara, Baku and Islamabad to come together. “It is important to establish a balance against Russia for Turkey, Azerbaijan and even the Turkish states in Central Asia. It is also vital for Pakistan, which is not considered a friend by the United States, to be able to strike a balance against India. The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Manchurian, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Hong Kong will be the most affected regions in the next 10-15 years. However, terrorist activities based in Afghanistan and Fergana will also create the potential for conflict. In summary, while the balance of power is being restored in and around Eurasia, the increasingly deep rapprochement between Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan constitutes a new parameter. The Russians are preparing to respond to the situation with Armenia and Iran. However, it waits a little longer to not lose Turkey. However, they do not give up their red lines.”

Prof. Ali ASKER (University of Karabük- International Relations)

In relation to the subject Prof. Ali Asker, “Recently, military exercises between the Turkish and Azerbaijani armies have been carried out intensively. A short time ago, a joint tactical exercise in the Lachin region; In the Caspian, underwater offensive and defensive groups were trained. The Three Brothers-2021 Exercise also caught the attention of international observers.” explained.

“The Three Brothers-2021 Exercise is especially significant for Baku. As is known, Turkey has always defended Azerbaijan’s interests at all times and on every platform in an environment where great powers have supported Armenia and put pressure on Azerbaijan for almost a quarter of a century. Another state that supports the Azerbaijan is Pakistan. However, the military dimension of support has not been enough. Under Turkey’s leadership, this pattern was broken, and this support was shown to the world in the war which was lasted 44 days. Currently, Turkey appears militarily in the Caucasus. The Three Brothers-2021 Exercise is also an advanced stage of the process mentioned. These exercises take the capacity of military cooperation initiated by Turkey and Azerbaijan to a higher level; it is very valuable in terms of demonstrating the potential for military cooperation of allied, friendly and sister countries. It is foreseeable that further exercises will be held in a larger format in the next process.” Ali Asker concluded his words.

Hulusi KILIÇ (Retired Ambassador)

Referring to the impact of these exercises in the region, Retired Ambassador Hulusi Kılıç said, “The Three Brothers-2021 Exercise; It is the first exercise of the trio of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan at this level. As is known, after 44 days of war, the two capitals next to Baku were Ankara and Islamabad. In this process, Turkey and Pakistan also aimed to increase Azerbaijan’s military experience by testing some weapons.”

Kılıç also mentioned on the political importance of the exercise, “The exercise is also a message for countries in the region. The joint exercise is also extremely important for the development of weapons, demonstrating common determination and ensuring peace, security and stability in the Caucasus. It also constitutes a guarantee for the Belt and Road Project put forward by China. The exercises are also a message to Armenia and its supporters, who have repeatedly violated the 10 November 2020 ceasefire. Coordination between the armed forces of the three countries, cooperation in the defence industry and the unifying of combat forces demonstrated the example of fighting on a global scale. It is necessary to prepare for war in peacetime. It should also be noted that; The exercise carried out by the three countries is not against anyone. It is a message given only to those who have eyes on the territory of Azerbaijan.” and completed his statements.

Elnur ENVEROĞLU (Journalist-Eurasia Diary)

By Journalist Elnur Enveroğlu stated that after the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan began to take more intensive measures in the field of military defence, “Azerbaijan, which previously preferred negotiations or a balanced policy, is now trying to demonstrate that it is ready to solve this by military means on the basis of national interests if necessary. Successive joint air, land and water exercises with brother country Turkey and recent military exercises, including in third sister country Pakistan, are moves aimed at improving Azerbaijan’s military defence capabilities.” he stated.

Enveroğlu, “I would also like to point out that Azerbaijan is surrounded by neighbours such as Russia in the North, Armenia in the West and Iran in the South. Some recent unpleasant incidents in the border area with Armenia, such as Russian peacekeepers not doing their jobs properly in Karabakh, have forced Azerbaijan to take tougher steps. For example, the harsh reaction of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Azerbaijan-Turkey joint exercise with baseless excuses shows that Iran and its neighbours are concerned about the unity of the two brotherly countries.” stated.

Finally, Enveroğlu said, “The joint military exercise of the three countries is the first military training for the training of special forces fighting the enemy in the fight against terrorism. The exercises, which will continue from 12-20 September 2021, refer to the unity and immunity of the three brother countries. Turkey has a lot of initiative in the realization of this exercise. Ankara has played a leading role in many exercises so far. Pakistan, which is a nuclear power, Turkey, which is a NATO member, and Azerbaijan, which is getting stronger, are commendable for participating in the exercise. Another point of note is that the military uses real weapons in training and exercises. It is clear that there is an overwhelming message from here.”and completed his evaluations.

Özge Eletek 1999 yılında İzmir’de doğdu. İlk ve orta öğretim hayatını İzmir’de tamamlayan Eletek, 2021 yılında Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında birçok konferans ve seminere katılan Eletek, Ankara Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları Merkezi’ndeki stajını sürdürmektedir. Halihazırda Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi'nde yüksek lisans eğitimini sürdürmektedir.