Why is the 150% increase in Turkey's defense budget so worrying?

Turkish Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz announced on October 17 that the Turkish defense budget would reach $40 billion in 2024, an increase of 150% compared to 2023. In the absence of an explanation concerning the reasons for this unprecedented increase, nor the use that will be made of additional credits, this announcement raises many concerns both about Ankara's regional ambitions and the military programs which could soon be announced by the newly re-elected President Erdogan.

If the gamble of the defense argument did not favor the PiS and the Polish president during the recent legislative elections, it paid off for the Turkish president RT Erdogan and the AKP. The Islamo-conservative Popular Alliance coalition, of which it is the main party, retains the majority in Parliament with 323 of the 600 seats, and narrowly misses the absolute majority of votes, with 49,47% of the votes cast.

Indeed, to compensate for a disastrous economic situation, with a Turkish Lira which has lost 80% of its value over the last 5 years, and inflation exceeding 50%, as well as the management of the earthquake of March 2023, the president Erdogan built on progress made by Turkey's defense industry in recent years, and the objective of strategic autonomy which was now within reach.

These poor economic results had also seriously handicapped the armies over the last three years. Thus, after 15 years of interrupted increases having brought military spending from $10 billion in 2003 and the arrival of the AKP to power, to more than $20 billion in 2021, this budget had continued to make immense variations, to take into account the effects of galloping inflation, to settle at $16 billion in 2023.

It is therefore not surprising, in this context, that the Turkish defense budget was reassessed upwards for 2024. But no one had anticipated such a marked increase.

An unprecedented increase in the Turkish defense budget of 150% in one year

Indeed, during a press conference given by the vice-president Cevdet Yilmaz, he announced that the Turkish defense budget would be increased, in 2024, to $40 billion, an increase of 150% compared to that of 2023.

Erdogan reis class submarine type 214
RT Erdogan's support for the Turkish defense industry allowed it to make immense progress in 20 years, and the country to move closer to strategic autonomy.

Such an increase is unprecedented for a country not in a war situation in recent years. Even Poland, particularly proactive in this area, only envisaged an increase of 50% between 2023 and 2024, in order to finance all army modernization programs.

The Turkish vice-president indicated that the country will reach, in 2024, a domestic acquisition rate of 85%, and that Turkish BITD exports will reach $11 billion in 2024, an increase of 83% compared to 2023 and its $6 billion exported.

On the other hand, he did not give any details of the breakdown that will be made of this spectacular increase, which will bring the country's defense effort beyond 4% of its GDP, nor the reasons which led the Turkish authorities to arbitrate in favor of such an increase.

We can, therefore, only make hypotheses on these subjects, none of which are, moreover, particularly reassuring.

Pledges given to the Turkish armies and defense industry?

The additional resources can, in fact, only be allocated to two large entities: the Turkish armies and the national BITD. The AKP and the Popular Alliance know they owe a lot to the latter's unfailing support during the campaign. It is then more than likely that Turkish defense companies will be the first beneficiaries of these credits.

Towards an increase in sales to compensate for inflation?

Relations between the authorities and the country's armies are significantly more tense, even if, in recent years, vast purges have allowed President Erdogan to position soldiers close to the AKP in key positions in the armies.

Turkish Special Forces
A significant increase in the pay and treatment of Turkish soldiers could, for Erdogan, end up ensuring their full support.

It is therefore very likely, first of all, that this increase will serve to give assurances to the Turkish armies, by allowing a rapid modernization of its equipment, but also the increase in pay and salaries, in order to align with inflation. from the country.

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