Dr. Can KASAPOĞLU: “We Need to be Geopolitically Vigilant and Responsible”

In this in-depth interview Dr. Can KASAPOĞLU - Director of Security and Defense Studies Program at the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) discusses complex geopolitical decisions and their significance regarding the Turkish defense industry. He shares his insights on the Russia-Ukraine war, Ukraine’s defense industry’s partnerships in the region, and the stirring waters in the Aegean. EDAM is an Istanbul based independent think-tank with main areas of research focused on foreign policy and security, Türkiye-EU relations, energy and climate change policies, economics and globalization, arms control & non-proliferation, cyber policy. EDAM aims to contribute to the policy making process within and outside Türkiye by producing and disseminating research on the policy areas that are shaping Türkiye’s position within the emerging global order.

Date: Issue 115 - August 2022

Defence Turkey: First off, thank you for giving us your time for this interview. Dr. KASAPOĞLU, let's start our interview by analyzing the current situation of the Russia-Ukraine war, which has now passed the 4th month.  Many anticipated that it would end quickly, but it has been going on for a long time with no sign of an end on the horizon. Do you think that this war will drag on even longer? We are curious about your views on the opening of new fronts in the war and its spread to other regions? 

Dr.Can KASAPOĞLU: Thank you very much. Now, frankly speaking, all the projections we have made in the Russia-Ukraine War show that this war is evolving towards a chronic conflict that may last for months or even years. And we have to state that this war is not a frozen conflict, but a conflict that continues at different intervals, at different tempos. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation essentially implemented several operational plans in Ukraine, one after the other, and these operational plans did not bring solid results. The first one was "Armies Prepare to Fight Their Last Battle".  The beginning of the operation was actually, a replica of Crimea 2014. It was for the 31st VDV Airborne Brigade, -which also intervened in Kazakhstan, - to arrive at the Hostomel or Antonov Airport Base. The plot was to move from there to the city center of Kiev which is 7-8 km away. The next step would be eventually using this airbase as a portal for follow-on operations.  The master plan for the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation was to establish a pro-Russian puppet administration of their own in Ukraine through a hybrid intervention similar to the 2014 annexation of Crimea. However, that did not happen.  There are several reasons behind this, why it did not occur, and definitely it is a lesson to learn for military intelligence. Firstly, we see that the Russians miscalculated and underestimated the unity of command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ discipline, the contribution of the Ukrainian people’s will to the mobilization efforts, and the political will of the Ukrainian leadership’s political prowess. This, of course, shows how successful the Ukrainian military reforms have been in such a short period of time between 2014 and 2022, not only in terms of equipment, but also in terms of doctrine and mobilization -especially the mobilization of the auxiliary elements called Territorial Defense Forces. In fact, we saw the aftershocks of this in Russian intelligence circles, both in the FSB and in the GRU. In both, there were very significant dismissals with the recent reshuffle.