The Mediterranean Cold War Between France and Turkey
In the vacuum of a U.S. pullback, France and Turkey are increasingly competing for diplomatic, military, and economic influence in the Mediterranean and beyond.
In late 2021, both French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made diplomatic trips abroad with the goal of negotiating arms sales. Erdoğan took a tour of Africa, visiting Angola, Nigeria, and Togo.1 Macron visited both Croatia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to finalize purchases of French Rafale fighter aircraft. The latter visit resulted in the largest-ever order for Rafales, with the UAE ordering 80 planes in a deal worth €17 billion.2 The trips followed a successful spree of arms sales for both countries. Turkey’s battle-tested drones found buyers in Morocco, Poland, Ukraine, Niger, and elsewhere. In addition to Croatia and the UAE, French Rafales received new orders from Greece and Egypt. Arms sales as such are nothing unusual for major countries with large military budgets. In the cases of France and Turkey, however, the rapidity and frequency of new deals—as well as the close personal involvement of the countries’ respective presidents—reveal how increasing military influence and cooperation abroad has become a key priority for both governments.