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Washington’s Dead-End In Relations With Turkey

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Washington's Dead-End In Relations With Turkey

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On December 10th, U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed on a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

It includes legislation on completely prohibiting the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, due to the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. Because Turkey moved to test the S-400, and it tested it against US-made F-16, the US Congress needs to consider how to “punish” Ankara.

Trump is expected to sign the NDAA into law soon, which would make the decision concrete.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the administration must choose from several options – from light to harsh sanctions if foreign partners make a significant purchase of Russian military equipment.

“The time for patience has long expired. It is time you applied the law,” Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a recent letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Failure to do so is sending a terrible signal to other countries that they can flout U.S. laws without consequence.”

If the Trump administration doesn’t impose sanctions under CAATSA, US Congress can move on its own and vote to do so.

The administration had floated a workaround that would involve Turkey agreeing to store and not operate the S-400.

On December 11th, the US Senate voted to pass the “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act of 2019.”

“Now’s the time for the Senate to come together and take this opportunity to change Turkey’s behavior,” said Senator Jim Risch said.

“This is not some minor dustup with this country. This is a drift by this country, Turkey, to go in an entirely different direction than what they have in the past. They’ve thumbed their nose at us, and they’ve thumbed their nose at their other NATO allies,” he said.

The Turkish foreign ministry described the latest initiatives in Congress as “a new manifestation of disrespect for our sovereign decisions regarding our national security”.

“These initiatives do not have any function other than to harm Turkish-US relations,” it said in a statement, calling on Congress to act with common sense.

“It is understood that members of Congress have shut their eyes and ears to the truth,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.

No specific sanctions have yet been imposed and it is unclear what they will be, but US officials claimed that they will be “severe.”

In response, on December 11th, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey is ready to retaliate if Washington imposes sanctions over the S-400 purchase.

“Members of the U.S. Congress need to understand that they cannot achieve anything by imposition. If the U.S. approaches positively, we will approach positively too,” he said.

He was asked if Turkey will consider closing the İncirlik Airbase in southern Turkey to U.S. aircraft in the case of sanctions, Cavusoglu said that Ankara would decide upon its assessments in the worst-case scenario and İncirlik Airbase and Kürecik radar system of NATO could be among those retaliation plans.

“İncirlik may come up, and Kürecik may come up. Everything may come up. I don’t want to talk on assumptions. The decision of the administration is important, not the congress. We will evaluate and decide on the worst-case scenario.”

The Foreign Minister further said that Turkey was open to alternatives for fighter jets, after being blocked out of the F-35 program. Erdogan has long repeated that the S-400 purchase and incoming deployment are irreversible and no threat of US sanctions would change that.

This puts the White House in a precarious situation. US President Donald Trump’s policy is clearly in support of the national defense industry and sanctions and other sources of pressure are used to pressure competitors, be it rivals or allies.

The US appears to be losing its positions in the Middle East, since the traditional and key allies in the region are Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel.

Turkey’s showing defiance, purchasing the S-400 and refusing to succumb to any pressure of the US to drop its plans and, instead, purchase Patriot missile defense batteries. Ankara appears to be adamant on pursuing its own goals, and a US strategy in pushing Turkey too far carry much more risk than any potential benefits that may result from the situation.

If the US pushes too hard, imposes severe sanctions, it may lose its military facilities in Turkey. This would, in turn, play to Ankara’s benefit since it would be allowed to consolidate its own sovereignty and further increase its influence in the Middle East.

NATO bases would likely be allowed to remain in Turkey, as they would provide a sort of security in the case of a large-scale conflict. In this way, Turkey would remain a NATO member, all the while freeing itself from being a tool of US interest in the Middle East.

It should be noted that the US accepts Ankara’s purchase of S-400 as it moving away from itself and NATO, but Turkey has never even mentioned that its other weapon contracts with other states and its relations are ending. Ankara has never said that its new and only ally is Moscow.

On the other hand, the Trump administration may decide to impose light sanctions, in a sign of formality, without any real impact on Turkey’s defense industry and economy. This would be potentially beneficial to short-term relations between Ankara and Washington, but would also provide a precedent. It would show that the US’ “bark” is much worse than its “bite” and would create opportunity for future purchases of Russian or Chinese equipment, be it by Turkey or other “traditional allies”.

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  • Mehmet Aslanak

    Turkey is just trying to threaten boomer generals in Pentagon that it cannot really be expelled from F-35 program. Turkey still continues to produce parts of F-35 & fully paid 2x F-35 fighter which is ready to be delivered in Texas. Even Turkish pilots were trained on them. Trump will eventually get rid of those boomer generals & persuade Turkey not to buy additional missiles. Turkey is also in talks to buy Patriots that Obama admin. refused to sell. When a deal struck for Patriots, Trump will have a strong hand to take Turkey back into the F-35 program.

    • jade villaceran

      turkey will not purchase patriot since they saw the performance in saudi arabia, turkey is happily accept the sanction on f35 when they saw the f35 down by flock of birds in lebanon airspace

      • Jens Holm

        I see the usual hostile attitude here from most of You talking americans down.

        The F35 is a very good jet better then the F16, 18 and 22. The main problem is its too too expensive for, what we get.

        “some birds” haha.

        Maybee You should talk more about fire in Kutznesof or the sunken Kursk too.

    • Jens Holm

      Others easy can make those F35 components.

  • John

    Hard to say what will happen but, I think it is the US Congress that is out on a limb here.

    • Jens Holm

      I think thats because of Trump. Even Obama could make some consensus sense there not being republican.

  • Wayne Nicholson

    ““Now’s the time for the Senate to come together and take this opportunity to change Turkey’s behavior,” said Senator Jim Risch said.”

    Did sanctions on Russia get Crimea back?

    Did sanctions on Russia bring them to their knees begging to be let back into the west?

    Did sanctions on Iran get them to the negotiating table?

    Did sanctions on NK get them to give up nuclear weapons?

    Where is the evidence that sanctions do anything to change anyone’s “behavior”?

    • Jens Holm

      I see things are possible to change by that and do. I also prefare diplomasy and sanctions for war.

      • Wayne Nicholson

        Diplomacy yes …. sanctions are just an extension of the economic blockade …. an act of war that can be every bit as deadly as kinetic warfare and tends to affect the most vulnerable in society leaving those the sanctions are targeting unscathed.

        https://adc.bmj.com/content/88/1/92.1
        https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-drugs/u-s-sanctions-on-iran-threaten-access-to-certain-medicines-report-idUSKBN1X82IM

        • Jens Holm

          I am well aware of the limitations, but thanks for Your comment and links.

          I have not been reading Your links yet – I will.

          • Jens Holm

            Expected and well known results of sanctions.

            I sometimes feel, that the wars only should be about killing the bad leaders.

          • Concrete Mike

            Wisely said, cheers!!

          • Wayne Nicholson

            ” sometimes feel, that the wars only should be about killing the bad leaders.”

            … And the war profiteers and bankers who put these bad leaders in power as well as the media who act as cheerleaders for wars and sanctions.

      • Bob

        Economic sanctions are a basic tool of warfare – its is an external blockade of another state’s financial system and physical import-exports. In modern real world examples, US sanctions have proven to fundamentally target civilians – sanctions against Iraq throughout 1990’s dramatically affected mortality rates of children and the elderly – who require nutrition and medicine, very often imports. The entire strategic premise of economic sanctions, with or without an accompanying direct war, is to severely punish an opposing state’s population, with design to try and manufacture an economic crisis that will result in political crisis against a state leadership. Economic sanctions in this context are both a basic tool of warfare, and an attempt to social engineer a society from afar, into a political model of the aggressor’s choosing.

  • Unless there is hard sanction then you will not see a true end to the relationships,turkey is just seeking its interest with partnership with the USA or being part of nato. if all the interest Turkey seek was jeopardize and no long available then it will mean nothing for Turkey to remain an allies of the United states of America or being part of NATO since the western European never treated them equal in the first place.

    • Jens Holm

      I think You are right and wrong.

      Its true USA insisted in Turkey being a part of Nato as well as they armed them very well for it.

      Europeans dont trust Turks as much as we should. Or Europenas are corrrect, because we cant trust Turkey as we wish.

      We have seen it with EU too. After a big minority hoped Turks would connect more and more to us, we have seen the opposite by AKP the last 13 years and now see them less and less allied in more and more matters of importance of Ours.

      But Our world also has changed a lot, because USSR with Comecon And the Warshaw agreement again has made Russia into, what it should be the correct seized. They even has removed Stalin themselves.

      By that the importance both ways for some unity has lowered. And we do have our own big problems in “old Europe” joining the regained and new states.

      So I think we see Turkey as affilliated and sometimes even hostile but still important as trade partner.

      I allow me to add that Turkey has made no other new friends as well as the relations to the rest of the Ottomans still after 100 years are very infected. The trade try for Turkmens in the new cuntries in Asia also dont seemes to be a succes as well.

      So I dont know where Turks will go, but they will not go with us in EU. A possible hope for them might be, they would reach status as a kind of Fínland for Russia.

  • verner

    the CAATSA legislation is a clear sign of a deluded mindset and the sick hubris of the american lawmakers – as if anyone, except the european minions, are apt to fall in line. Turkey is not one of those and values its independence and sovereignty of the country more than to kow tow to washington dc.