Ankara’s deal with Moscow on the purchase of Russian anti-aircraft missile systems S-400 became the “bone of contention” in Turkish-American relations. The United States, which was planning to place its Patriot air defense system on Turkey, was categorically against it, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan neglected the threats of President Donald Trump and “chose Russian”. Today, the eighth An-124 aircraft has delivered the S-400 components to Turkey and soon all four divisions of this system will take up combat duty.
In response, Washington began to develop all possible options for sanctions against Turkey within the framework of the law “On Countering America’s Opponents through Sanctions. As reported, Donald Trump is holding consultations on this issue with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, but it is not yet known what sanctions will be applied to Ankara. The United States has already canceled the delivery of its fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, and it is likely that further military cooperation will be curtailed. There will be some other restrictions, including from the European Union, which is pressured by Washington. By the way, the aforementioned law was signed by Trump on August 2, 2017 and prescribes tougher sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. Now Turkey is on the list.
Why did Turkey suddenly become so emboldened that it became bold to the longtime overlord and leave the protectorate of the United States, who promised military support “in case of anything”? The reasons are, in fact, quite a lot. Washington has always kept Ankara on a short leash, representing Turkey as its resigned vassal, ready to obey everything. The United States did not fulfill its obligations to sell Turkey Patriot air defense system to Turkey, preferring their deployment in Poland and Romania, plus they broke a high price for them. Washington actively armed and supported Syrian Kurds, whom Ankara considers terrorist organizations. The European Union, not without American influence, has closed Turkey’s path to membership in this block, where it has been in the “queue” since April 14, 1987 (the time of filing the application for joining the EU, at that time still the EAU). The history with the F-35 aircraft, which Turkey participated in the creation program, seems to be difficult, but only two such fighters were received in exchange and the refusal to locate their production on its territory.
Being a full-fledged member of NATO, Turkey has become a kind of rogue state in the eyes of both alliance partners, including the United States, and most European countries. But until recently, Washington was forced to reckon with Ankara, which is a fairly strong ally. The announcement of US sanctions against Turkey, scheduled for July 12, was canceled, but after a few days, the “punitive” measures were started up again. And the purchase of Russian S-400 is only a visible reason, which allegedly drives a wedge into the NATO security system. In the same Greece, also a member country of the alliance, the S-300 have long been in service, which were “under-populated” to Cyprus. The whole thing, as it seems, is the rapprochement of the interests of Turkey with Russia and far-reaching plans for cooperation with China. A certain union of Moscow, Beijing and Ankara is seen in Washington as a terrible triad that can put an end to the power of America itself.
What will Turkey itself receive as a result of the current political course turning towards Russia and, indirectly, China? More specifically, what will Erdogan, the president of this country, win? On the deal with the S-400, because of which all the current fuss has gone, Erdogan says that this is “the most important agreement in our modern history.” At the same time, we quote the Turkish president, he notes that “air defense systems are designed to ensure peace and security in our country. Other steps we are taking are being taken to improve our defensive capabilities. ” That is, Erdogan makes it clear that the choice of Russian weapons is not decisive in the course of the country’s political vector of development. At the same time, he said that it was the S-400 that had the best capabilities in air and missile defense, so they were the ones who chose it.
Turkey is acquiring a more reliable partner in the face of Russia – here are both tourists, exported products, gas, and a nuclear power plant, which is being built with the participation of Russian specialists and technologies. Moscow can support Turkey in its plans for the extraction of hydrocarbons from the disputed coast of Cyprus, for the deposits of which a number of Western companies are claiming.
There may be some kind of deal for Turkey to recognize Crimea as Russian, in exchange for loyalty to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Replacing American weapons, in addition to the S-400s already existing in Turkey, may also be Russian fifth-generation fighters Su-57, Armata tanks, other equipment and weapons. Moscow has now become Ankara much closer than Washington and Europe, plus more economically advantageous.
What is Erdogan’s own risk if sanctions are imposed by the US and the EU? There are risks. If any embargoes by the United States might not frighten the Turkish president, then a break in relations with Europe could hit hard. First of all, on the country’s economy, which is noticeably decreasing, inflation has already reached 16 percent, and the unemployment rate is 14%. Sanctions could aggravate this process and scare away Western investors, which immediately devalue the Turkish currency (lira now costs $ 0.17, about 11 Russian rubles).
- Erdogan’s situation is rather precarious now, – said military commentator Vladislav Shurygin.
- He, figuratively speaking, changes horses at the crossing, turning from the West to the East. The step is justified, but requiring real achievements in the new cooperation. Erdogan is supported in Turkey far not by all. We can also recall the attempted coup d’état on July 15, 2016, when the military tried to seize power in the country. There was a heavy defeat of his party in the election of the mayor of Istanbul in June of this year. Erdogan himself confidently won the presidential election last year, gaining more than 50 percent of the vote, and also became Prime Minister at the same time, so he still has a temporary gap. It can be assumed that the US State Department will try to sway its positions at the expense of the opposition parties, the same Republican People’s Party, or disloyal military. Erdogan understands this perfectly well, therefore he tries to appease the army in every possible way, trying to achieve its favour. But the discrepancy with the Americans, who took part in the formation of the new look of the Turkish army, could cause a new conflict between the president and the military. Therefore, it needs to take effective steps to show the correctness of the chosen course for military cooperation with Russia. For example, to achieve agreements with Moscow on Kurdistan in its favor, to enlist its support on the situation with the disputed territories in Cyprus. These problems are still hanging in the air, so Erdogan is forced to maneuver between Putin and Trump, but he just has to be closer to Russia than to the United States.
Erdogan is not so toothless in the confrontation with the United States and is ready to respond to the sanctions being prepared with retaliatory measures. It became known that the head of the Turkish state intends to announce that Ankara will no longer provide the Incirlik air base to the American military aviation. And in the event of active opposition from the United States, it may close the Bosphorus Strait – the only way to the Black Sea. If European states take sanctions against Turkey, then Turkish bases will be closed for all NATO member countries.
Under the threat of liquidation, there will be nuclear ammunition, which, in addition to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, is stored in American and European bases, including in Turkish Ingirlik. In general, Turkey has something to respond to the planned US and EU sanctions. Ankara, in the case of the introduction of a number of restrictions on their part, will try to compensate for the losses due to the relations being built with Russia and China. It is likely that not so much and will lose in the end. At least in the field of arms supplies. They replaced the Patriot with the S-400, replaced the F-35 with the Su-57, and the helicopter engines, which the UK has already refused to supply, are compensated by the Russian ones developed by Klimov.