U.S. can stop Turkey becoming a Russian ally – analyst

If the United States places sanctions on Turkey, it could push Washington’s NATO ally into the arms of Russia, academic and analyst Soner Çağaptay wrote for The Hill news site.

Relations between the United States and Turkey have reached a low point in recent months over Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S400 anti-aircraft missiles, U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish forces, the U.S. failure to extradite the man Turkey blames for the 2016 coup attempt, Turkey’s arrest of an American pastor and a range of other issues.

The U.S. Congress is considering a bill to block the sale of F35 advanced fighter jets to Turkey, while the U.S. Treasury could fine a Turkish state-run bank for its part in a scheme to evade sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme.

But such sanctions would likely to serve Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal, Çağaptay said, which he said was to drive “a permanent wedge between Turkey and the United States.”

“What is more, sanctions – which are aimed at punishing Erdoğan for his transgressions – will actually help the Turkish president, who faces elections on June 24. Erdoğan will cast any pushback against Ankara as pushback against him and Turkey (remember that he’s out to “make Turkey great again”), boosting his popularity at the ballot box,” the U.S.-based academic wrote.

Washington can prevent this by addressing Turkey’s concerns about the majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria, including convincing the militia to leave the region of Manbij on the border with Turkey, a relationship that has poisoned bilateral ties, but which succeeded in the U.S. objective of containing Islamic State (ISIS).

The United States also needs to give Ankara “ironclad guarantees against Russian aggression”, Çağaptay said, although Turkey’s NATO membership surely represents as close a guarantee as it is likely to get.