May 23 2019

U.S. defence policy bill paves way for ‘nightmare’ scenario for Turkey over S-400s

A draft $750 billion defence policy bill unveiled on Thursday by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee is set to expel Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet manufacturing programme – a first step in repercussions that could lead to a “nightmare scenario” for Turkey if it goes ahead with its purchase of Russian missile defence systems, experts have warned.

Turkish officials had expressed hopes U.S. President Donald Trump would intervene on their behalf despite repeated warnings that the S-400 purchase would lead to expulsion from the F-35 programme and possible sanctions.

But a senior aide from the committee said there was “no wiggle room” for Trump to get around the bill and deliver F-35s to Turkey unless Ankara convinces U.S. secretaries of defense and state that the S-400 deal is dead, Defense One senior national security correspondent Katie Bo Williams reported in a tweet.

U.S. and NATO officials have repeatedly warned that the presence of Russian-built systems in Turkey, a NATO ally, could endanger the new-generation F-35 fighters.

There is bipartisan support among U.S. lawmakers for legislation that blocks the transfer of the F-35s, as well as threatening targeted sanctions on Turkish officials involved in the S-400 deal.

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his cabinet have refused to back down from what they call a done deal.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar confirmed this week that Turkish personnel are in Russia receiving training for the new missile defence systems.

With time running out for Turkey to back out of the deal, targeted sanctions on Turkish institutions, companies and individuals involved in the purchase are becoming increasingly likely – a “nightmare” scenario, according to experts interviewed by Euronews journalist Menekşe Tokyay.

Izmir Economic University professor Sıtkı Egeli stressed the impact a fallout with Turkey’s western partners could have on its defence sector, since 70 percent of that sector’s exports are to western countries, and particularly the United States. Forty percent of Turkey’s defence import needs are also met by western partners, he said.

A disruption to this flow of goods could thus put Turkey’s domestic production of military hardware at risk, since it often uses foreign-built components in their manufacture.

If the deal leads to targeted sanctions on Turkey’s defence ministry, this could also lead to secondary sanctions on Turkish companies that are partners of the ministry, defence analyst Arda Mevlütoğlu said.

This could mean major Turkish companies, including Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen airport and major defence firm Roketsan, are excluded from the international financial system and banned from making SWIFT transactions, he said.