Trump should force Turkey to decide on S-400 - analysis

President Donald Trump should stop coddling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and refuse him the sanctions waiver he hopes will pave the way for Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system, said an analysis for The Wall Street Journal.

Washington has threatened to sanction Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) over concerns about Ankara’s purchase despite objections from its NATO allies.

The CAATSA is crystal clear about imposing sanctions on countries engaging in business with Moscow in defence or intelligence sectors, said Eric Edelman, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and chairman of the Turkey program at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the FDD, wrote on Wednesday for WSJ.

U.S. officials say Turkey’s use of the Russian S-400 system alongside U.S.-made F-35 jets, which Ankara is also purchasing, would create an unacceptable risk as its radar could enable the Russian military to gain insight into F-35 operations.

“This would threaten the U.S. military’s already diminishing qualitative advantage,” said Edelman and Schanzer. In addition to inviting congressionally mandated sanctions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also risks expulsion from the F-35 program due to his decision to acquire the S-400 systems.

Last month, the Pentagon halted the delivery of F-35 training equipment and related materials. Some argue that these measures against Turkey are a mistake, as Turkey is a key NATO ally that could be pushed toward Russia or even Iran, said Edelman and Schanzer.

“Yet Turkey has been outside the NATO tent for a decade now. It is the largest external headquarters for the terrorist group Hamas in the Middle East. It has supported the worst jihadist actors in the Syrian civil war, including some linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State,” said Edelman and Schanzer, also citing Turkey’s $20 billion sanctions-evasion scheme with Iran from 2012-2015 and the country’s descent into authoritarianism.

U.S. officials have shown great patience, but now is the time for a change, according to the analysts.

“Mr. Trump lambastes allies who fail to pull their weight. Turkey tops that list, relying on U.S. beneficence while undermining U.S. interests,” said Edelman and Schanzer. “Instead of coddling Mr. Erdoğan, the administration must force Turkey to decide whether it remains a part of the Western alliance in fact or in name only.”