Tensions soar in Ankara-Washington relations as Venezuela issue escalates – analysis

Ankara’s support for the regime of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is further escalating tensions between Turkey and the United States, wrote Kelly Kennedy in her Saturday article for the Arab Weekly.

Noting that Turkey’s support for the Maduro regime has been deemed  “completely contrary to U.S. policy and very unhelpful,” by U.S. special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams,  Kennedy stressed that Washington will continue to place Ankara under a microscope to examine the ways in which its support to Venezuela takes place. 

Ankara has received sanctions warnings, particularly after tensions increased over Turkey’s insistence to acquire Russian S-400 missile defence systems, rather than U.S.-manufactured Patriot missiles, Kennedy wrote, with head of U.S. European Command Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti recommending that the United States not send Turkey a shipment of F-35 fighter jets.

Turkey is set to receive its first two F-35s at the end of this year, while the Russian S-400s are set to arrive in July.  Turkey has has dismissed U.S. concerns regarding the use of both systems - U.S. and Russian - citing security concerns, and has refused to budge on the matter.

“It seems like there’s some kind of game of chicken going on here between Turkey and the United States to see who blinks first,” the article quoted U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York,  as saying at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing March 13.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has said that despite some statements from Washington, “the F-35 process is going smoothly,’’ while noting that Turkey plans to honour its commitment to NATO but will continue with the purchase of the Russian system.

Former U.S. permanent representative to NATO Douglas Lute has echoed Washington’s concerns in stating that the Russian system would “never be integrated” into NATO’s overall missile defence system and Ankara is making a “very sort of selfish, nationalist decision, which is short-sighted.”

Meanwhile, Kennedy wrote, Turkey is suffering other losses as the European Union has proposed ending Turkey’s bid to join the coalition, citing the country’s human rights violations in a report released March 13 in the United States.

Despite the fact that there is large consensus in Europe that Turkey does not comply with any of the required criteria pertaining to candidacy in the union, the 28-member bloc has so far shied away from formally suspending negotiation.