Pompeo warns Turkey, says Huawei presence there threatening U.S.

Turkey's growing investment and partnership with Chinese tech and communications giant Huawei might threaten the United States' military presence in Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday.

Turkey has become an important market and a regional base for Chinese company Huawei and hosts the company’s second largest research and development centre, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported in 2019. Meanwhile, as the European Union continues to discuss a ban on the company’s next-generation equipment, Huawei has become the second best-selling smartphone brand in Turkey, increasing its market share to 30 percent from 3 percent in two years, the same report said.

“The fact that you have a significant amount of data in Turkey now, in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, means that we have to be ever more careful,” Pompeo told Washington Examiner.

This year, China’s Export and Credit Insurance Corp. committed up to $5 billion for Turkey’s Wealth Fund, to be used for BRI projects. "The fund’s limited transparency and accountability raise further concerns about where the money is going and Turkey’s ability to repay", Ayça Alemdaroğlu wrote in a Politico piece. 

“We have to make sure that our networks are secure - that is, our defense networks, our security networks,” Pompeo said. “It’s not only military and security networks that will be impacted by increasing activity inside of Turkey or any other country from Chinese networks. We're gonna make sure and protect American data.”

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations subcommittee for Europe, revealed that U.S. strategists were preparing for a potential removal of American forces from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Force base. “The path that Erdogan is on is not good,” Johnson said. “Our presence, quite honestly, in Turkey, is certainly threatened," the Examiner wrote last week.

Huawei has been at the centre of an international trade dispute between the United States and China. The U.S. government had put Huawei on an "Entities List," which banned U.S. firms from sharing technology and software with the Chinese firm. Google has stopped providing updates of its Android software to Huawei, as a result of the ban.

Britain has sided with the United States, banning Huawei from its 5G network, and the move this summer increased pressure on the EU to follow.