Apr 12 2019

Strains in U.S.-Turkish relations are leading Erdoğan into Putin’s embrace - analyst

It might be too late to stop Turkey’s realignment with Russia and the United States should use smart diplomacy and defence assistance to bring back its NATO ally back into the fold, said Sinan Ülgen, a visiting scholar in Carnegie Europe, in Foreign Policy.

Relations between two the NATO allies have been strained over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems, which the United States says could collect data on NATO technologies and undermine their defences.

In December 2017, Turkey and Russia finalised a deal worth a reported $2.5 billion on the sale of the Russian missiles, which are scheduled to be delivered in July.  As the delivery date of S-400s approaches, the United States has increased pressure on the Turkish government, which has repeatedly announced that the cancellation of S-400 deal with Moscow is not possible.

Leading U.S. senators wrote in the New York Times on Tuesday that Turkey’s purchase of the Russian weapons would require Washington to impose economic sanctions and halt delivery of F-35 fighter jets. Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez also introduced a bill on Tuesday demanding a halt to the delivery of 100 U.S. F-35 fighter jets ordered by Turkey if it completes its purchase of the S-400 missile system.

Ülgen said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s penchant for brinkmanship and the U.S. administration’s nonchalance had allowed the S-400 transaction to get so close to the finish line.

For Erdoğan, the S-400 option was a tactic to persuade Washington to improve terms for the sale of U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries, as Turkey faces the greatest threat from the proliferation of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, Ülgen said. 

Instead of a more proper response that would allow Ankara to develop capabilities for ballistic missile defence through technology transfers and co-production opportunities, the alliance offered a phased adaptive missile defence shield, which is reportedly unable to provide cover for the whole of the Turkish territory, the analyst said.

Meanwhile, the S-400 deal has become an important component of Ankara’s policy in Syria, where it is disturbed by U.S. support to Kurdish militia, which the Turkish government sees as a threat to its security.