U.S. questioning ties with Turkey like never before - Foreign Policy

The current dispute between Ankara and Washington over Turkey’s decision to acquire Russian missile systems has pushed the United States to question its fundamental ties with Turkey in a way that it has not in almost seven decades of partnership, Foreign Policy magazine said on Friday.

Turkey started receiving Russian S-400 systems last week, despite Washington’s concerns that the move may lead to Russian subterfuge on F-35 stealth fighter jets.

The United States took matters further this week and halted the delivery of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey and suspended the country’s participation to joint F-35 manufacturing programme.

Turkey now risks further U.S. sanctions over S-400s under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). U.S. President Donald Trump could still attempt to delay the imposition of sanctions or water them down, but this in turn would likely prompt Congress to redouble punishing sanctions legislation, Foreign Policy said.

“Since the earliest days of the Cold War, Turkey had been more or less firmly anchored in the U.S.-led Western order. Now, it’s throwing off old ties, and analysts fear it is looking more to Moscow than to Washington,” according to the article.

“There’s a lot of mythology about the relationship since 1952,” when Turkey joined NATO, said Steven A. Cook, a Middle East scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. “But I am not aware of a situation like we have today, where the Turks seem to be moving closer to Moscow,” he said.

Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 was a “bridge that couldn’t be crossed” according to Howard Eissenstat, a specialist on Turkey at St. Lawrence University.

“Now, after years of overlooking Turkey’s erosion of democracy and disruptive regional diplomacy in the hope of keeping the security relationship on a sound footing, lawmakers and many others in Washington are in a vengeful mood,” the Foreign Policy article said.

“I worry that U.S. policy will shift from trying to keep Turkey on board to trying to crush them to show the costs of crossing the United States, which would be self-destructive,” it quoted Eissenstat as saying.

Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon official, said while the past disagreements within the NATO alliance have been political, the current tension is a military one.

“For the first time, a nation has done something more than just political. It’s actually done something … that imperilled the alliance’s ability to use its military,” he added.

“Even if Trump lets Turkey off the hook, the problem doesn’t go away. Turkey will be more emboldened, and Congress will get even madder, so it just sets the stage for another showdown,” said Nicholas Danforth, a Turkey expert at the U.S. German Marshall Fund.