U.S.-Turkey relations headed toward perfect storm - analyst

The United States will likely impose harsh sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems as relations between the NATO allies near an emotional break, analyst Soner Çağaptay said in an interview with the Voice of America on Tuesday. 

Ankara has repeatedly said there would be no turning back on its $2.5 billion with Moscow for the Russian missile defences, despite Western attempts to dissuade it. U.S. Congress passed legislation last year to block the delivery of F-35 jets to Turkey should the Turkish government take delivery of the S-400, and Turkey’s NATO allies are concerned the system could collect data on NATO jets and undermine their defences

Washington’s reaction to the S-400s issue will be much more negative than what Ankara expects, said Çağaptay, the director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy.

Turkish-American relations are at the verge of an emotional break, he said, explaining that the Turkish government is finds it hard to understand U.S. support for the Kurdish militia in Syria and its refusal to extradite the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, which Ankara accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. On the other hand, some in Washington believe Turkey overlooked the struggle against jihadis in Syria, according to the analyst. 

Any country that attempted to buy S-400 systems would face sanctions, but the sanctions to be imposed on Ankara will be much more severe, Çağaptay said. 

The analyst said that he had been always optimistic about relations between the two countries, but now he had become a pessimist and thought the accumulated problems could lead to a perfect storm. 

“Eventually, either the White House will impose harsh sanctions, or, if it does not, the [U.S.] Congress unfortunately put in place those severe sanctions,” Çağaptay said.