Sanctions for S-400’s? Time to realize: Turkey’s not really in NATO

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Victory has a thousand fathers, yet defeat us but a bastard. When it became clear that the Syrian government under Ba’athist governance and Assad wasn’t going anywhere soon, the coalition of ‘rebel backers’ began to turn on themselves. Turkey has done its best to turn this mess they have created into the opportunity it was supposed to be. The growing row Turkey has with the US over the former’s intention to purchase the much sought after S-400 weapons system from Russia, shows no sign of abating.

But why would the US have a problem with its ally and fellow NATO member, acquiring Russian arms? Wouldn’t it prove useful to be able to see how they work in test conditions? To include them in war games? Wouldn’t it be smart to try to reverse engineer these? Why would this not happen?

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Because Turkey has no intention of letting the US look inside of its new Russian toys, is why. In fact, all things being equal, it would appear almost as they Turkey expects the US and NATO informed military systems to be those involved as the adversary in its next conflict. In other words, Turkey sees the US as one of its primary security concerns. But this isn’t just Turkey’s paranoia. Once you read below on what exactly the US intends to use as a ‘stick’ to keep Turkey in order, you’ll realize it’s entirely warranted. So much for the alliance.

All together, it’s time to realize that Turkey isn’t really a NATO member anymore, not one in full standing. Maybe the US believes or hopes there is some future US lackey who could rule in its place in Turkey, and bring it back into the real fold. While a rose is still a rose, and would smell as sweet under any name, NATO membership for some just isn’t the same as it is for others.

As NATO itself seems to lose significance and meaning as an organization representing countries with a whole list of aligned security issues, one of the biggest landmarks in this process has been Turkey’s gradual dropping off the NATO map. This also, in related terms, brings Greece into a similar situation. It’s only really likely regional problem will be Turkey. As both countries are NATO members, it nullifies the entire security doctrine which NATO sold to countries like Greece, when it was established.

But Turkey is a regional hegemon, and is the former rump of the Ottoman Empire, one of the successors of the Roman Empire, and has a history – like Iran – of being much more than just local power. And this puts it in the situation of also having some irrendetist aims, and some very real demographic, technical, human, and military resources to go about this.

 Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

So when earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed Washington for “creating artificial crises is the West’s style,” (he was referring to the Senate’s move to block F-35 supplies over Ankara’s intention to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense systems), this did not come as a surprise. Ties between the US and Turkey haven’t quite recovered from the US’s apparent, and failed, coup attempt against Erdogan. This has strained relations, and we haven’t seen much in terms of a rapprochement.

Worse, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell said Tuesday that it would be hard to restore relations between the US and Turkey if the latter purchased Russia’s S-400 air defense systems. In the expected tone with full imperial hubris, Mitchel told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

 

“We made it clear that is Turkey buys S-400s… there will be consequences. We will introduce sanctions within Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA),”

In other words, the US’s anti-Russia sanctions will be slapped onto Turkey, in an attempt to ‘counter America’s adversaries‘.

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Mitchell also reminded its ‘ally’ that the US maintains the ability to withhold the transfer of F-35 combat aircraft to Turkey over national security concerns if Ankara decided to purchase the S-400s.

“We believe that we have the existing legal authorities that would allow us to withhold transfer under certain circumstances, including national security concerns,” Mitchell told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But the F-35 is in fact a terrible multi-role fighter of sorts, with an endless list of known problems. Any of these known problems would be, for most militaries making decisions as the armed force of a really sovereign state, enough to put a freeze on any potential transfer or sale. Possession of these over-priced F-35’s is itself a liability.

But in terms of the US response at this precise juncture, in Mitchell’s words, the prospects for Turkish military-industrial cooperation with the United States would additionally be in jeopardy if the S-400 air defense systems are purchased.

The deal however is already finalized and even as of last April, the Russian state arms exporter known as Rosoboronexport’s said that Russia had already started building the S-400 systems for Turkey.

That Russia-Turkey deal has obviously prompted disagreements between Ankara and Washington, with the latter threatening to impose sanctions against the former, as the United States believes that the weapon is incompatible with NATO’s defenses.

Just to make sure we understand this right: the US values its relationship with Turkey and doesn’t want to lose Turkey as a regional partner. So in response to Turkey’s diversification of military technology, the US threatens to push it further away. Again, Turkey should not buy a very useful and state-of-the-art air defense weapon, or the US will not sell Turkey a very useless and expensive air attack weapon.

It’s almost as if the US is doing its best to push Turkey as far away as possible. Here are some headlines from the last year or so alone, harping precisely on that:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/stanley-weiss/its-time-to-kick-erdogans_b_9300670.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2018/01/26/nato-leaders-need-to-have-a-frank-talk-with-turkeys-president-behind-closed-doors/

https://www.economist.com/europe/2018/02/01/turkey-and-nato-are-growing-apart

In conclusion, given that the S-400’s arrival to Turkey is frustrating the US’s military establishment and that in response, and that the most public and obvious ‘thing’ the US has on the table to negotiate with is the F-35 as its only ‘carrot’, and the rest is the CAATSA ‘stick’, it would appear that the US is truly in a very weak bargaining position. 

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