Turkey eyes public support against US' sanction threat
The latest statements and moves from Turkey and the United States on the continued disagreement over the former’s plans to deploy the Russian S-400 air defense systems reveal that hopes for a compromise between the two allies have waned.
Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan declared Pentagon’s decision to cease Turkey’s participation in the F-35 aircraft project and threatened it with further sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). He also hinted that Turkey’s decision to deploy these weapons will impede its ability to enhance and maintain cooperation within NATO.
Turkey’s reply to Shanahan is yet to be sent through a letter, but Turkish officials have already reiterated their position on the matter with a strong reaction to the American move. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a statement a week after Shanahan’s letter, has vowed that these systems have already been bought from Russia and a step back from this decision was out the question.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on June 13 spoke with Shanahan on the phone and expressed Turkey’s disappointment over the wording of the letter which is not in line with the spirit of the allied relationship between the two countries.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on June 14 informed that Turkey has already made a part of the payment and will pay the rest through credit with determination to accomplish this process no matter what prices it has to pay. Çavuşoğlu linked this purchase with Turkey’s ambitions to “become a free and independent nation,” underlining that an understanding that has long been obliging Turkey to stay silent against U.S. impositions is now over.
His statements included a potential Turkish retaliation against the U.S. in case Washington imposes sanctions.
All these hint that Turkey has decided to take the risk of sanctions by the U.S. at the expense of paying its harsh consequences. It’s known that preparations have already been launched by the relevant policy councils at the presidency for effective damage control and a road map to overcome complications.
Erdoğan has reportedly issued important instructions to this end at a cabinet meeting late June 13 particularly to handle potential problems Turkey may face in the field of the defense industry.
Another component of this work is to ready the public opinion about what might come next.
Erdoğan’s long speech to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) group late June 12 was significant in terms of creating a public perception about the impending crisis with the U.S. and its potential results.
All the problems Turkey has been facing are related to each other and not coincidental, Erdoğan said, adding, “There is no need for me to say what is behind terrorist organizations. There is the YPG/PYD in northern Syria. Aren’t they the PKK’s extension? Who gives them the biggest support? Our strategic partner. Did they send thousands of truckloads of weapons, ammunition and everything there? They did. What else should we talk about?”
“Do you know what the only target of these in Turkey are? Their concern is ‘How can we topple the AK Party?’ But they won’t be able to,” he added.
Erdoğan’s plan is obviously to turn a potential crisis with the U.S. into a national matter devoted to Turkey’s independence and freedom. Who knows, that might also help his government to re-consolidate the public support before and after the Istanbul rerun elections, as well.