Turkey hints S-400 crisis with US is solvable
A new episode has begun in regards to a long-term disagreement between Turkey and the United States over the former’s decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defense systems, as Washington has stepped up pressure on the Turkish government by threatening it with sanctions.
Last week, spokespersons of both the State Department and Pentagon urged Turkey that the deployment of S-400s will lead to “grave consequences” while senior American officials, as well as some senior congressmen, openly threatened a NATO ally with sanctions should it deploy the Russian system on its soil.
In the meantime, a U.S. delegation was dispatched to Ankara last week to discuss all aspects of the bilateral ties, which surely included the S-400 row between the two allies.
According to media reports, the U.S. diplomats made sure that the latest offer to Turkey for the Patriot air defense system was “very generous,” but it would only be realized in the event that the Turkish government cancels the deal with the Russians.
They also warned that the deployment of the S-400 on Turkish territories will trigger congressional sanctions and will complicate the Turkish participation in the F-35 aircraft project.
With three weeks to the local elections, the Turkish government’s reaction to this threatening rhetoric seems to be balanced given the fact that an escalation in ties with the U.S. would further hit the already fragile Turkish Lira as was observed in the past week.
Differently from its previous position, the Turkish government admits that there is a problem which needs to be resolved. As a matter of fact, what changed the ground rules of this issue was the U.S. Patriot offer to Turkey, as instructed by President Donald Trump who has long been hearing complaints from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in almost every phone conversations of theirs about restrictions imposed against the Turkish demands on arms sales.
For many in Ankara who have a sense of diplomacy, it’s pretty certain that Turkey’s decline of the U.S.’s “generous” offer for the sale of Patriots will disappoint President Trump. And Turkey knows what consequences it can face from a disappointed Trump as we have observed during last year’s Pastor Andrew Brunson crisis.
It was in this context that President Erdoğan has explicitly and in detail spoken about the S-400 tension with the U.S. over the weekend.
The U.S. is making the S-400s an issue because of its disturbance over Turkey’s independent foreign policy particularly in Syria, the president said, denying comments that the deployment of Russian systems would have a negative impact on the safety of F-35s and other NATO military equipment.
Erdoğan reiterated his government’s criticisms against the U.S. on all these issues but also stressed: “God willing, we will deal with this issue in line with common sense, logic and mutual interests just like many other problems in the past.”
An emphasis by Erdoğan on mutual interests when talking about Turkish efforts to supply air defense systems is noteworthy. It’s equally important that Ankara now admits that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. It’s also aware that there is no easy solution to such a complicated problem.