A bill has been introduced in the US Senate with support of both Republican and Democratic Senators which aims to block the sale of US made F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. The move comes after US officials previously threatened to sanction Turkey if Ankara follows through with its plans to shortly receive S-400 missile defence systems from Russia. Turkey has consistently refused to back down on its S-400 purchase with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu telling his former US counterpart Rex Tillerson “We do not use and will not accept the language of threats”.
Turkey is therefore on the front line of America’s CAATSA, a set of sanctions which not only prohibits bilateral US-Russia trade, but also threatens nations that purchase weapons from Russia with sanctions should they go through with their deals. While India appears to be capitulating in the face of the mafia like CAATSA which attempts to lock the world into buying US weapons under the threat of being cut off from the powerful US financial system, Turkey is taking a radically different approach.
Turkey has stated that as a sovereign nation, it has the right to purchase the most effective weapons at the best prices from which ever partner it chooses. As a country whose foreign policy is independent of both the US (in spite of lingering NATO membership) and Russia, Ankara refuses to be bullied by Washington into taking sides.
US Senator James Lankford made his opposition to Turkey’s purchase of the F-35s clear in a statement which uses overtly inflammatory and undiplomatic language regarding the President of the Republic of Turkey. Lankford said,
“I applaud our State Department for their ceaseless work to improve the US-Turkey relationship, but President Erdogan has continued down a path of reckless governance and disregard for the rule of law. Individual freedoms have been increasingly diminished as Erdogan consolidates power for himself, and Turkey’s strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, US interests.
These factors make the transfer of sensitive F-35 technology and cutting-edge capabilities to Erdogan’s regime increasingly risky. Furthermore, the Turkish government continues to move closer and closer to Russia, as they hold an innocent American pastor, Andrew Brunson, in prison to use him as a pawn in political negotiations. The United States does not reward hostage-taking of American citizens; such action instead will be met with the kind of punitive measures this bill would enact”.
This insulting statement reveals an unbridled sense of hypocrisy for several reasons. First of all, the US is close allies with Saudi Arabia and “Israel”, two regional powers that not only disregard the rule of law but basic human rights conventions on a daily if not hourly basis. Secondly, Turkey’s healthy partnership with Russia is only the business of Turkey and Russia, not least because Turkey remains open to working with a variety of countries including China, Pakistan, Russia, the US and various European and Arab states. Finally, Andrew Brunson is accused of conspiring with the dangerous terrorist group FETO. While Brunson is getting a normal trial in a Turkish court, the US has a habit of kidnapping suspected terrorists and holding them in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp without charge or the right to a speedy and fair trial.
The bill to block the F-35s from going to Turkey amounts to an attempt to sanction Turkey through the backdoor. It is nothing less than an attempt to bully and blackmail Turkey into breaking off its important partnership for peace, prosperity and security with the Russian Federation. Unlike India which is rapidly abandoning its decades long Russian partner due to US threats, Turkey remains steadfast in its refusal to be bullied or blackmailed by anyone in spite of close relations between Ankara and Washington during much of the 20th century.
While Turkey does not seek to close any doors with western partners, whether its the US arming PKK aligned terrorists in Syria and now threatening backdoor sanctions over Ankara’s desire to complete the sale of the Russian S-400s or the French President‘s courting of an anti-Turkish terrorist in the Presidential palace, to Germany‘s refusal to crack down on PKK activity in its borders – the clear pattern is that western powers are trying to alienate, provoke and threaten Turkey, while Turkey is not doing anything objectively abnormal in its relations with the west.
By contrast, in spite of some lingering points of disagreement, Russo-Turkish relations are rapidly improving, while the personal relationship between the Presidents of Turkey and Russia remains at an all time high. Russia and Turkey have a relationship based on respect, pragmatism and a mutual desire for regional piece. By contrast, Turkey’s western “partners” continue to insult President Erdogan, habour PKK terrorists and in the case of the US in particular, arm, fund and work with PKK aligned terrorists in northern Syria.
For Turkey it is not just a matter of Russia being an important Eurasian partner, but it is also a matter of Europe and the US making it impossible for Turkey to work with them under normal conditions.