While much of the world’s media has focused on the US sanctions war against Russia, few have delved into the most alarming clause in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA). Unless seriously amended, the Act as currently comprised reserves for Washington, the automatic right to sanction any third country that purchases weapons from the Russian Federation. This essentially means that the US seeks to employ the same techniques of a stereotypical mafia syndicate who refuse to allow local businesses to purchase their goods from anyone not affiliated with the local mafia family.
While the US oddly complains of China engaging in unfair commercial competition in spite of China’s pro-free trade policies not violating any World Trade Organisation rules, the US seeks to use CAATSA to force countries throughout the world to purchase expensive US weapons over cheaper and often better Russian alternatives, under the threat of being cut off from dollar dominated US based finance markets. This is of course a test book definition of unfair trading practises, but due to America’s strength, it is doubtful that any international bodies will directly hold Washington to account.
While this element of the CAATSA seeks to create an global atmosphere of totally unfair competition in favour of US goods, America’s increasingly pragmatic Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis has recently suggested an exemption to this CAATSA restriction for US partners who seek to buy weapons from both the US and Russia. Mattis brought up the fact that as many new US partners including India and Vietnam must necessarily buy weapons from Russia if for no other reason than to maintain and upgrade their old existing stockpiles of Soviet/Russian weapons, that it would be foolish to effectively end America’s weapons sales with India and Vietnam due to a pragmatic fact of logistical realities.
While Mattis did not mention Turkey by name, as a country that is a traditional (and some would say contemporary) US ally that is now finalising a deal to purchase the Russian made S-400 missile defence system, such an exemption that could apply to India or Vietnam could logically apply to Turkey, even though while Vietnam and India are traditional Russian security partners that have recently pivoted towards the US market, Turkey is a long time NATO member that is pivoting its sovereign interests increasingly towards Russian security, trade, energy and diplomatic partnerships.
But while Mattis’s proposal awaits Congressional consideration, India and Turkey have already responded to the CAATSA rules in complete different ways. According to the Economic Times of India, New Delhi has already frozen payments to Russia for new weapons, which puts the historic trading partnership between Russia and India in serious jeopardy. The Economic Times article states,
“Financial sanctions by the US have hit India’s arms trade with Russia hard, with payments for weapons and equipment worth over $2 billion stuck after banks refused to make remittances to Moscow fearing penal action.
With Russia’s flagship arms trading company Rosoboronexport coming under sanctions by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) last month, almost the entire arms trade with India has come to a grinding halt after the State Bank of India put an immediate stop to all payments from April 17″.
If the information in the article is correct, this means that before even lobbying for the kinds of exemptions that Secretary Mattis was arguing for, India has already capitulated to the implicit threats in CAATSA and is moving to effectively end a decades long security partnership with Moscow, seemingly without so much as a robust discussion with the parties involved.
In Turkey, the opposite attitude has been taken. In spite of still being a member of NATO, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has issued a firm rebuke of the US threat to sanction Turkey for its S-400 purcase. Cavusoglu stated,
“If the United States imposes sanctions on us or takes such a step, Turkey will absolutely retaliate. What needs to be done is the US needs to let go of this. Turkey is not a country under your orders, it is an independent country… speaking to such a country from above, dictating what it can and cannot buy, is not a correct approach and does not fit our alliance”.
This is not the first time that Turkey has rebuked the US for threatening sanctions over its weapons deals with Russia. In raising the stakes, Ankara has essentially told the US that if it interferes with Turkey’s sovereign right to purchase weapons from the country of its choosing, Washington would be inherently jeopardising what remains of a decades long alliance. Furthermore, while Turkey seeks to broaden its geopolitical partnerships in-line with President Erdogan’s policy of pursuing multipolar partnerships with Russia, China, Iran, Sudan and other parts of Africa, Uzbekistan and other Turkic countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Ankara is not going to let threats from the US deter this key element to Turkey’s revival as a great power under Erdogan’s leadership.
Against the background of a combination of US Senators from both major parties attempting to block sales of the US F-35 fighter jets to Turkey in a vindictive move the senators pin on Anakra’s security partnership with Russia, Turkey is growing increasingly adamant in its warnings that it will refuse to be intimidated by US threats and that furthermore, it will retaliate appropriately as is Turkey’s right as a sovereign nation.
While some alt-media demagogues challenge the sincerity and efficacy of Turkey’s burgeoning partnership with Russia, while ignoring India’s overt pivot towards the US and away from both Russia and Russia’s most important Asian partners, the fact of the matter is that Turkey’s defiance of America’s threats speak for itself. Furthermore, India’s willingness to freeze the sales of Russian weapons without even using the US Defence Secretary’s own words as leverage against Washington in an attempt to reach a compromise solution, demonstrates how the current Indian government is both subservient to the US and in denial about Russia’s own gradual withdrawal from an Indian partnership that New Delhi has demonstrated is expendable in spite of decades of loyalty from Russia.