Turkey goes for win-win while refusing to backdown over its S-400 purchase
Turkish journalists have reported the details of a private communication between the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which Turkey remained firm in standing by its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence systems but was nevertheless willing offer Turkey a gentlemanly compromise over the matter. In order to placate US anxiety over the deal, Cavusoglu assured his US counterpart that no Russian personnel would be in Turkey operating the S-4000s, but that instead, Turks would be in full operational control of the units. This indeed fits in with President Erdogan’s desire to work with Russia to jointly manufacture the S-400’s successor systems on Turkish soil while Turkey seeks to become increasingly self-sufficient in terms of military hardware in the coming decades.
According to these reports, Turkey also stated that it welcomed US officials to come and monitor all NATO hardware in Turkey so that they can be assured that there is nothing about the S-400 purchase that could undermine Turkey’s NATO membership.
The logic of this win-win offer that Ankara has given Washington is air tight and as Russia has no ambition to change Turkey’s multipolar model, Moscow would be more than happy for such a deal to take shape. While the US has yet to acknowledge let alone act upon the offer, if the US rejects this more than generous deal, it could only be for one reason.
The US is using the S-400 deal as a weapon of mass distraction
At present, the US is threatening countries that buy weapons from Russia with so-called second party sanctions according to the new standards set out in Washington’s CAATSA legislation. These methods that seem to have worked in coaxing India out of vital security deals with Russia have thus far been totally ineffective against Turkey. Turkey’s Presidential spokesman just reiterated that Ankara will go through with its S-400 deal with Russia and that Turkey is above being threatened by its supposed US partner.
Of course, the United States has a long history of turning against former allies when they begin exhibiting a truly independent foreign policy that at times goes against America’s own strategic ambitions. This was true of Iraq which in the 1980s was an ally, only to be invaded by the US in 1990s. It was also true of Libya which was attacked by NATO in 2011 after signing a de-militarisation agreement in 2003. Likewise, while Yugoslavia’s President Slobodan Milosevic was vilified by the US in the late 1990s before his country was illegally attacked by the US led alliance, in 1995, Milosevic came to the US to sign the Dayton Accords which were widely praised in Washington at the time.
These are just a few of many contemporary examples of the US turning, often at a rapid pace, against long standing allies. Turkey and the US already have a number of profound disputes which include the following:
1. The covert and sometimes overt aid the US offers to the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO) which staged the 2016 attempted coup against Turkey’s legitimate government.
2. The US refusal to extradite FETO terrorists including its leader Fethullah Gulen who is living in the United States.
3. The US battlefield alliance with the Syrian branch of the PKK terror group YPG.
4. US complaints against Turkey’s trying of a US citizen with suspected ties to FETO called Andrew Brunson.
5. America’s threats to withhold full and final delivery of the F-35 fighter jets that Ankara ordered from the US.
Throughout these disputes, the S-400s represent a convenient excuse for the US to use in making threats of sanctions against Turkey. Ultimately though, it would appear that it is Turkey’s independent, multipolar, globally minded foreign policy under the leadership of President Erdogan that is more worrying to the US than the S-400s. This is especially the case now that Turkey has made the US a gentlemanly offer that would be hard for anyone to refuse under normal circumstances.
A new anti-Turkish alliance
Then there is the open alliance among Turkophobic groups that is forming in the US between the once neutral (in respect of Turkey) Jewish lobby and the perennially anti-Ankara Hellenic and Armenian lobbies.
In the United States, the powerful Jewish lobby has joined forces with the comparatively smaller but still influential US based Hellenic and Armenian lobbies to protest the sale of US made F-35 jets to Ankara. While the move ultimately failed, it demonstrated that unlike in the past where the US Jewish lobby did not try to antagonise Turkey, in 2018, it is willing to team up with lobbies whose primary objective is to promote grievances against Turkey.
Against this background, it is perhaps not surprising that Gilad Erdan, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud faction has called for Tel Aviv to recognise the events of 1915 as an “Armenian Genocide”. If “Israel” were to officially to do this, it would represent a clear break between Tel Aviv and Ankara and quite possibly a point of no return. The more Turkey stands up for Palestine, the more voices like those of Erdan will become amplified in arguing for a move that is less about Armenia (a traditionally anti-Zionist nation) than about sending a clear message to Turkey that the partnership has run its course.
This itself has mirrored a new and growing security partnerships between Tel Aviv, Athens and Nicosia with a parallel energy partnership growing between the same bloc with the addition of Egypt’s anti-Turkish government. Crucially all of this has happened with the tacit blessing of the United States.
In spite of the recent deal cut between Anakra and Washington to work collaboratively to disarm the PKK/YPG in Manbij, America’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the deal combined with the overriding hostility the US is still heaping upon Turkey suggests that wider existential issues between the two “partners” are at play. In this sense, the S-400 dispute appears to be little more than a convenient excuse for the US to attempt and inflict harm on Turkey, not because of Turkey’s desire to defend its airspace with an effective piece of Russian made hardware, but because Turkey is too independent and too strong to be pushed around by Washington.