Turkey is a unique country in its region insofar as it has never once had a conflict with the United States. In fact, Turkey has long been a loyal ally of the United States that has brought stability to its region whilst maintaining the second largest army in all of NATO. To celebrate this fact, US Vice President Mike Pence has said the following:
Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our @NATO alliance?
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) April 3, 2019
Piling on to the anti-Turkey bandwagon, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of the “potentially devastating consequences of unilateral Turkish military action in the region [northern Syria]”. Finally, a US State Department official challenged the legitimacy of Turkey’s peaceful and fair local elections. The pompous accuser had seemingly forgotten that for two years, the US was busy investigating whether an allegedly rigged election resulted in a foreign agent being elected President of the US.
The proximate cause of these threatening statements issued by Washington to a long standing ally is to do with Turkey’s confirmation that it will take delivery of S-400 missile defence systems from their Russian producer. Already, the US has risked putting its own F-35 programme in jeapordy by cutting off supply lines of F-35 parts to Turkey – a country that helped to design the new fighter jets, due to Ankara’s S-400 deal.
Now, fresh after successful local elections, the US is suggesting that Turkey is putting NATO at risk due to the fact it wishes to purchase Russian defensive weapons. It is helpful to remember that Turkey has already made explicit guarantees to Washington that no Russian personnel will be in Turkey to operate the S-400s and that instead, Turkish armed forces will train to use them in Russia before returning to Turkey. Even so, this cast iron guarantee that Turkey made as a gesture of good will has not satisfied the US.
Of course, given Turkey’s track record of never once doing anything to harm US security, it is clear that there is more to America’s hysterical reaction to the S-400 deal than just the anti-Russian sentiments that reign supreme within the context of America’s “new Cold War”.
The US is attempting to use Turkey to set a precedent in the enforcement of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). This Act unilaterally authorises the US Treasury Department to enact sanctions against nations trading with Iran, Russia or the DPRK without first receiving a waiver from Washington. The concept of the waiver is significant. Whilst America has been trying to dissuade Russia’s Cold War partner India from buying S-400s, the US eventually tacitly green-lighted the sale of modern Russian weapons to America’s new Indian partner.
But while India and the US were effectively on opposite sides of the Cold War, Turkey which was among the first countries to join NATO is being treated like the long time enemy. There is no coincidence behind this. The US is worried that if a close US partner can course an independent path of economic development and security upgrades whilst still fulfilling its overarching duties to its long term partners, as a result, the big threat of CAATSA will lose its bite before the eyes of the wider world. As such, the US has ploughed the depths of vulgarity in order to ‘make an example’ of Turkey. It goes without saying that this is the behaviour of a selfish bully and not that of a partner.
Secondly, the US is using the S-400 issue to make provocative statements relating to Turkey’s goal of neutralising the YPG-PKK terror group east of the River Euphrates in north-eastern Syria. In spite of Donald Trump’s calls for a phased US withdrawal, American troops remain in the region, coordination with Turkey has not yet reached a meaningful level and most worryingly, the US remains steadfastly allied with the YPG-PKK terror forces on the ground in north-eastern Syria.
Against this background, it is little wonder that Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay stated:
“”The United States must choose. Does it want to remain Turkey’s ally or risk our friendship by joining forces with terrorists to undermine its NATO ally’s defence against its enemies?”
If America’s behaviour wasn’t bad enough in terms of its total lack of diplomacy and circumspection, the fact that at this late hour in the Syria conflict, the US appears to be using the YPG-PKK as a bargaining chip to try and force Turkey’s hand in a sovereign decision that is no one’s business by Ankara’s, makes it clear that the US continues to under-rate the dangers that PKK terrorism poses to Turkey even though America knows full well that the group took the lives of 40,000 innocent Turks since the late 1970s.
Then of course there is the pressure that Israel and pro-Israel groups in the US are applying to force America’s hand against its Turkish partner. Eurasia Future recently published a full analytical report on this specific matter.
After what appeared to be a Turkey-US rapprochement in the last quarter of 2018 and the early weeks of 2019, the US has reverted to a possession of lose-lose hostility against Turkey. That being said, whilst the US is accustomed to getting its way both with subservient European allies and weak Asian, Latin American and African adversaries, when it comes to Turkey, Washington will learn that it is not so easy to bully the country run by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan has staked his country’s future on a truly independent foreign policy and as such, he will not submit to the bullying tactics of a US government that has failed to recognise how much the United Sates has benefited from decades of partnership with Turkey.