This week, the world observed the most recent contributor to the dysfunctional state of the U.S.-Turkey relationship.
The Trump administration recently issued an ultimatum to the Turkish government regarding their intended purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia: Refrain from purchasing the S-400 or we will sanction you.
The concerns of President Trump and his people on the setting up of S-400 batteries in Turkey are two-fold: First is obviously the economic factor. The U.S. would rather that Ankara, a NATO ally, purchase the American PATRIOT system. More important, however, is the strategic consideration. Turkey using Russian-made weapons ultimately means a substantial security partnership between the two countries. In fact, Turkish personnel have already begun training in Russia for how to use the S-400. A much more serious concern is that S-400 radar technology could provide Russia with access to secret information on U.S. military tech used by Turkey such as the F-35 stealth fighter jet—Turkey’s military would, after all, integrate their anti-aircraft defense with their warplanes.
But it would be overly simple to reduce the fragmented U.S.-Turkey relationship to the S-400 debacle alone. Regional issues are also at play. Turkey’s partnership with Iran as well as Ankara’s policies targeting the Syrian Kurds —an important U.S. ally in Syria— have been major factors in this serious diplomatic decline.
The latest reports from media indicate that Turkey will most likely fall in line with American wishes, despite the late hour. The threat of sanctions coupled with a crippled economy will probably be the determining factors for Turkey’s leaders.