Oct 2, 2021
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“Get additional trump cards”: what is behind the possible expansion of military cooperation between Turkey and the United States

The defense ministers of the United States and Turkey discussed the possibilities of expanding and strengthening mutual military cooperation, the Pentagon said. The ministry also stressed that Washington attaches great importance to defense ties with Ankara. The talks took place against the backdrop of recent statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about his intention to purchase an additional batch of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia. In addition, he criticized the American authorities for sanctions against Ankara, excluding it from the F-35 fighter program and refusing to sell Patriot air defense systems to the republic. According to experts, Turkey is trying to use the current situation with maximum benefit for itself. At the same time, analysts point out that many geopolitical differences remain between Ankara and Washington.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar discussed in a telephone conversation the strengthening of military cooperation and the common threat of terrorism. This was reported at the Pentagon.

“Lloyd Austin confirmed that the United States attaches great importance to cooperation with Turkey in the military sphere, which was recently demonstrated by the close cooperation of both countries on Afghanistan,” the US department said in a statement.

“It was worth it”

The US-Turkish talks took place against the backdrop of recent statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Ankara’s plans to purchase an additional batch of S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems from Moscow. The Turkish leader, in particular, spoke about this after a meeting in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The process in relation to the S-400 continues, there is not even a question of retreating,” the politician quotes the Hurriyet Daily News.

  • President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • AP
  • © Vladimir Smirnov / Sputnik

Erdogan also noted that the prospect of joint construction of aircraft engines and combat aircraft was discussed at the meeting.

“I hope we will take a similar step with regard to aircraft engines. Another question is that we can take many joint steps in shipbuilding. We will again join forces with Russia, including (question.- RT) on submarines, ”the head of Turkey said.

Erdogan’s words about possible directions of military-technical cooperation between the countries were also confirmed by the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov.

“We discussed the possibility of producing some components (S-400. – RT) on Turkish territory, ”said Peskov.

In addition, in an interview with The New York Times, Erdogan also stated that he considers the purchase of the first batch of Triumphs from Russia as a correct and profitable decision. According to him, Ankara “would not have to buy the S-400” if the United States provided Turkey with Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems.

“I think it was worth it. We can strengthen our defenses as we wish, ”Erdogan answered when asked whether it was worth purchasing the S-400, despite the prospect of deteriorating relations with Washington.

Sanctions and fighters

Turkey signed a contract with Russia for the supply of S-400 air defense systems worth $ 2.5 billion in September 2017. The United States strongly opposed this deal, arguing its position by the incompatibility of “Triumphs” with NATO systems, of which Ankara is a member. In this regard, Washington has repeatedly demanded that the Turkish leadership abandon the acquisition of the S-400. However, Turkey ignored this, and by the fall of 2019, Russia had fulfilled all its obligations under the contract.

In response, the United States excluded Turkey from the F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role fighter program, in which it also pledged to buy 100 American combat aircraft. Later, restrictions were also imposed on Ankara under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), under which the secretariat of the country’s defense industry and its head Ismail Demir fell. As noted in the State Department, the restrictions imply, among other things, “a ban on the issuance in the United States of special licenses and permits for the export of any goods or technology,” as well as “a ban on the issuance of loans or credits by US financial institutions in the amount of more than $ 10 million in any 12- month period “.

Turkey then promised to take reciprocal steps to Washington’s decision, which would “inevitably negatively” affect bilateral relations, leaving it with the right to choose the nature and timing of reciprocal measures.

Meanwhile, Moscow and Ankara continue negotiations to conclude a second contract for the S-400. It, according to the head of Rosoboronexport, Alexander Mikheev, is likely to be signed by the end of this year.

  • Air defense complex S-400 “Triumph”
  • RIA News
  • © Alexey Malgavko

As Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized in an interview with the American television channel CBS, “no one can interfere” in the decisions that the country makes to strengthen its defenses. According to him, the priority remains the interests of the republic, and not the likely loss of trust in Ankara on the part of Washington.

Meanwhile, the State Department has once again warned Turkey about the consequences of the further acquisition of the S-400 air defense system. As US First Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman recalled during a telephone briefing, “such systems are incompatible … with NATO systems.”

“Different interests”

According to the experts interviewed by RT, for Turkey in the first place is always the renewal and strengthening of its own military potential, so it is ready to make contact with those partners who offer the most favorable conditions. However, as noted by military expert Alexei Leonkov, Ankara is unlikely to receive from the same US the weapons in which it is really interested.

“There are still quite a few disagreements between the United States and Turkey, especially over Syria and Iraq. In this regard, I do not expect the United States to supply the equipment that Erdogan wants. And this, in turn, means that although cooperation will continue, but at a level that is unlikely to suit the Turkish side, “Leonkov explained to RT.

He also noted that in the light of Erdogan’s high-profile statements, Washington feels that it is missing a strategically important partner in the region. Therefore, as the expert expects, in exchange for a possible expansion of military-technical cooperation, the United States will most likely require certain geopolitical preferences for itself.

“At the same time, the White House administration is not ready to admit that Ankara can play an independent role that has not been agreed with the American side. On many issues, Turkey’s activity now goes beyond the framework that was defined for it in Washington. In my opinion, a substantial expansion of cooperation should not be expected, as well as public quarrels. The United States simply intends to follow Erdogan’s actions, since Turkey, as an independent player, is extremely undesirable for them, ”the analyst says.

In turn, political analyst Alexander Asafov believes that Ankara is currently trying to make the most of the situation with the United States, which is annoyed by its cooperation with Moscow.

“It is enough to look at the recently held joint exercises of Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey to understand that Ankara is strengthening in the region from which the US recently left. At the same time, Turkey as a whole does not say a final “no” to the United States, despite a number of harsh statements by Erdogan regarding NATO and American partners in order to keep them in good shape. The Americans, however, want to pull Ankara back to themselves in order to influence through it those regions that they do not directly control now, “Asafov explained to RT.

At the same time, analysts agree that one should not expect from Turkey a complete refusal to criticize the United States, even if they offer Ankara any areas of cooperation that are interesting for it.

“Ankara and Washington have different interests. In this case, the interests of the United States boil down to ensuring that everyone plays by their rules, which is not at all profitable for Turkey. Today Ankara wants to establish its own norms and rules of the game, and in general this process will continue, ”Leonkov said.

Moreover, in his opinion, the Turkish leadership is well aware that the United States is more accustomed to using its allies than interacting on an equal footing.

Alexander Asafov also recalled that relations between the current authorities of the republic and the United States are further complicated by the fact that a public figure and preacher Fethullah Gulen is hiding on American territory, whom Erdogan accuses of attempting a coup d’etat in the country in 2016.

“Erdogan will never forgive the United States for not giving him Fethullah Gulen. This is a fundamental question for him. Despite the fact that the Turkish president in the political field can cooperate or blackmail, as well as make concessions, he will not change his position on Gulen, ”the political scientist says.

  • Pentagon
  • © PantherMedia / legion-media

In this regard, in his opinion, the Turkish president will continue to adhere to the course of strengthening contacts only with those countries that are beneficial to him to achieve his goals.

“He will talk to the United States in order to get additional trump cards in his conversation with Russia. And, on the contrary, it will cooperate with Moscow partly in opposition to the White House, ”Asafov explained.

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