F-35 Crisis in Turkish-American Relations

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Turkish-American relations, which can have been started with the Truman Doctrine or a year before that, the Missouri battleship, which brought the funeral of Turkey’s ambassador to Washington Münir Ertegün by crossing the ocean, are moving rapidly towards the starting point as of today.

Sides are very aware that one last misstep in a relationship I call “pointless point” will lead to serious costs. Because Turkey is drifting, more precisely is being pushed step by step towards a decision again in the process that it has started at its security/survival point. The F-35 crisis can be considered one of the most basic indicators of this.

In this context, demanding the suspension of the sale of F-35 to Turkey in the US House of Representatives’ Bill regarding the budget of the US Department of Defense (Pentagon), known as the “National Defense Authorization Act” emerges as very important development.

In this bill, the issues listed in the section entitled “Report on the Status of US Relations with the Republic of Turkey” are as follows:

1) The United States–Republic of Turkey relationship, over the past year, has become increasingly strained due to several provocative actions taken by the Government of Turkey.

2) The potential purchase by the Government of Turkey of the S-400 air and missile defense system from the Russian Federation has led to tension with the relationship.

3) These actions could negatively impact common weapon system development between the United States and Turkey.

4) These actions could exacerbate current North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) interoperability challenges with respect to common military architecture and information sharing.

5) These actions could impact current bilateral agreements between the United States and Turkey.

This can also be described in the first place as an attitude/response of the US against the S-400. It is a correct determination but incomplete… Because there is even the “pastor crisis” in it. Indeed, US Senator Tillis says this amendment is prepared as a response to the imprisonment of the American citizen Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey and Turkey’s plans to purchase the S-400 missile defence system.

Well, doesn’t the US know what kind of reactions/conclusions this decision could have? Of course it knows. If it doesn’t know, then the US should leave this job! Therefore, it can be argued that there is a systematic/conscious situation/attitude towards Turkey in terms of the United States.

Turkey is also revealing every rational actor’s reflex in response to this. Having been forced to follow a one-sided relationship with the US/West due to the Soviet Russia’s threat 73 years ago, Ankara has now put the balance of Russia once again in the center of its foreign policy over the threat perception of its allies. The next step will be the Turkey-Russia alliance, which, frankly, is no longer a surprise as of the present stage…

The Russian military expert who assesses the developments experienced due to the F-35 crisis I have just mentioned, is also drawing attention to the fact that this process has reached the threshold of a significant fracture. A columnist for the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, a retired colonel Viktor Baranets, states that after the S-400, Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-originating Su-57 fighters instead of the US-made F-35, will further alienate Turkey from NATO and the US. Baranets uses the following phrase: “The Americans are ready to do anything for Erdogan to give up the idea of Russian Su-57. Because such an agreement will further push Turkey away from NATO and the US.”

Furthermore, the Russian military expert has also pointed out that the dispatch of military equipment to Turkey has foreseen the development of a common strategy for military behaviour in the region, including Syria.

This is very important as it shows that the normalization process initiated after June 27 is actually aimed at a much deeper strategic co-operation. This reveals once again how the Turkish-Russian relations have evolved in the context of the “Joint Action Plan for Cooperation in Eurasia, dated November 16, 2001”, which we repeatedly underlined in this corner.

Indeed, although there is no formal stance of Ankara, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given a green light to Turkey for the Su-57, as in the S-400 case. Putin’s statement “Turkey has the right to make a choice at the point of supplying the fighter aircraft. It will take care of its national interests, taking into consideration the price and quality elements”, summarizes the new level in Turkish-Russian relations very clearly.