The latest US sanctions imposed on Turkey are an example of Washington’s double standards on defense weapons acquisition, as they also threaten the decades-long strong relations between the two long-time allies.
The sanctions imposed Monday under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) targeted Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries, its head Ismail Demir and three other officials over Ankara’s decision to acquire Russian missile defense system.
However, the sanctions that are imposed on a NATO member exemplify the latest blow in a series of historical events that Washington abandoned Ankara, one of its strongest allies since the 1950s.
Although Turkey had repeatedly sought to buy but could not acquire American or European defense missile systems in recent years, it was left with no choice but to procure S-400 missiles from Russia.
As a result, Turkey now has to deal with many potential US restrictions although there were three other NATO members in the past that purchased Russian defense systems — Greece, Bulgaria, and Slovakia — who did not face any US sanctions.
Greece, which has been a NATO member since 1952 like Turkey, had acquired Russian S-300 missiles in 1996, and other defense systems in 1999 and 2004, but Athens did not see any sanctions.
Athens, in addition, decided to use the S-300 missiles during a NATO exercise between Nov. 23-27 in the island of Crete where NATO members Germany, the Netherlands and the US also participated.
Russia has a contract with Bulgaria for helicopter modernization, and another with Slovakia for upgrading fighter jets, according to Rosoboronexport, the only authorized exporter of Russian arms.
Moscow also has military ties with some other US allies that are not part of NATO, such as South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh in 2017 had a $3.5 billion deal with Moscow on arms and equipment delivery, while the UAE and Russia signed in 2006 a deal on military and technical cooperation after inking many contracts during the 1990s.
Trump blasting Obama for Patriot refusal
Although Washington has argued that Turkey cannot activate S-400 missiles while being a partner in the US’ F-35 fighter jet program, Ankara’s efforts to mitigate the conflict through acquiring US-made Patriot missiles never came to fruition.
This was evident in efforts of outgoing US President Donald Trump harshly criticizing former President Barack Obama’s course of action that blocked providing Turkey with Patriots.
“Obama administration said no, no, no to Turkey when they wanted to purchase Patriots and they [Turkey] bought S-400,” Trump said in his closing speech at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
As Trump called his predecessor’s reluctance and failure to sell Patriots to Turkey a “mess,” the US president also blamed the Obama administration for the S-400 row, and added the issue is neither Turkey’s nor Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fault.
US escalating tensions despite Turkey’s efforts
Despite Turkey’s efforts of strengthening bilateral ties in the past seven decades, Washington had made some critical choices hurting the relations between the two countries.
Since its accession into NATO, Turkey has been a key strategic partner of the organization, providing military support and troops during the Korean War in early 1950s.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11 attacks on US soil, Turkey strongly cooperated with Washington on its counterterrorism efforts and “War on Terror”.
For the US’ war in Iraq, Turkey positioned around 15,000 troops on its border in December 2002, and later sent military personnel to Afghanistan as part of NATO missions.
The infamous “hood event”, on the other hand, was one of the most significant incidents that hurt relations between the two nations when US military personnel in July 2003 captured Turkish troops putting hoods over their heads and interrogated them in northern Iraq.
While the US has been shipping weapons to Turkey’s avowed enemies, the terror group YPG/PYD, in northern Syria, Washington still continues to ignore the requests of its historical NATO-ally and its national interests. The YPG is the Syrian affiliate of PKK, which is listed as terror group by Turkey, EU and the US.
Washington, in addition, still remains silent against Ankara’s demands to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the mastermind Turkey views responsible for the 2016 defeated coup attempt that left more than 250 people dead and 2,000 others injured.
Washington also abandoned Turkey when US President John F. Kennedy in 1962 had agreed to dismantle all the US’ Jupiter defense missiles located on Turkish soil against the Soviet Union in exchange of withdrawal of Russian missiles in Cuba, leaving Turkey out in the cold during the Cold War.
The US had refused to take side in Cyprus conflict between Turkey and Greece in late 1950s, and the US Congress imposed an arms sales embargo on Turkey after Ankara sent forces to the island in 1974.
US President Lyndon B. Johnson had written in 1964 a harsh letter to then-Turkish Prime Minister Ismet Inonu, warning him not to use military weapons provided by Washington in an operation in Cyprus island.
What are the latest penalties?
With the sanctions imposed Monday under CAATSA, outgoing President Trump or President-elect Joe Biden may now choose from at least five of 12 options of sanctions on Turkey within 30 days.
Most of the options are economic, which include restrictions on US goods and services, American credit and assistance, and large loans from US financial institutions, and sanctions on financial institutions holding US government funds.
There are also options involving global financial measures, such as sanctions on foreign-exchange transactions under US jurisdiction, on bank payments or transfers subject to US jurisdiction, and on any investment in US debt or equity.
The US on Monday has also targeted two of Russian natural gas pipeline projects that are being constructed — Nord Stream 2 that will deliver gas to Germany and TurkStream that will send gas to Turkey and eastern Europe.
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