PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – The outgoing Trump administration eventually decided to do what it had promised for two years. Today, US officially imposed sanctions on Ankara for the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing several sources, including Reuters.
Something the world had been waiting for a long time and no longer believed would happen. Trump has been threatening Turkey with these sanctions for a long time. So long that Erdogan did not take it seriously and ordered more Russian S-400 systems. Moreover, Turkey and Russia will do them together.
What do the sanctions include? The sanctions will block joint projects and technology transfers between US companies and Turkish companies linked to a Turkish military supply agency. They also impose restrictions on loans from US financial institutions to the agency in question totaling more than $ 10 million. Besides, assets are frozen, and visa restrictions are introduced for its chairman and three other staff. According to Reuters, it is not immediately clear the impact of sanctions on third countries, such as European countries that supply weapons or defense components and work with Turkish defense companies.
Turkey is ordering Russian S-400 anti-aircraft systems, which are currently arguably the best in the world. Ankara’s action dictates that Washington offers its Patriot systems to the Turks, but at a significantly higher price than the Russian equivalent. As a result, Turkey was expelled from the US F-35 program, supplies of F-35 fighters were cut off, and the Turkish military, currently training in the United States, was returned home. A series of warnings have begun that the US will impose sanctions on Ankara for the purchase.
The “threat of sanctions” process lasts nearly a year and a half and goes through its catharsis. The United States is threatening Turkey that sanctions will follow if the systems are delivered. They were delivered, but sanctions did not follow. The next moment, Washington tries to minimize “losses” by promising the Turks to return them to the F-35 program if they never activate Russian systems. This is also not the case, as Turkey is conducting at least three proven Russian S-400 systems within 12 months.
At one point, Washington tried to pit Ankara against Moscow by publishing a column from the defense budget for next year, which included the “purchase of the Turkish S-400.” Trump’s timid attempt to influence the Turkish decision, which Moscow welcomed with a single answer – “this cannot happen.”
Earlier this year, Turkey sought to reassure the two countries by ensuring that neither Russian nor American technology would be revealed. Ankara has repeatedly stated that the Turkish army will not integrate the S-400 into NATO’s collective defense, nor will it be set up to work with Western weapons technology.
At the end of the year, Turkey conducted the third test of Russian S-400 systems, publishing a missile launch video. This infuriated Washington even more, and lawmakers began writing texts about sanctions against Turkey, which were eventually imposing.
They are massive for both sides. First, sanctions are an economic lever that Trump has begun to test on countries buying competing Russian weapons seriously. In some countries [poorer economies], they exert their influence and change the government’s attitudes, but in others (Turkey, India), they do not lead to the expected result. The Turkish lira is currently at shallow levels and is expecting to lose more value after US sanctions. This will inevitably lead to a downturn in the country’s economy amid the declining image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
At the same time, it turns out that Lockheed Martin will lose nearly $ 900 million from Turkey’s ouster from the F-35 program. Ankara makes approximately 800 parts for US fifth-generation fighters, and the process of finding a new supplier at that price also affects F-35 sales worldwide. Only a month and a half ago, it became clear that despite Ankara’s “non-participation” in F-35 production, the Americans would continue to use their Turkish partners for at least the next two years.
We can divide the reasons for this situation into two – those for the public and geopolitical.
S-400 is incompatible with Western technologies. They use the so-called link 16 for secret communication between each other and the definition of “friend-enemy” – something missing in the Russian S-400 systems, which are classifying as the enemy by default. Simultaneously, Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system has a high-quality radar that can detect “invisible” F-35 fighters with stealth technology. These are the fears of Washington – Russia, through the Turkish S-400, can scan and obtain sensitive data from American technology to use in the development of future weapons systems.
However, geopolitical reasons are at the forefront of this dispute between Turkey and the United States. In recent years, Russian weapons systems have begun to take a significant share of the American market. THAAD and Patriot are no longer as good as the S-400. On top of all that, the next Russian missile system is coming. S-500 will put Russia at least ten years ahead of the rest.
Turkey defends only its interests. There is nothing wrong with that. The United States is on the other side of the world, while Russia is here – in Europe and Asia. The two countries have their gas interests, joint gas projects, and collaborative energy projects. In recent months, even Russia and Turkey have reached an agreement in principle on the Syrian and Libyan issues. Both countries expect significant infrastructure projects in Syria and Libya after the wars are over. Moscow and Ankara have been actively involving in quelling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey hopes to play a significant role in the Caucasus in the future, and good relations with Russia would help make this happen sooner than expected.
The United States may face a serious “Turkish problem” in several areas. First, Ankara and Moscow expect to agree on joint production of Russian S-400 and S-500 anti-aircraft systems. This would be welcome for Moscow, as Truzia could open new markets for Russia in this area. Let’s not forget that Greece also has Russian air defense systems, but S-300. The current precedent could “open the eyes” of other smaller economies receiving support from Turkey and Russia.
Let’s not forget Erdogan’s project for a fighter of the future or the fifth generation. The chance of the Turks losing engines for this type of fighter decreases after these sanctions. They may turn to Russia, especially after Moscow remembers the serial production of its Su-57, and within five years will prepare an export version of the fighter. Which is the other question – from whom will Turkey buy fifth-generation fighters? South Korea? Europe? China? And why not from Russia?
The Turks have so far proved that they are not worried about US sanctions. They have stated it many times and continue to do so. Moreover, they are holding a severe trump card against the United States – the Incirlik Air Base. The US military supports the entire region in the Middle East and the conflicting countries in Asia from this very base. What will happen if Ankara decides to pull the brakes of the US Air Force located at the Turkish military base? If Donald Trump had been re-elected president of the United States, it wouldn’t seem to matter much. He began withdrawing troops from Asia and Europe and could do so from Turkey.
But US President-elect Joe Biden is not Trump. Many military analysts say he will be able to resume some forgotten or temporarily silenced conflicts. And since we know that they will be neither in Europe nor on the Korean Peninsula, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and even Libya remain. The Americans will need the Turkish base now and in the future.
And last but not least. These are not just words, but the sanctions imposed will damage relations between Ankara and Washington. And in these relationships, there are many joint projects.
The next move is for Erdogan.
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