Breakdown in Turkey-U.S. relations will benefit Russia, Iran – Foreign Affairs

Both the Trump administration and Congress must work  to limit the damage caused by tensions with Turkey,  which the United States needs as a strategically located Muslim-majority country with NATO’s second-largest military, Foreign Affairs magazine said on Friday.

Relations between the United States and Turkey have taken a real nose-dive over the past six months, the article said, pointing to Turkey’s acquisition of advanced Russian air defence systems over U.S. objections and Ankara’s targeting Syrian Kurdish militias allied with the United States in northern Syria. 

Turkey maintains its purchase of the S-400 system was "not a choice but a necessity" because it was under serious threat, and in Syria, Ankara sees the U.S. allied Kurdish forces as an existential threat due to their links to a Kurdish insurgency on its own soil.

Washington has responded to Turkey’s moves by punitive measures, including the Trump administration refusing to deliver advanced F-35 fighter jets to Turkey,  Congress advancing legislation that would impose powerful sanctions on Turkey’s defence industry and both houses of Congress recognizing the 1915 massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, the article said.

"At this point, what is left of the bilateral relationship is largely sustained by the volatile personal rapport between the two mercurial and populist presidents, both of whom are prone to emotional outbursts and erratic decision-making,’’ Foreign Affairs said, pointing out however that Trump has thus far refused to implement congressionally mandated sanctions on Ankara.

Sanctioning Turkey’s defence industry could prompt Turkey to buy even more Russian defence equipment, it said, leading to additional U.S. sanctions, further Turkish retaliation, and a downward spiral of tension between the two sides.

Moving forward, Erdoğan and Trump should task their top diplomats with exploring practical solutions away from the political limelight, the article said.

Turkey, which is almost certain to deploy the S-400 system, should receive a firm U.S. response involving the implementation of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), it said. 

And separate discussions must be held with Ankara about the future of war-torn Syria,  it added.

U.S. interests will suffer if the relationship between Ankara and Washington breaks down completely, Foreign Affairs said, a move that would benefit Iran and Russia.