Turkey too important for West to lose - analysis

Until Washington adopts a long-term strategic posture designed to safeguard Turkey’s core interests, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will continue to play Moscow off against Washington, which may ultimately lead to a viable new regional order, said an analysis for conservative U.S. think tank the Hudson Institute.

Thinking that Turkey can simply be banished from NATO and treating the country as a second-class member of the alliance with no adverse consequences for the West is a monumental failure of the imagination, wrote analysts Michael Doran and Peter Rough.

Tensions are soaring in Ankara-Washington relations with Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence systems. U.S. officials have repeatedly told NATO-ally Turkey that the S-400 poses a threat to U.S. military systems, particularly the F-35 stealth fighter jet, and warned that sanctions would be triggered by Turkey’s installation of the Russian system. 

Washington in the meantime has removed Turkey from the F-35 joint strike fighter programme, in a major blow to the Turkish Air Force, which had ordered 100 planes as its combat fighter of the future. 

“This is not an isolated commercial transaction, the mere purchase of a single weapon. It is a repositioning of Turkey in international politics,’’ the article said.

According to Doran and Rough it is difficult at this stage to predict the second and third order effects of the American retaliation to Ankara’s move, however what is clear is that Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 is not the whimsical move of Erdoğan. 

‘’He is playing Moscow off against Washington so that Turkey can no longer be taken for granted by either,’’ the article said, adding that the move is designed to increase Turkey’s options. 

As Moscow and Turkey cooperation soars, the two countries are even holding talks about the joint manufacturing of some components of Russia's S-400 missile defence system in Turkey, according to Sergei Chemezov, the head of Russia's Rostec state conglomerate.

In the United States Ankara’s move to purchase the S-400 is uniformly described as a blunder of monumental proportions with Turkey’s Western orientation hanging in the balance, the analysts said.

While Erdoğan’s era in Turkey has been marked by crackdowns on the press and political opponents, it hard to put the blame squarely on the country’s president.  

It is Washington’s choice to treat clashes along the Turkish-Syrian border since the outbreak of the civil war as more of a disinterested bystander than as the ally of Turkey that has led to Turkish disaffection with the United States, the article said. U.S. support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian Kurdish organization that Washington turned into its primary partner in defeating the Islamic State in Syria, have further alienated Ankara from Washington, it article added.

Turkish suspicions of American intentions explain a great deal about the decision to acquire the S-400s, which is in effect an exercise to prove to Washington that Turkey will not be taken for granted, the article said. 

How the Washington will further respond to Turkey’s purchase to this challenge will shape U.S.-Turkish relations for decades to come, according to Rough and Doran, who say that the most glaring flaw in the “Turkey is not an ally” doctrine is the assumption that Turkey is not as important to Western strategy as it used to be. 

The article underlined that Germany can play an important role in countering the prevailing view of U.S.-Turkish relations as doomed and can help guide Washington as it seeks to manage the fallout from the S-400 crisis.

Turkey, the most stable and reliable allies of the West, has been indispensable in shielding Europe from the worst aspects of Middle Eastern power politics and is more important than ever, according to the analysts.