Is there a Way Out of the US-Turkey Deadlock
Washington’s overt aggressive behavior on the international stage provoked by its desire to impose its own vision of the way that the Middle East must look in the future has pushed most of its traditional allies away from it. So it’s only natural that the US keeps losing allies left and right, gradually alienating Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The murder of the prominent Saudi-born journalist Jemal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has done a lot of damage to the bilateral ties between Riyadh and Washington. It seems that Israel remains the only exception in this trend, but since the US does its bidding in the regional game it seems that it can be safely described as a driving force behind it.
Thus, Russia has not just received a chance to reestablish itself as major regional player but it carries on developing relations both economic and political relations with most regional powers. But it doesn’t end there, as Arabs have once again developed taste for Russian weapons. In turn, the ever increasing military potential of regional powers guarantees that the United States will no longer be able to go around policing local capitals as it has isolated itself by its reckless policies.
This context must be well-understood by anyone looking at the ongoing conflict between Washington and Ankara. The ties between two major NATO allies have recently hit the lowest point in decades. Turkey would remain outraged by the support that the US keeps providing to Kurdish militant formations in the immediate vicinity of its national borders. To make the matters worse, no more than a few months ago, Donald Trump would threaten Turkey with orchestrating an economic meltdown in this country for its decision to throw an American pastor behind bars. But the ultimate deadlock that brought contacts between those states to a screeching halt was provoked by Washington’s demand that Ankara kills the deal on purchasing Russia’s top of the line anti-aircraft system, the S-400 complexes.
Those who have been following international politics for a long while would be tempted to draw a line between this recent deadlock between the US and Turkey and the equally dangerous Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Back then Moscow would be vocally protesting against the deployment of American Jupiter missiles in Turkey, as Pentagon accelerated both its intercontinental guided missile (ICBM) and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) programs. Washington’s decision to deploy nuclear-capable missiles in Turkey, resulted in the Pentagon obtaining the capacity to hit major Soviet industrial hubs and large cities long before Moscow could provide a response has nearly caused WWIII. In 1957, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev wend down on this American step as well, while criticizing Turkey its decision to go along with this ill-conceived plan. To counter this step the USSR brought its nuclear-capable missiles to Cuba, with the face off going down in history as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Back then the USSR openly threatened Turkey for the first time. These days the United States threatens Turkey to use the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against Ankara, while US Vice President Mike Pence in his speech on the 70th anniversary of the formation of the North Atlantic Alliance would even question Turkey’s member status in NATO.
However, it seems that Ankara is determined to show to the US that, as a rightful member of the international community, it will be deciding for itself what kind of weapons it wants to see in its arsenals, as the first delivery of S-400 is scheduled for June of this year.
But there’s yet another thing that one can consider to be striking, we all know that back in the Cold War days the United States and the USSR were outspoken enemies. And even though these days Washington still perceives Moscow as its enemy, there’s hardly a chance that the ongoing struggle between the two can transform into a shooting conflict like it was in the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yet, the trend with the US withdrawing from all of the existing arms treaties and the visible recklessness of its foreign policy has left many people questions Washington’s future plans.
The world is becoming truly multi-polar as meetings between high-profile representatives of different states are occurring on the daily basis. This means that international leaders can discuss their outlook on the state of international affairs freely and it doesn’t take them long to establish who’s the bully hear. It’s curious that even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who enjoys close ties with Washington carries on visiting Moscow and has recently offered Vladimir Putin a joint plan for peaceful settlement in Syria.
In this new reality Turkey tries to a balanced approach to its relations with the West and Russia, but it’s hard to achieve something like this over a barrel. This results in Ankara pointing out its inability of proceeding forward as a partner of the United States. On top of crossing all of Ankara’s red lines Washington would still provide refuge to the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen in spite of him being a convicted criminal in Turkey. Moreover, the United States would refuse to sell its anti-air systems to Ankara for a long time.
In contrast, Russia wouldn’t go and try to show Turkey the second-hand treatment that the US would typically show it, as President Erdogan would meet with his Russian counterpart in April, for the third time since the beginning of 2019.
However, Washington’s jealousy of this fact has manifested itself in a number of ugly ways before and it seems that’s how things would be. It orchestrated the provocation with the downing of Russia’s military plane above the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015. It was planned by Washington and implemented by the affiliates of Fethullah Gulen within the Turkish Air Force chain of command. Then again, Gulen-led terrorist sleeping cell in Turkey staged the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Ankara, Andrei Karlov. During the investigation that followed this despicable provocation Turkish law enforcement officers established that the attacker was a prominent member of the Gülen sect and that American intelligence agencies were behind the planning of the attack.
In fact, Washington would try to prevent rapprochement between Russia and Turkey for decades, as it would be unable to maintain its hegemony over the entire region, if a country like Turkey will find common interests with a major international power.
Therefore, it’s nearly impossible to argue with Turkey’s officials want they state that Washington doesn’t want Middle Eastern countries to go along with each other, as Trump must fulfill his promise to withdraw US troops from Syria and stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Washington should respect national interests of any state that it approaches, including Turkey, which means that it’s high time for it to stop arming terrorists in Syria.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”