Degree of tension in Turkish-American relations increases

Degree of tension in Turkish-American relations increases

By Arthur Dunn

 

In conditions when the American diplomatic pressure on Ankara is increasing, and the position of Erdogan’s party inside the Turkish Republic is significantly weakening, it is important to understand whether Ankara will continue to adapt to Russian policy.

The most important sign of Erdogan’s weakening position was the defeat of a candidate from his Justice and Development Party in the mayoral elections in Istanbul, the city where the Turkish leader began his political career. According to representatives of the party, about 300 thousand ballots in Istanbul were unreasonably not taken into consideration, and it is these votes that allegedly guarantee the victory of the supporter of the president. It is possible that the results of the vote will indeed be revised, but at the same time it can be concluded that the reputation of the presidential party has, however, not been tested for durability. Cancellation of the voting results will look like a politically motivated step, and Erdogan’s opponents will be reproached for it. In addition, this is not the only defeat that the candidate of the Justice and Development Party has suffered in the metropolis. The same result is seen in the elections in Ankara and Izmir. And this is already a trend.

The weakening of Erdogan’s party’s position is taking place against the backdrop of a cooling in relations between Turkey and the United States. The story around Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 systems has reached its climax. Despite active attempts by the United States to prevent this transaction, it seems that the transfer of the complexes to Ankara is a decided matter. According to Erdogan, the S-400 agreement is being implemented and payments under the contract continue. And in July, the delivery of complexes is expected.

Some uncertainty prevails around the Syrian province of Idlib, which is the responsibility of Turkey. Recent statements by the Russian leadership may indicate that the power scenario is being prepared for the enclave. And there are chances that the fate of Idlib will be solved by compromise. Nevertheless, the risks that Turkish foreign policy will soon become difficult to predict are too great. The past local elections, as expected, exacerbated the internal political situation in Turkey. Against the background of the crisis that the ruling party is experiencing, the country's leadership in the short term, it seems, can move to a more authoritarian domestic and aggressive foreign policy, Turkish experts say. Ankara, quite possibly, will face a sharp foreign policy dilemma, the solution of which does not lie on the surface. The ruling elite needs financial support from the West to overcome the deepening economic crisis. At the same time, Ankara is forced to coordinate its steps with Moscow in order not to end up in an unpleasant situation in Syria. In connection with the purchase of the S-400 complex, the degree of tension in Turkish-American relations is increasing. And the pressure of Washington will increase, and its further steps can only be guessed at. Experts also believe that a big foreign policy game is going on behind the scenes. Given the geopolitical situation and the circle of states with which Turkey borders, it certainly needs air defense and missile defense systems. But can the Russian S-400, with the available initial data, that is, with Turkey’s dependence on Western armaments, an established military system within the NATO alliance, be used in the way that the Turkish leadership says? With a greater degree of probability, the answer will be negative: it is difficult to imagine that Ankara will take the path of aggravating the conflict with Russia's allies, such as Iran, Syria, Armenia, where Russian S-300s are already located. And, moreover, to imagine that the threat will come from the western neighbors of Turkey, for example, Bulgaria or Greece, is even more difficult. Therefore, the purchase of the S-400 is not only provocative in relation to NATO, but in fact does not meet the tasks that stand in the defensive sphere of Turkey, we can talk about some personal agreements along the Ankara-Moscow axis. In the near future, they will develop either towards deepening and, thus, even more dependence of the ruling circles of Turkey on the Kremlin, or towards another conflict, if it is assumed that the agreement on the S-400 may be broken.

In this context, the recent seemingly insignificant change in the Akkuyu NPP contract is interesting. Thus, in paragraph 5 of the main contract, the following was included: Russia now has the right not only to erect administrative buildings and construct production facilities related to the operation of nuclear power plants, which was originally envisaged, but can build seaports, erect port facilities and terminals, carry out all necessary logistics, that is, loading and unloading cargo, as well as their storage. If we take into account that the Akkuyu nuclear power plant will be serviced by the Russian side for at least 60 years, we can assume that the construction of ports and terminals in Turkey has substantial and long-term plans from Russia. Naturally, the question arises: can these ports and terminals in the future become military bases of the Russian Federation or their similarity in Turkey? It is worth noting that the city of Mersin, in which Akkuyu will operate, is only a few dozen kilometers from the American Incirlik base. It can not but alarm the fact that these changes have been made now nine years after the signing of the interstate agreement. Considering the foreign policy situation hosted by President Erdogan, the change in the contract indicates that Moscow, in anticipation of substantial preferences from the Turkish leadership, can take the path of even greater pressure on Ankara. As far as we know, at the last meeting in Moscow of the presidents of Russia and Turkey, issues of the Turkish Stream were also discussed.
There is still no certainty about which Turkish companies will buy gas through the first branch of this gas pipeline and at what prices. It is also unclear where the second compressor stations of the second branch will be built - in Turkey or Bulgaria. In addition, some Turkish companies purchasing gas through the Trans-Balkan pipeline are already experiencing difficulties due to the likelihood of US sanctions due to cooperation with Russia.

 

17.04.2019

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