Turkey in a fix, Erdogan to make a tough choice between Russian S-400 and US financial assistance

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at ukraine

Turkey is stuck between a rock and a hard place as it has to make the tough choice between US and Russia, while the former is an economic super power, the latter holds military might in the region. The US government on Thursday, sent an ultimatum of sorts to the Turkish authorities, warning it against fully operating the Russian-made S-400 defense system.

David Satterfield, the US ambassador to Turkey, in his speech gave a heads up to the Turkish government that it could face strict USsanctions if it puts the contentious Russian missile system into operation as it planned earlier.

“We made our position quite explicit to President Erdogan, to all the senior leadership of Turkey, and that is: The operational S-400 system is not compatible with Turkey’s participation in the acquisition of the F-25 (joint strike fighter) program and it exposes Turkey to a very significant possibility of Congressional sanctions, both those that involve the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) legislation, and additional freestanding legislative sanctions,” David Satterfield, the US ambassador to Turkey said during a virtual conference hosted by the Atlantic Council.

Satterfield added, “We do not have in our possession the assurances from the government of Turkey that would allow us to mitigate those concerns.”Turkish government had earlier announced that it would start operating the S-400 missile system in April. On Thursday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin explained that the delay in using the Russian defence system was due to onslaught of coronavirus pandemic rather than US sanctions threats.

Trump administration plans on penalising Ankara under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (passed in 2017), as per which US can issue sanctions against any nation which conducts “significant transactions” with the Russian defense sector. US believes that once Turkey fully activates the powerful S-400 radar system to test on American-made fighter jets, it would enable Russia to spy on sophisticated US military technology. The US sanctions, if issued would include banning of banking and foreign exchange transactions and cancellation of export licenses, as well as partial freezing of accounts or confiscation of assets of individuals involved in the Russian deal.

According to the political analyst, the sanction bill which has not been put up for vote in the upper house yet, gives Erdogan time to think before picking either of the rival camps. Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute, told Arab News that Turkish president might not want to end eighty years of relationship with US. Besides, he emphasized that going against US can cause Ankara a financial hit, and “Erdogan needs a US financial lifeline and its support to turn Turkey’s economy around”. He added that Turkey’s decision would also impact its  “continuing ties with global financial markets, with the EU in terms of foreign direct investment and with the US being as a financial anchor.”

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