Genel

More U.S. sanctions might further push Turkey toward Russia

The Turkish service of the Russian Sputnik channel ended the political show of three Turkish journalists on July 19, a day after they interviewed Ahmet Davutoğlu, the former prime minister of President Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) but now one of the in-house dissidents in preparations of a new party. Ironically, when asked about the probe against the Turkish-German reporter Deniz Yücel during a 2016 joint press conference with Angela Merkel, Davutoğlu had claimed that no journalists in Turkey were suffering because of their journalistic activities and that if they were it was due to terrorist engagement. According to the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC), 127 journalists, writers and media employees are currently in prison and some 10 thousand media people in Turkey have lost their jobs since 2013, due to the political atmosphere.
What is new in this story is that, for the first time, it’s an international media outlet that silences Turkish journalists as a consequence of their political criticism. A recent report titled “Turkey Extensions of International media Outlets” by pro-government think tank Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) named Sputnik among other media outlets which employ Turkish journalists (including Voice of America) and disclosed the names and critical background details of the Turkish journalists employed there. Those outlets have boosted their Turkish services in the last few years amid some 70 percent of Turkish media outlets gradually shifted to ownership of business groups close to Erdoğan.
That domination in media did not help Erdoğan avoid a defeat in the last local elections, especially in the re-vote for Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and the heart of its economy. The elections showed that at least half of the Turkish voters were still against Erdoğan’s rule and Turkey was not limited to Erdoğan.
The SETA report was released a week before the first components of the Russian-made S-400 air defense systems started to arrive in Turkey despite months-long objections and threats by the U.S. administration and Congress claiming that the use of S-400s would jeopardize the stealth capabilities of the F-35 fighter jets and thus weaken the U.S. and NATO air defense; Turkey was initially committed to buying 100 of them as an initial partner and a joint producer of the project.
The White House announced on July 16 that it would suspend F-35 sales to Turkey. Right after, Pentagon announced the start of “unwinding” Turkey from the project, on which Turkey had constructed its air defense from the 2020s on, as the Western defense alliance NATO’s South East guard, neighboring Russia and bordering Iran, Iraq and Syria. Turkey has been producing some 900 parts of the platforms and invested in some $1.4 billion to the project so far. Turkish Foreign Ministry said the decision could cause “irreparable” damage in Turkish-U.S. ties as Russians were quick to offer their Su-35 fighter jets instead with promises of Su-57s with supposed stealth capabilities but at the developmental stage. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said during a TGRT TV interview on July 22 that if Turkey would officially be removed from the F-35 program, it would have to look for other options.
Following the moves, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “It will be bad for all of us”; meaning that both Turkish and American decisions would weaken the entire NATO defense which will make Russian President Vladimir Putin happy more than anyone else.
Following a telephone conversation between Erdoğan’s Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser, and spokesman İbrahim Kalın and Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump said on July 18 that CAATSA sanctions on Turkey were still under consideration despite bi-partisan urging by the Congress. Trump, who said during a joint press conference with Erdoğan on June 29 in Osaka, Japan that Turkey had a point because it was denied to buy American Patriot defense systems by his predecessor Barack Obama, is reported to consult the possible sanctions with a group of Republican senators. Çavuşoğlu said on the same July 22 TV show that Ankara believed Trump would do his best to keep his promises to Erdoğan and try not to impose sanctions on Turkey. The Pentagon and the Congress do not want the Turkish blow on the U.S. reputation by purchasing Russian S-400s despite the threats to set an example to other allies, in and out of NATO to establish better relations with Russia; India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are reportedly in line to buy S-400s.
While waiting for Trump’s decision on sanctions for possible Turkish action in response to F-35s, Erdoğan shows no indication of moderating his attitude, despite the election defeat despite deeps cracks within its party. Apart from Davutoğlu, Erdoğan’s former economy chief, an internationally renowned economist Ali Babacan is after another formation with the backing of former President Abdullah Gül, who was one of the founding fathers of the AKP together with Erdoğan. The biggest criticism to Erdoğan from within the AKP is about keeping his son-in-law Berat Albayrak as Finance and Treasury Minister. The economy has been shrinking in the last two quarters, despite contrary expectations by the government. Erdoğan has recently fired the Governor of the Central Bank, Murat Çetinkaya –who was also appointed by the government- because he resisted decrease in interest rates as much as Erdoğan has asked for.
On the rights and freedoms front the problem is not only with the media. Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chairman of the Kurdish-problem-focused People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has been in jail for nearly three years now, accused of terrorism propaganda in his political speeches. An Istanbul court has turned down the release demand of Osman Kavala, a social activist who has been in jail for nearly two years, accused of masterminding the 2013 Gezi protests in contact with the Open Society founder George Soros. Upon Erdoğan’s lawyers’ complaint, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the İstanbul Chairwoman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) appeared before the court on July 18, being asked for up to 17 years in prison because of insulting the President and humiliating the security forces in her Tweets during the 2013 Gezi protests. The government has postponed the debates on a judicial reform draft in the Parliament to after the summer recess, despite domestic and international calls. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told YetkinReport on July 23 that the U.S. and the European Union should think twice before imposing sanctions on Turkey which may force President Erdoğan to get into closer ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The Sputnik example might be an indication for the worse: it seems Erdoğan now has the indirect backing of Putin in domestic moves, in addition to the strategic international ones. It is no coincidence that items appeared to emerge in Turkish media which imply that Putin offered help to Erdoğan on the night of the military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, indicted to be masterminded by the U.S. resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen.
It is not likely that more sanctions will deter Turkey and change its stance; the country had closed its bases, including the strategic Incirlik base back in 1975 in response to an arms embargo imposed by the U.S. after Turkish military intervention to Cyprus in 1974. More sanctions are likely to push not only Erdoğan but Turkey away from the west and the Western values and towards more cooperation with and dependency to Russia. The whole debate has served also as a massive promotion campaign for Russian weaponry.
That brings the Western alliance NATO at a crucial juncture whether to redefine the relations between members gaining more freedom from the U.S. in national defense matters or letting Russia weaken the NATO by opening new holes in the wall.

2 thoughts on “More U.S. sanctions might further push Turkey toward Russia”

  1. Sayın Yetkin
    İngilizcesini bilemem ancak Türkçe metin içinde yanlış anlamaya neden olabilecek ve makalenin vermek istediği anlam bütünlüğünü yok eden cümleler oluşmuş. Şayet benim cihazımdan kaynaklı değilse, gözünüzden kaçmış olabilir diye belirtmek istedim.
    Bilginize.
    Emre Baştuğ

    1. Çok teşekkürler Emre Bey, bazen bazı cihazlarla benden değil, sağlayıcıdan kaynaklanan hatalar olabiliyor, kusura bakmayın lütfen, Murat

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