On Sunday, in an interview on CNN Turk, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey threatened unspecific retaliation if the U.S. enacted a proposed ban on weapons sales to its NATO ally. A recent report from The Hill details the trigger for the threat:
The provision in the House version of the annual defense policy bill would require the Pentagon to provide Congress a report “on the impact that increasing strains on the U.S.-Turkey relationship, caused by provocative actions taken by the Turkish government over the past year, will have on all U.S. military and diplomatic activities currently conducted in Turkey.”
Turkey, for its part, is trying to increase both its offensive and defensive military power. To that end, it’s placed a purchase order for 116 F-35 Lightning II Fighters, as well as purchasing, at the end of 2017, Russian S-400 air defense missile batteries.
Recent tensions between Turkey and the U.S. due to Turkey’s hardline positions on the Kurdish people (which seems to be a primary driver of their waffling support in Syria), its conflicts with U.S. ally Israel, and a movement away from its official secularism, have raised concerns in Washington. (Middle East Institute, Haaretz, Reuters)
“If the United States imposes sanctions on us or takes such a step, Turkey will absolutely retaliate,” Cavusoglu said. “What needs to be done is the U.S. needs to let go of this.”
News organizations are generally following Reuters’ lead and reporting this purely as a retaliatory threat about the weapons systems. The threat, from its very wording, also reaches out to any decision to include Turkey in Trump’s economic sanction policies.
There are many reasons to be concerned about the growing rift between Turkey and traditional Western political philosophies. The United States, however, has been working to keep ties strong between the two countries, going so far as to drop all but the most undeniable charges against the Turkish security detail who were caught on video violently attacking U.S. citizens who were protesting Erdogan during a visit to Washington D.C. last year. (Huffington Post)
The threat is currently merely the latest verbal interplay between two world powers. Given the political situations in both the Middle East and the NATO alliance, however, it must be recognized and considered.