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Turkey amidst US and Russia – The S-400 Missile Defense Deal

Turkey is stuck in a quagmire between Russia and the US and the scale tips no way. The US, previously imposing several restrictions, threatens sanctions yet Russia offers technological services too lucrative to say no to.

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Turkey’s determination to purchase the Russian S-400 Missile Defense System has put its relations with the US and NATO in jeopardy. Being a long-standing member of NATO, Turkey’s reliance upon Russian arsenal, the rival of NATO, has raised concerns over the viability of Turkey as a trustworthy partner.

The main issue has been the breach of sensitive data of western security systems installed in Turkey once the Russian S-400 would become operationalized. Turkey’s decision has not only created a rift with the US but also made it devoid of receiving US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets.

The main question which needs to be addressed is what prompted Turkey to prefer Russian arsenal over the US security apparatus? The answer lies in the geopolitical dynamics where Turkey is aligned with Russia and Iran. The close association of Turkey with Russia and the collaborative mechanism which both the parties have adopted regarding Syria have made Turkey look for alternatives.

Even this policy came into effect due to the diverging stance of Turkey and the US over the Kurds. Kurds have been a longstanding ally of the US in Middle East and the strategic partners in its fight with ISIS. On the other side, Turkey considers Kurds a threat and has listed PKK, the Kurds’ militia, into its terror watch list.

Being the victim of terror attacks, Turkey’s response to Kurds was ferocious. US has accused Turkey that its crackdown on Kurds would eventually benefit ISIS. Many other scholars also believe that Turkey is more concerned regarding Kurds than that of ISIS. This has also placed Turkey outside the emblem of NATO which is conducting its operations against ISIS in collaboration with the Kurds.

Disagreements with US and NATO over Middle East, Syria and Kurds have made Turkey search for other partners to secure its own interests in the region. Also, being a rational actor and looking to enhance its influence in the region, Turkey is also eyeing to strengthen its relationship with Russia-Iran nexus which is, currently, the victor in the Syrian Crisis in specific and in the region in general.

Read more: Turkey’s S-400 purchase creates unacceptable risks: US

However, the move which Turkey has taken and the response of the US could prove detrimental for both the states. For US, imposing sanctions on a NATO member and cutting off the F-35 deal would bring Turkey closer to Russia. In return, Turkey could look for alternatives in overcoming its need for attaining a stealth fighter. Russian Su-35 and Su-57 are definite choices.

In this way, the US could lose a major strategic ally in the Middle East which will further diminish its influence in the region. On the other hand, imposition of sanctions would continue to harm Turkey domestically. As its national currency, Lira, is continuously being devalued, inflation and unemployment would rise.

Middle East is already being engulfed in the series of protests ranging from Lebanon to Iran. Noticeably, there are two commonalities in these protests. One is the worsening economic conditions while the other is the partial or complete anti-US stance adopted by those states. While contemplating trends, it is highly likely that Turkey might face the same unrest in the coming days.

However, Turkey has to act wisely. Currently, where it has angered the West, it has also displeased its allies i.e. Iran and Russia. The continuous advancement of Turkish troops in Kurdish populated areas of Syria, the ally of both Iran and Russia, incited the utter response by both Iranian and Russian officials.

Though Russia has agreed to jointly patrol the area with Turkey, still the tensions are only minimized but the issue still remains surficial. Nonetheless, as the popularity of Russian S-400 continues to surge, another US ally after Turkey seems to be willing in purchasing the air defense system – India.

The US has also cautioned India of sanctions in response. But doing that would result in serious implications for the US itself. Sanctioning the allies – let alone the rogue states like Iran and North Korea – would eventually alter the status quo against the US. India also shares deep diplomatic ties with Russia and is currently a member of BRICS along with Russia and China, the two major rivals of the US.

Read more: S-400 system or F-35 jets: Turkey to decide between Russia and US

Conclusively, the US should adopt a more reconciliatory approach rather than imposing its will. The US seems to be adopting the policies of the Cold War era, although the world has moved quite farther.

It is impossible to alienate any state with any other state since the mutual relations surpass the agreements. Cold War security arrangements are no longer viable in today’s era. Thus, the deal of S-400 between Turkey and Russia should be taken as Turkey’s geopolitical need rather than a threat to the US.

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