President Erdoğan questions US-NATO alliance with Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday questioned the United States' alliance with Turkey following the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of S-400 Russian missiles.

The Turkish president pointed out that the bond between the two countries was established largely through NATO membership, and asked: "What kind of alliance is this?"

"The U.S. Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions have never been imposed on any country since they were first approved in 2017. Turkey is the first country that has faced CAATSA, and it is the U.S.' NATO ally," the president said during the inauguration ceremony of Niğde-Ankara highway.

"U.S. sanctions aim to prevent Turkey’s developments in the defense sector and make the country dependent once again; this decision is an attack on Turkey's sovereign rights," Erdogan said.

Sanctions imposed

The U.S. imposed sanctions late Monday on Turkey's Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) and its chief Ismail Demir, the U.S. Treasury website confirmed. Sanctions were imposed to penalize Turkey for its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

The sanctions through CAATSA – designed to deter any country from agreeing to military deals with Russia – also restrict U.S. loans and credits to the Presidency of Defense Industries, although that is not seen as having a significant impact.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry, in its immediate response, condemned the decision while reminding of what it called the U.S.' unfair stance throughout the S-400 purchase process.

"The circumstances that led Turkey to purchase the S-400 missiles is known very well to everyone. In this respect, President Trump has also expressed Turkey's rightfulness multiple times," the foreign ministry statement said, rejecting the sanctions.

Underlining the baselessness of the U.S. claim that the S-400 missiles are not suitable with NATO systems, the statement added that Turkey has repeatedly offered to form a technical workgroup with NATO to handle the issue objectively and yet no steps have been taken on the matter.

According to Merve Sebnem Oruc of Sabah newspaper, threatening Turkey with sanctions is nothing new for Washington. The U.S. imposed an arms embargo on Ankara in the 1970s after Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus due to violence by paramilitary groups against Cypriot Turks following a Greek Cypriot coup on the island. After the embargo, the Turkish Armed Forces Strengthening Foundation (TSKGV), which aimed to reduce the defense industry's dependence on imports, made investments in Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), ASELSAN, IŞBIR, Aspilsan, Havelsan, Roketsan and more. So, what doesn’t kill Turkey has made it stronger in the past and it will be the same in the future.

During my discussions with several Russian military experts and diplomatic sources, they usually admit that it was a huge mistake for Moscow to corner Ankara at the end of the 1940s as that pressure made it become a member of NATO, Oruc said adding: “If we didn’t threaten Turkey as much as we did, they might not have joined the trans-Atlantic alliance,” they confess. How ironic that things are the other way around today. I am just saying that we might hear such words from NATO one day as some members, especially the U.S., are making the same mistake as the Soviets.”

Defense Industry

President Erdoğan, in his speech, also heralded the newest developments in the Turkish defense industry, particularly the first national air defense missile system, HISAR A+, saying that the final tests of the final product have been conducted successfully. The president said tests were delayed as a consequence of an embargo that interrupted the arrival of some products coming from abroad.

“What happened next? We developed the product ourselves on short notice, integrated it into our missile, and despite a small delay, we reached our expected end,” Erdoğan said, underlining that despite hidden sanctions and embargoes, Turkey has produced its own products and continues to strengthen its defense industry.

The HISAR A+ defense system was jointly developed by leading defense contractors ASELSAN and ROKETSAN, under the coordination of the SSB. HISAR missiles were developed to protect military bases, ports, facilities and troops against air-based threats as well as to meet the needs of the Turkish army for a low and medium-altitude air defense system.

HISAR A+ completed the test phase in March 2019, when it neutralized a target plane with pinpoint accuracy in vertical shooting. A 100% success was achieved in the test shooting of the missile, in guiding it with radar information, target detection, tracking and achievement of the target with the searcher cap. With the change of engagement subsequently, the missile was directed to the second target in the air, and the same level of success was achieved.

It may be pointed out that the previous talks between Turkey and the U.S. on the purchase of Patriots collapsed over a host of issues, from the S-400s to Ankara's dissatisfaction with Washington's terms. Turkey has said it will only agree to an offer if it includes a technology transfer and joint production terms. Ankara has repeatedly stressed it was the U.S.' refusal to sell Patriots that led it to seek other sellers, adding that Russia had offered a better deal, including technology transfers. Turkey even proposed setting up a commission to clarify any technical issues.

— Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011 (@)