The United States is pressing Turkey to abandon its agreement to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system. U.S. President Donald Trump's recent decision to strip some Turkish exporters of their preferential trade status is seen by some experts as another tool to pressure Turkey to reconsider its decision on the S-400.
İlter Turan, a well-known professor of international relations, said to Bloomberg, "The U.S. is clamping down on Turkey's potential to increase its exports to the U.S. market, knowing that it will hurt the country's economy."
With this decision, about $1.7 billion in Turkish exports will be affected which is quite a large amount. Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said that the move undermines the two countries' objective to increase bilateral trade to $75 billion in the coming years.
Why is the U.S. so disturbed by Turkey's decision to buy the S-400? It says that the S-400 is not compatible with NATO systems and could be a threat to the members, but there are examples like Greece, which previously bought air defense systems not compatible with NATO systems. I think the real reason behind Washington's objection is that it is afraid of the growing importance and footprint of Russia in the Middle East. The U.S. doesn't want Turkey to become closer to Moscow. It wants to see an Ankara that complies with Washington's policies in all matters.
To prevent Turkey from buying the Russian air defense system, the U.S. State Department offered to sell Turkey its Patriot missile system. But Ankara is firm in purchasing the S-400, and its argument is clear: The S-400 is a much more advanced system that would be more effective for Turkey's air safety.
In recent years, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government has followed a multidimensional foreign policy. It builds strong relations with Russia, but that doesn't lead Turkey to diminish relations with the U.S. or the EU. It is a strong NATO ally, a candidate for EU membership and an important partner of the U.S. at the same time. That gives Ankara a bigger space to move according to its interests that might at times be contrary to U.S. interests. That is why Washington wants to see Turkey have a one-dimensional foreign policy as before.
On the other hand, Turkey is also improving its local and national defense industry. Vice President Fuat Oktay said last Friday that it is essential to use our own resources to make progress in the defense industry.
The U.S. and other countries must see that due to its geopolitical and geostrategic position, Turkey needs to improve its defense technologies. Dependence on one power or one axis has harmed Ankara before, so now it tries to be multidimensional and more productive.
Turkey currently has more than 600 national projects in the field of defense technologies. According to Vice President Oktay, Turkey exported products worth $248 million in 2002, while this figure has now risen to $2.04 billion.
All in all, Turkey's decision to purchase the S-400 should be seen in accordance with its goal to be more self-sufficient and independent in making foreign policy decisions to suit its best interests.