The meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart President Donald Trump has once again created a positive atmosphere between the two allies. The duration of the meeting and the messages shared afterward show that it was constructive.
It wouldn’t be right to say that the two countries have put aside all of their differences but the meeting was a show of will to cooperate and remain allies.
It was widely speculated that the U.S. will force Turkey to choose between the Russian S-400 missiles and the American F-35 jet fighters, and pressure Ankara on giving up the S-400s in return for a normalization of relations.
But the outcome of the meeting proved these claims wrong. On the one hand, Turkey has opened channels of dialogue with Washington while on the other hand, it continues to give clear messages that the S-400s are on the agenda as promised.
President Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Turkey will not turn back on the Russian missile defense system. He added that he told President Donald Trump in Washington that the Russian system must be part of the Turkish military.
“We agreed to find solutions to the S-400 issue. I explained to Trump once again how we came to the point of buying S-400s,” President Erdoğan told party members in Parliament.
There are of course differences between Turkey and the U.S. but I should note that President Erdoğan’s tone was conciliatory, which could be felt in his remarks saying that the lingering issues between the two allies can be resolved.
And they seem to be resolving. The two countries have begun talks last week to work on their differences in the military sector.
Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told the state broadcaster TRT that the talks will be carried out at the bilateral level and not under NATO supervision.
“The two presidents appointed me and Robert O’Brien at the White House meeting. We are starting to work on it,” Kalın said.
Turkey says that the S-400 system can be used independently without being integrated into the NATO defense system.
It should be noted that Turkey is one of the oldest and strongest NATO allies. So it is not in Turkey’s interest to harm the NATO system or to serve Russian security interests endangering the NATO allies’ interest.
Ankara has good relations with Moscow as well as with Washington but this multi-policy diplomacy should not be mixed up with "secret one pole diplomacy." Turkey is not the exclusive ally of Moscow and it never had such an aim. Ankara wants to sit with Moscow and with Washington at the same table as equal partners.
So claiming that with the S-400s Turkey might open a way for Russia to penetrate NATO air defense systems does not make any sense because this is not in Turkey’s interest either.
I think the keyword in overcoming the current problems is trust. The U.S. should trust Turkey to be a good NATO ally and start seeing it as a strong partner, not as a country to be manipulated by Washington's policies.