Turkey-US ties after local elections

Published 14.04.2019 22:34
Updated 15.04.2019 00:14

Turkey has left behind the March 31 local election. The picture is clear. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) won the same vote in the local elections of 2014. So, there seems no power lost. The People's Alliance, formed by the AK Party with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), reached 52 percent of the vote, showing that they still hold more than half of the vote in Turkey. The AK Party's loss of some of the metropolises, including the capital of Ankara, to the opposition bloc was interpreted by the party administration as a message conveyed to them by the citizens. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan instructed party administrators to work on this message conveyed by the citizens and prepare reports on it.

The only process that is currently running in relation to the local election is about the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Because of the objections raised, votes are being recounted in some constituencies. Due to some infractions pointed out by the AK Party, such as vote-shifting and false voters, there are requests for re-election in Istanbul. The Supreme Election Council (YSK) will decide on this in the upcoming days.

At the moment, however, the election is over. There is a new four-year period ahead for Turkey that will last until the next election to be held in 2023. The AK Party government has coded this new period as an era of reforms and recovery. Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun announced that the agenda of the government in this new period will be the economy, the crisis in Syria and boosting national defense capabilities.

At this point, we need to focus on Turkey's national defense capability, since this issue has serious potential for tensions with the U.S.

Since 2010, Turkey has been making great efforts to improve its domestic defense capabilities. This is because of the unstable outlook of the region Turkey is in. In the south, Syria is on the brink of fragmentation. Terrorist organizations regard Syria as an oasis and directly threaten Turkey's security. In the east, while Iran is facing economic and social problems due to the embargo it has been subjected to, it has not given up its regional ambitions. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are a source of instability in the region. Israel is taking dangerous steps around Jerusalem and Palestine. The power struggle for energy sharing in the Eastern Mediterranean is becoming an area of tension that we will talk about for a long time in the upcoming period.

At this point, Turkey is a player that is both struggling against terrorism and trying to protect its regional interests against other countries. That is why it has to overcome two major shortcomings.

First, Turkey is not an oil-producing country and is dependent on foreign energy resources. Therefore, it has to develop formulas that will reduce its dependence on foreign energy. That is why it is investing in nuclear technology with a view to eliminating or minimizing its dependence on foreign energy.

The second is to improve domestic defense capabilities. The Turkish army is one of the best fighting forces in the world. It is considered to be one of the most effective armies in terms of land, air and naval forces. However, there is an important deficit in its air defense system. It should be stressed that Turkey is also dependent on foreign countries in its capability to resist aerial attacks.

That is why Ankara has long negotiated a long-range air defense system with the U.S., asking for an affordable price and technology transfer from the country. Turkey wants to produce these systems itself so that it can take matters into its own hands. However, the U.S. has not given an inch. Therefore, Turkey signed an agreement with Russia on the Russian-made S-400 defense systems that will be deployed in Turkey.

The U.S. implied that it could break all ties if Turkey purchases the S-400s. Due to this unjustifiable pressure exerted by the U.S., the delivery of the S-400s was first moved ahead from September to July, and then to an even earlier date. This was a message aimed at the U.S., saying, "You cannot solve this problem with pressure."

Ankara is very uncomfortable with this attitude of the U.S. It is inconceivable that Washington moves away from Turkey due to the S-400s, while they maintain their relationship with the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG). However, it must be emphasized that Turkey will not take a step back in this regard.

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