What motivated the United States to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty? The INF treaty is an arms control agreement that was signed between the U.S. and Russia in 1987. According to the treaty, both countries agreed to ban the development or deployment of any ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missile systems which have a range of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers.
Yet, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the INF treaty's suspension on Feb. 1 in 2019. Since then, the INF treaty has not been in effect. After the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, President Trump claimed that the U.S. would proceed with its military development. The U.S. and Russia both share regional and global interests that clashed after the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011.
According to the Trump administration, the decision to terminate the INF treaty was about the defense of U.S. national security and interest. Trump's withdrawal decision, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass and Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, will have many negative consequences.
Although many of the U.S.' allies and partners in Europe, Asia and other regions were worried about President Trump's decision, the U.S. has ignored all warnings coming from other countries and seriously adhered to withdraw "for its national security and global interests."
The international system is based on a self-help order for states. A state is responsible for its own survival and strategic interests. States look for cooperation in order to protect themselves from physical assault from other states in terms of any national threats or any strategic national interests.
This can be accomplished by allied states. In this regard, Turkey primarily wanted to obtain Patriot missiles from its ally, the U.S. The reason for this is because Turkey did not feel secure from the ongoing wars in its eastern and southern borders.
Turkey worked for an immediate enhancement of its military capabilities for national security concerns against threats arising from bunch of terror groups like Daesh, PKK-affiliated terrorist formations and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) along its borders, especially with Syria and Iraq.
Turkey's national security is vital for its survival. For this reason, it is going to use its sovereign right to self-defense for its national security. While these heated wars are going on in Turkey's periphery, the latter felt vulnerable for its self-defense and national security.
Meanwhile, the U.S. refuses to cooperate with Turkey about the transaction concerning Patriot missiles. Whereas Turkey and the U.S. have been allies since World War II and the Korean War. Turkey was disappointed with the U.S.' behavior.
Why the s-400s?
Under these circumstances, Turkey naturally looked for another option for cooperation in international affairs. The purchase of the S-400 air defense system came at such a period of time.
As Hans J. Morgenthau, one of the most influential of American scholars in the field of international relations, said, "International politics is a struggle for power. Power is always the immediate aim or means to an end." Because of its important strategic geopolitical location, the military plays a key role for Turkey to balance its power and position in the region. The military should always be sufficient to challenge external threats.
The Osaka gathering
At the G20 summit in Osaka on June 29, 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump had a meeting about Turkey's purchase of the S-400 missiles from Russia.
Trump admitted that Turkey was "treated very unfairly" and accepted that the U.S. did not want to sell Patriots to Turkey during the Barack Obama administration which led Ankara to seek a deal with Moscow.
Meanwhile, as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham reported, the U.S. State Department recently banned the sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey. President Trump knows the fact that Turkey has already placed an order for some 100 F-35 jets.
Turkey is a partner in the manufacturing process of the aircraft and about 937 separate parts for the F-35 were manufactured in Turkey. Additionally, the U.S. had threatened Turkey for imposing sanctions over purchasing of the S-400 missiles from Russia.
In the context of imposing sanctions to Turkey, the U.S. Congress requires bipartisan agreement for the decision. Congress influences the country's foreign policy and national security concerns by enacting legislation to authorize the president to use sanctions. Therefore, Congress has an important role in authorizing the executive branch.
Under the Trump administration, currently, Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the 116th U.S. Congress. In the executive branch, several agencies have different degrees of responsibility in implementing and administering the sanctions. Some of these agencies are as follows: Department of the U.S. Treasury, Department of State (restricts arm sales and foreign aids, implementing embargoes, et cetera), Department of Commerce, Department of Defense (restricts military cooperation) and the Department of Justice.
So, at the G20 summit in Osaka, Trump described the overall S-400 situation as "complicated." We will see Trump's leadership in the coming days and how he's going to protect Turkey from sanctions, as well as the U.S. Congress' reaction to the whole situation.
Back to strategy
Turkey and the U.S. have over 200 years of bilateral relations and they have been close allies since World War II. With significant steps in the Korean War, Turkey has always been a reliable partner for the U.S.
When it comes to sovereign rights and national security issues, Turkey cooperates with other states with mutual respect (economically, politically and militarily) as long as this serves to its best interest. In the S-400 crisis, what needs to be done is that the U.S. must act rationally and decide not to implement sanctions or exclude Turkey from the F-35 jet partnership. In doing so, Turkey and the U.S. can continue as strategic partners and important allies in the coming years.
* Ph.D. candidate in political science and public management, Erciyes University