A relationship beyond F-35s and S-400s

JAFFAR HASNAIN
Published 01.08.2019 01:18

While current politics and debates surrounding Turkey-U.S. relations are dominated by the Russian S-400 missile defense system and F-35 jets, we must not forget that Turkey and the U.S. are historically strong allies, with their partnership dating back to the creation of the Turkish Republic.

It is true that both sides have been through rough patches in their relationship, owing to many factors such as the U.S. hosting the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen, the mastermind behind 2016's failed coup attempt that claimed the lives of 251 people and injured thousands of others. Furthermore, there is the U.S. support for the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People's Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian offshoots of the PKK terror group.

Ankara's recent purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia is another stumbling block. In order to understand these differences fully, it is essential to look at the background of each of these issues.

Coup attempt in 2016

Gülen is the mastermind of 2016's failed coup. He's safely harbored by the United States in Pennsylvania despite having many criminal records presented against him. This issue has immense sentiments attached to it due to the ruthless killings of 251 people on July 15, 2016, the night of the failed coup.

Turkey feels that even though the U.S. is a strategic NATO ally, it is not responding to its legitimate concerns in an appropriate manner. This leads to the rise of distrust between the two stakeholders.

The U.S. support for the PYD/YPG has also angered Turkey or more precisely in the words of Sen. Lindsey Graham, "the U.S. arming the YPG 'created a nightmare' for Turkey."

Turkey has been suffering from the threats of the PKK terror for almost four decades. It is not surprising since the organization has claimed the lives of innocent men, women and even children. It is utterly disappointing, making it a concern for this critical partnership.

The latest addition to the list of these issues is the S-400 deal with Russia. I do agree that Turkey being a NATO ally should not have equipped its air defense with the S-400s, but it was the only available option since the previous U.S. administration refused to sell the Patriot missile system to Turkey. Therefore, in order to protect its national security and the lives of citizens around the region, Turkey was persuaded to go forward with the only available option.

It is important for us to acknowledge these differences and work towards finding a solution because, as mentioned in the beginning, relations between the U.S. and Turkey stretch beyond these issues.

Sustaining the alliance

At this stage, it is important for Turkey to ensure the U.S. that the S-400 will and should not compromise or sabotage NATO's security in any case. As a matter of fact, officials from Ankara have highlighted this many times before.

On the other hand, the U.S. should also realize that Turkey has the second-biggest army assigned to NATO and losing Turkey's military strength and turning a blind eye to its contribution to regional and global security would exacerbate the ongoing crisis between the two allies.

James Stavridis, a former U.S. naval admiral was also recently quoted saying, "Turkey has long been a valuable operational member of the alliance– the Turkish forces under my command were highly professional and part of our efforts in Afghanistan, Libya and the Balkans, as well as against piracy on the high seas."

The U.S. and Turkey are both democratic nations and it is not beneficial for either side to use an aggressive tone or sanctions as a remedy. After all, they share many common goals and interests, the chief one being eradicating terrorism from across the globe.

Each and every issue between the two nations should be solved through diplomacy and constructive dialogue so their historic relationship can be restored to its former glory.

*Anchor at A News

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