The decades-old partnership between Turkey and the U.S. is on rocky ground. Here, the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions against Turkey have been taken as an insult. It is hard for Turkish citizens such as myself, who defend having good relations with the West, to see Turkey being treated like North Korea or China.
You can ask why Turkey purchased the Russian S-400 defense systems, it is a reasonable question to have, but what tends to be forgotten is that Ankara had been trying to buy American Patriots since 2012.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration simply did not want to sell them and firmly shut down the prospect of transferring technology and information sharing with its NATO ally in 2013.
The U.S. Congress denied the demand so Turkey opened bidding to other channels willing to sell the country air defense systems. The same American firm applied but again refused to provide the technology transfer.
A Chinese firm won the bid but since it was on the U.S. embargo list, Turkey annulled the deal in a show of respect.
Another two years passed with Ankara stressing its need for an air defense system on every occasion, but its words fell on deaf ears. Finally, in 2017, Russia and Turkey brokered a deal. The S-400s were to arrive on Turkish soil, and the deal would include technology transfer.
In order to prevent the trade, the U.S. threatened to exclude Turkey from its F-35 program, which was taken as an insult to the sovereign state and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration.
If you think about it, which government of a sovereign state wouldn't take such a threat as an insult? As a NATO ally, Turkey's needs were being overlooked while its alternatives were being outlawed.
A quick look at declarations made by Turkish officials will reveal that the country emphasizes the importance of being a NATO member and partner to the U.S., clearly expressing that Turkey has no intention of severing ties with the West or altering its course.
Ankara just wants to be able to ensure its population's security and to have an understanding of how the air defense system deployed in its territory works.
Turkey's NATO membership is crucial, but the country having good ties with Russia does not mean that it should have to make a choice between the two.