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    'Just the Start': US-Turkey F-35 Row May Be Followed by Sanctions - Prof

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    Ankara may kick US troops out of Incirlik if Washington continues with its "wrong actions" in Syria, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said; the diplomat also noted that Ankara would go elsewhere for jets if the US doesn't deliver the F-35. Political scientist Kerim Has thinks this may be the beginning of a far more serious diplomatic conflict.

    Sputnik: What's your take on the newly increased tensions between Washington and Ankara?

    Kerim Has: US-Turkey relations are going through one of the most difficult periods in their history. It can safely be said that relations have reached an all-time low, and they may get worse in the near future after [next month's] presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey.

    Some of the reasons for this rift between these erstwhile allies and partners I think lie on the surface, but there are also structural causes intertwined with the interests of the states and their political elites. Events in the Middle East, [specifically in] Syria, are a powerful catalyst of the crisis in bilateral relations. The position of Assad, the militant and Kurdish issue, combating terrorism, relations with Iran and Iran's presence and role in the region and so on; all of these issues are affecting the relations between Turkey and the United States. 

    Also, we should add here the gradual restoration of Turkey-Russia relations after the crisis of November 2015, which has also left an imprint on relations between Ankara and Washington.

    Sputnik: How could all this tension between the two nations affect NATO? The Turkish military structure is embedded with the alliance, and surely the ripples from these tensions will affect NATO as well.

    Kerim Has: Of course it will directly affect relations with NATO. Turkey as a NATO ally will probably face [pressure] to choose one side; how the Turkish side will be able to face this task is also a question mark.

    The rapprochement between Turkey and Russia in Syria also raises certain questions as to whether the deterioration of US-Turkish relations may turn Ankara and Moscow into allies and partners.

    In the longer term, Turkey, the United States and Russia may face an even bigger problem over the Kurdish issue, which may spill outside [its] traditional region. For Turkey, Russia's position on this vital issue is unclear, and the Turkish leadership is pressing for operations in other regions in Syria after the capture of Afrin and during the Euphrates Shield operation.

    On the one hand, one can say that Turkey's membership in NATO will be directly discussed in the context of purchasing S-400s; on the other hand there are the possible sanctions by the United States with respect to Turkey. I am not talking here just about possible military sanctions; we also know that there is an ongoing case, the Atilla case, involving an Iranian-born Turkish businessman; the United States is probably planning to implement some sanctions against Turkish banks after the elections. Because the case was recently finalized, [the] Turkish banks are under the risk of some US sanctions.

    So the deterioration, in any case, will continue, in my opinion, rather than seeing a normalization. The Turkish side will probably try to persuade the Americans to minimize these economic sanctions. But on the other hand, if the Turkish side [continues] its policy of purchasing the S-400s, it will come to a point where it has to choose one of the sides – Russia or the United States; it will be a hard test for Ankara.

    Dr. Kerim Has is a political scientist and professor at Moscow State University. The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Has are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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