Sputnik discussed Washington's threat to impose sanctions against Turkey with Dr. Emre Ersen, associate professor at Marmara University's Department of Political Science and International Relations.
Sputnik: How will this dispute affect bilateral relations between Ankara and Washington? What about trade, for example?
Emre Ersen: Well, Turkish-US relations have really been going through a very difficult period in last few years, we all know that. And Ankara is particularly disappointed about the US military support to the YPG in Syria. This is the basic problem, I think, not trade not any other problem, but the YPG and the US improving relations with the YPG, because Turkey believes this is actually an offshoot of the PKK, a terrorist organization in Syria.
But I think there is also a growing mistrust between the two governments and this dispute actually came at a time, when Ankara and Washington have been trying to reach an understanding regarding Syria, particularly the region of Manbij, which is under the control of the YPG. So, many people actually assumed that the recent Turkish-US agreement on Manbij could become a starting point for a new dialogue between the two countries, but it seems that the US administration views these two issues separately from one another.
Sputnik: Do you think that Ankara will be able to negotiate its way towards acquiring both the F-35s and S-400s? It's unlikely, surely. America has been robust, adamant about its indifference towards Russia. I can't really see this scenario taking place. What's your feeling about it?
Emre Ersen: I think we need to keep in mind that Ankara has been one of the main participants of the F-35 project, which is actually an international project. It was like this from the very beginning. And Turkey has already contributed more than $1 billion to the development of this project. So I think, the Turkish officials would definitely feel extremely upset if the US decides not to send them to Turkey.
And I think, such a move may even push Turkey closer to Russia. I think this is not something Washington would want to happen. On the other hand, Ankara and Moscow have really come a long way, regarding the S-400 deal. I don't think that agreement can be cancelled very easily. So, I think, in this regard, Ankara will be actually walking on a very tight rope in terms of finding a balance between Russia and the US in the following months regarding this issue.
Sputnik: Do you think Erdogan really does want to withdraw from the request to purchase S-400s? Because that's really going to dampen a relationship that has been renewed and refreshed in the last couple of years.
Emre Ersen: Yes and actually all the top-level Turkish officials, including President Erdogan, have repeatedly stated that the S-400 purchase from Russia is a done deal. We know, for example, that the Russian officials have even announced the date for the delivery of S-400 systems to Turkey. Therefore I don't think this is very realistic to expect Turkey to withdraw from the deal currently.
In addition, S-400 agreement as you also mentioned is almost a symbol of the improving relations between Ankara and Moscow. They both want to use their developing ties with each other; also as a valuable card to be employed in their bilateral relations with the West. So, I think both countries would want to hold S-400 card in their hands as long as possible.
Sputnik: How can this threat of sanctions impact Turkey's future participation in NATO — that's again very strained at the moment, isn't it? What are the future consequences given the joint military operation between Ankara and Washington in Syria, for example?
Emre Ersen: I think Turkey's membership in NATO is already being questioned [not only] by the Turkish public, but also by the Turkish political circles. So, the US threats actually further contribute to the suspicion in Turkey about NATO.
We should also keep in mind, that Turkey's relations with the other European countries have not been good in the last few years. So, the questioning of Turkey's ties with NATO will probably urge Turkey to continue looking for other options and alternatives in foreign policy and one of those alternatives is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.