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    The Russian Navy's frigate Admiral Grigorovich sails in the Bosphorus on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, November 4, 2016

    Turkey's Vital for US to Maintain Military Presence in Mediterranean - Analyst

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    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Ankara will not haggle over US Pastor Andrew Brunson, who's been detained in Turkey since 2016 and under house arrest since last week. The US earlier threatened Ankara with possible sanctions if the pastor is not released.

    Sputnik has discussed the relationship between the United States and Turkey with Dr. Thomas Whalen, political analyst and an associate professor of social science at Boston University.

    Sputnik: How likely is it that US President Donald Trump will follow up on his warning and impose sanctions on Turkey?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: I think you need to look at it as more bluster than anything else. It's an opening move in the negotiating process. Donald Trump likes to be the bull in the china shop in terms of getting his initial point across here, but I think it's just an opening gambit. We'll see how it shapes out between the United States and Turkey, and I have a feeling there'll be some hard negotiating in the weeks ahead.

    READ MORE: US Playing 'Hardball' With Turkey as ‘Pressure' on Trump Mounts Over Pastor

    Sputnik: Some experts have noted that Donald Trump's warnings against Turkey pile more pressure on to NATO, what are your thoughts on that?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: I think that would be an accurate assessment here at a point in history where the alliance seems to be falling apart somewhat or at least fraying. This is the last thing if you were the United States you'd want to do, given how strategically located Turkey is and how vital it is to maintaining the United States military presence in the Mediterranean Sea, which is vitally strategic to US interests.

    Sputnik: What are the chances that pastor Brunson will be released, and if not how will this affect bilateral relations between the two countries?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: I think it's in everyone's interest for Turkey in the United States to resolve this conflict. So I would not be surprised if in the coming weeks some sort of compromise is reached, but if it isn't reached then that's going to really fray relations.

    READ MORE: Turkey: Unacceptable for US to Use Threatening Language Against It

    On top of that, there is the issue of what to do with the Kurds in Syria. Turkey calls them terrorists and the United States supports the Kurdish militia in Syria. So that is, I think a major issue that needs to be resolved and might be what's driving this controversy over Brunson right now that's dominating the international news headlines.

    Sputnik: What impact can the increased tensions between Ankara in Washington have on Turkey's relations with Russia?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: Well, I would think that this would push Turkey more into the arms of Russia as opposed to allying more closely with the United States. This is a further wedge that would help disrupt or even end the NATO alliance as we know it.

    Sputnik: And how do you think the situation with the United States supporting the Kurdish militia will develop further? Will Washington try to assuage Ankara and distance itself from the Kurdish militia?

    Dr. Thomas Whalen: Well that's a possibility, but with Donald Trump, the problem is, he's so impulsive you really don't know what he is going to do from one day to the next. Today he might say one thing, but then he might tweet tomorrow something entirely different, and the other issue that's kind of complicating things is Turkey has refused to go along with the United States and impose sanctions against Iran in terms of importing Iranian oil.

    READ MORE: US State Secretary Pompeo, Turkish FM Cavusoglu Discuss Pastor Brunson Case

    Donald Trump has been very upset over this. Turkey is a next-door neighbor to Iran and they think that it's a mistake for the Trump administration to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal.

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    military presence, NATO, Turkey, United States, Mediterranean Sea
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