Turkey has a number of options but a lot will depend on how the Turkey-Biden relationship kicks off.
The Trump administration has officially imposed the long-anticipated sanctions on Turkey over the purchase of Russian S-400s. It was interesting that the announcement of the sanctions, which were expected to be made last week, coincided with the same day that Joe Biden was formally elected by the Electoral College.
By the time the US Department of State released the press statement about the "embargo" on Monday, everyone in Washington DC had already started talking about the articles of the sanctions against Turkey.
We can split the sanctions decision into two categories. The first is symbolic, which are the ones targeting representatives of Turkey's defence industry
The second is to inflict damage. The sanctions targeting Turkey's defence industry, on the financial and technological side, aim to do just that.
The US State Department announced the details of the sanctions, initially verbally and in writing, and this was followed by a written statement by the Department of Treasury. The US Secretary of State Pompeo warned its NATO ally Turkey, that Ankara's purchase of the S-400s would endanger the security of US military technology and personnel.
Matthew Palmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European Affairs, also added as part of a longer statement, "Sorry, but we had no choice but to implement the sanctions."
Apart from those who stated that these sanctions were imposed by US Secretary of State Pompeo, there are those in DC who claim that it was inevitable for President Trump to implement sanctions before January 20 because he was cornered by Congress.
There are also those who are saying that President Trump pressed the button to leave President-elect Biden with a crisis regarding relations between Turkey and the US. In particular, it's important to emphasise the remarks of Senator Chris Murphy, whom I know very well, who stated, "Russia delivered this system to Turkey 16 months ago, and Pompeo refused several times to impose sanctions since then. Now, 30 days before Biden takes office, Pompeo suddenly changing his mind would have huge consequences for Biden's foreign policy."
The general atmosphere in Congress suggests "a belated decision" and claims that "Turkey has been given a lesson." We have also heard remarks such as, "Let's not increase the sanctions too much, or we'll push Turkey towards Russia," in the last two days.
The US will follow the "wait-and-see policy" now. It is clear that the only aim of the sanctions, for now, is to jeopardise the future of the Turkish defence industry.
It is also worth noting that the sanctions are not as light as expected. The US is clearly stating that it is ready to sever ties unless Turkey gives up on the S-400s. In other words, the US is implying the end of its long-time defence cooperation with Turkey.
The US will now wait for Turkey's next step, stating that it is not easy to meet the CAATSA waiver criteria, and it still hopes to engage in dialogue with Turkey. It is worth noting that the President of Turkish Defense Industries stated that, "The US has been causing problems and difficulties for a long time. We have been waiting for this."
The US imposing sanctions on another NATO ally for the first time is a tragic issue to be reckoned with. Although we talk about Turkey's acquisition of S-400s and the sanctions, the US has already kicked Turkey out of the F-35 program, in which Turkey was a joint producer, seizing the aircraft purchased. It is a reminder that the US has started to find alternatives for Turkish manufacturers to support the project.
Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement in October that the US condemns in the strongest possible terms Turkey's testing of the S-400s. He emphasised that if the S-400 system was activated, it would risk serious consequences. The news of the testing resulted in repeat warnings from Congress. However, five possible sanctions are to be implemented initially. The US has signalled it could expand sanctions against Turkey if the S-400s are activated.
Will sanctions be lifted?
The Act clearly states how the sanctions can be lifted:
"After one year, the President can cancel the sanctions provided he certifies to the relevant congressional committees that the Turkish government or any specified person no longer owns the S-400s or a Russian system that has succeeded it, no persons on behalf of the Russian Government or companies shall operate S-400s within Turkey, the President has received credible assurances from Turkey that the Turkish Government or any person acting on its behalf will not involve in any activity to reacquire S-400s or a successor system, subject to sanctions in accordance with section 231 of the CAATSA Act."
In section 159 of the bill, it is requested that the necessary procedures be initiated to identify the manufacturers that will produce parts for the F-35s instead of Turkish companies within 15 days after the Act comes into force.
What options does Turkey have?
It is important that a collective national will and attitude is adopted after sanctions because the US still fails to realise that when national security is in question, the Turkish nation is and will be united. All the parties including those in opposition condemned the decision. The way that everybody was united against the coup plotters in the July 15 coup attempt serves as a strong reminder of the Turkish nation's unity in the face of the country's national interests.
Moving forward Turkey should take the issue seriously and not make any hasty decisions. Turkey's needs to focus efforts for a solution within NATO (engaging in dialogue with other NATO countries) or, in other words, seeking to find common ground (establishing a joint commission).
Another route is that Turkey gives up on S-400s, the S-400s are not activated or they are sold to another country. But Turkey must not give up on the F-35 program, which is of strategic and critical importance to Turkey.
The only thing that is clear here is that the Turkish defence industry will be motivated to grow stronger after these sanctions. Let's not forget that Aselsan was founded following US sanctions after to the Cyprus Peace Operation in 1974. Rest assured, we will get stronger in the future, thanks to the sanctions we are currently experiencing.
Can Turkey come to an agreement with Biden?
After President-elect Biden takes office on January 20, he will be preoccupied with domestic politics; the confirmation process of the cabinet in the Senate, and the fight against Covid-19. As we know, after a phone call with Turkish President Erdogan, a new hope to start off with a clean slate arose.
The problems with the Trump administration have been expressed to President-elect Biden, and I don't expect that the Biden administration will take further steps to deteriorate the relationship with Turkey.
The Biden administration will endeavour to get Turkey to give up on the S-400s. Turkey, on the other hand, will discuss a formula with which the S-400 issue can be resolved with Biden. The Biden administration knows that there can be no solution in the Middle East without Turkey due to the changing dynamics in the region.
I hope that Turkey can reach a consensus with the US in every field and that they don't let Russia damage relations between NATO allies.
2021 will not be an easy time for bilateral relations. First and foremost, trust must be rebuilt. We will be entering a new period of relations between Turkey and the US, where there will be negotiations, sacrifices, and intense diplomacy traffic.
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