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Rudaw

Analysis

Erdogan’s choice: Patriot or S-400, East or West

By ROJ ELI ZALLA 5/4/2019
Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, speaks on The Washington Perspective on April 5, 2019. Photo: Rudaw
Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, speaks on The Washington Perspective on April 5, 2019. Photo: Rudaw
WASHINGTON DC – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has wedged himself "between a rock and a hard place" because of his decisions about purchasing a missile defence system, said an expert who says global investors are closely watching to see if the strongman will take a step towards the West or towards his authoritarian friends. 

Turkey’s NATO and European partners see the country as “not a fully dependable ally,” but rather “an ally that has one foot in NATO and one foot in Russia,” said Aykan Erdemir on this week’s edition of the Washington Perspective. Erdemir is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament. 

The matter came to a head after a “turbulent week” when NATO marked its 70th anniversary, said Erdemir. In Washington, the second most powerful man in the United States issued Turkey an ultimatum. 

“Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?” US Vice President Mike Pence declared

He was referring to Ankara’s decision to buy Russia’s S-400 missile defence system. The US subsequently announced it was halting deliveries of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. 

Erdogan now faces a tough choice, explained Erdemir. As a partner in the F-35 programme, Turkish companies were producing parts and expected some $12 billion in revenues. The country was also going to house the European service centre for the jets. All that is now at risk of being lost, which would deal another blow to the already struggling economy. 

But Erdogan can’t just drop the S-400 purchase, the analyst argued, because Russia has huge influence in Turkey’s energy sector – building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and the TurkStream natural gas pipeline. If Erdogan cancels the missile defence deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin “will start turning the screws,” he said. 

Turkey’s defence minister on Friday said they could keep both Moscow and Washington happy by buying two missile defence systems. 

“We have been saying that we can get the Patriots American air and missile defence systems at the same time while getting the S-400s,” Hulusi Akar said, Anadolu Agency reported

Erdogan, who will make this third visit to Russia this year when he goes to Moscow on Monday, said the “S-400 process is complete” and Turkey will get first delivery in July. 

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