ANKARA: A $738 billion defense spending bill signed by US President Donald Trump early on Saturday takes aim at Turkey’s finance and military sectors, further straining ties between Ankara and Washington.
The bill includes a ban on transferring Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets or components to Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system.
It also calls on Trump to implement sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which includes 12 measures targeting the Turkish economy and defense sector.
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, said the threat of sanctions against Turkey in the defense bill is significant and a sign of Washington’s likely future position in its relationship with Ankara.
However, experts caution against another comprehensive bill aimed at punishing Ankara with harsher sanctions as well as criticizing the country over its incursion into Syria in October against US-supported Syrian Kurdish YPG militia as well as its military rapprochement with the Kremlin.
The defense bill includes restrictions on arms sales to Turkey and opposition to loans from international financial institutions that benefit the country.
“Targeted sanctions against Turkey are an appropriate response in order for Ankara to be held accountable for its military offensive in northeast Syria,” the bill noted.
Turkey was removed from the F-35 manufacturing program in July following its acquisition of Russian air defense system, which the US said was incompatible with the NATO system and could present a security risk.
“For the past couple of years, we have been watching a slow-moving train crash that will bring the US-Turkey partnership as we have known it to an end,” Unluhisarcikli told Arab News.
“The two allies will need to build a new relationship with a new strategic framework after the dust settles,” he said.
The bill signed by Trump also lifts a US arms embargo on the divided island of Cyprus and sanctions companies involved in the TurkStream pipeline project running from Russia to Turkey.
Lisel Hintz, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on Turkey, said that the US House and Senate resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide as well as the defense bill showed there was an immense swell of bipartisan support for action against Turkey.
“Congress, already rankled by the idea of a NATO ally trying to negotiate with jailed American citizens and whose presidential protection team beat up peaceful protesters and US security forces on American soil, was further angered that sanctions which should have been triggered by Turkey’s S-400 purchase were not implemented,” Hintz told Arab News.
“The selection and timing of sanctions lies in Trump’s hands, leaving a flaw in the design of a coercive mechanism,” she added.
However, Ankara seems unwilling to compromise on controversial issues between the two countries, instead threatening to shut down the strategic Incirlik air base in southern Turkey which has been used by the US for decades.
Turkey’s response is likely “to be more military-political in addition to imposing similar prohibitions on some US ministers, which will have more symbolic meaning,” Murat Yetkin, a prominent Turkish journalist, wrote on his blog.
According to Hintz, Turkey has made it clear it will not be dissuaded from moving forward with the Russian S-400 system and is “highly invested” in a relationship with Russia.
“It may be time for the US to recognize this as a colossal failure of deterrence, made possible by massively mixed messaging on the US side — as seen in Syria as well — and Erdogan’s desire to carve a more independent role for Turkey in global affairs, one less tethered to US demands,” she said.
“While Turkey will no doubt remain in NATO, and is unlikely to establish any kind of meaningful partnership with Russia, the increased hostility Erdogan is displaying toward the West is not just rhetorical,” Hintz added.
Ankara recently announced plans to accelerate its partnership with the UK for the construction of a new generation of fighter jet engines for the Turkish air force.