Strained Turkey-U.S relations might affect their military ties

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The ongoing crisis between U.S and Turkey relations risks consequences in military ties between the two, after U.S President Donald Trump last week ordered new tariffs on Turkey due to continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

The tariffs have been slapped on  steel and aluminum, which has caused the country’s currency, lira, to take a hit. On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote in The New York Times that unless Washington can “reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect,” Turkey will “start looking for new friends and allies.” It contacted Russia soon after to to discuss economic and trade issues, as well as the Syria crisis.

Soon after, despite being a NATO ally, Turkey entered into an understanding to buy Russia’s advanced S-400 air defense system.

Military ties are consequentially strained due to Washington’s support to Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG. Turkey eyes it as more than an offshoot of the “terrorist” Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

On Monday, Trump signed a defense authorization act that notably prohibits the delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey if it goes ahead with the S-400 purchase.

Retired Admiral James Stavridis, an ex-NATO supreme allied commander, urged Washington and Ankara to do all they can to improve relations.

“To lose Turkey would be a geopolitical mistake of epic proportions,” he told MSNBC yesterday.

“Hopefully we can pull them back, but Turkey has to make the first step at this point.” Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton met with Ambassador Serdar Kilic of Turkey on Monday to discuss “Turkey’s continued detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson and the state of the US-Turkey relationship,” the White House said.

The ongoing strengthening relationship with Russia has led to many to question Turkey’s reliability as a NATO partner. Joshua Landis, director of Center for Middle East Studies, told AFP that Turkey’s ejection from NATO would be disastrous. “There’s no upside to kicking Turkey out, it’ll just force Turkey into Russia’s hands,” he said.

Incirlik, a Turkish air base in southern Turkey, just 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the border with war-torn Syria is under the radar due to this.

The air base allegedly holds a stockpile of about 50 American nuclear bombs and is a key strategic asset for the US military and for NATO.

It is expected that both sides will suffer if the relationship dips, but Turkey could suffer more, according to the experts.

“Turkey is going to be hurt the most because it’s weaker and America is just a big elephant,” Landis said.

In situations like this, it “ultimately hurts the smaller countries a lot more”.

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