Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the bill on sanctions against Ankara, adopted by the House of Representatives of the US Congress in connection with the operation of the Turkish Armed Forces in Syria and the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems.

“We strongly condemn the adoption by the US House of Representatives of a bill that would impose sanctions on Turkey in connection with Operation Source of Peace,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Ankara emphasizes that the adoption of such a bill "does not correspond to the spirit of the North Atlantic Alliance and contradicts the agreement with the US leadership regarding Syria, which was reached on October 17".

The Turkish side also called on the US Congress not to use issues of bilateral relations to achieve domestic political goals. Ankara warns US parliamentarians that "the threat of sanctions will not lead to anything."

According to the bill passed by Congress, sanctions will be imposed against senior Turkish officials involved in Operation Source of Peace, including Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar. The document also provides for the blocking of the assets of Turkish officials and the introduction of restrictive measures against the Turkish state bank Halkbank.

The bill also requires the House of Representatives of the US Congress to submit data on American assets of the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s family to discuss further possible measures.

According to political analyst Alexander Asafov, relations between the two NATO allies are in “negative dynamics” on a number of issues: Turkish-Russian cooperation in the military-technical sphere, cooperation to resolve the conflict in Syria and the construction of infrastructure facilities with the participation of Russia, including Turkish flow ”and the nuclear power plant in Akkuyu.

“The previous Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said that Washington was disappointed that Ankara was buying the S-400, but he could not do anything, since this is an internal matter of a sovereign country. However, after this, the Americans reached direct sanctions. This means that the nature of Turkish-American relations will develop along a negative track, unless Turkey stops close cooperation and allied interaction with Russia, ”Asafov said.

Bipartisan strike

Representatives of both parties - Democratic and Republican - voted almost unanimously for the adoption of the bill. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, commenting on the adoption of the bill, made it clear that the US supra-party political establishment is dissatisfied with the White House’s insufficiently rigid policy towards Turkey.

  • U.S. Congress
  • Reuters
  • © Jim Young

“Today, Democrats and Republicans have come together to provide an example of strong and visionary leadership that the White House certainly lacks,” Pelosi quoted The New York Times as saying.

The congressmen participating in the vote emphasized that, in addition to sanctions for the operation of the Turkish Armed Forces against the Kurds - allies of Washington, the United States also punishes Ankara for the purchase of weapons and military equipment from Russia.

“We allowed Turkey to join NATO to protect it from the Soviet Union. And now our NATO partner is purchasing Russian weapons and is threatening our allies through the invasion of Syria, ”NYT cites Republican Rep. Michael McCall.

Recall that Washington, from the end of 2018, tried, through political pressure and various restrictive measures, to force Ankara to abandon the purchase of the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia. The US Senate froze the transfer of fifth-generation F-35 fighters to Turkey, then the country was excluded from their production program (Turkish companies produced a number of components necessary for the aircraft to operate), and Turkish military pilots were not allowed to train on new aircraft.

Despite this, Ankara did not refuse to purchase the S-400. It is expected that the third stage of the supply of air defense systems will be completed no later than December of this year.

Dissatisfaction with Turkey’s policy unites Washington’s two main political forces for the first time. In July 2019, senior members of the Republican and Democratic parties from the US Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Forces committees issued a joint statement condemning the “fallacy” of the course chosen by Ankara.

“On a solid two-party basis, Congress made it clear that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s erroneous decision to acquire S-400 systems should have consequences. This step of Turkey is an alarming signal of a strategic partnership with Putin's Russia and a threat to the F-35 program, ”the statement said.

Alexander Asafov, in an interview with RT, noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as opponents of Trump from the Democratic and his own party, want to not only punish Turkey for an independent policy, but also put pressure on the presidential administration and take control of its foreign policy US subpoena.

“Democrats understand that Trump does not need conflicts before the election, respectively, they will create inconvenient situations for him. Erdogan’s reaction will be obvious and, of course, Trump will be forced to react. We’ll see when the Democrats accuse Trump of collaborating with other unwanted regimes and betraying the interests of one of Israel’s closest allies, ”said the expert.

In turn, the deputy director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts of the RUDN University, Nikita Danyuk, believes that the Democrats are trying to limit Trump's space for maneuver in the international arena as much as possible.

“He is the first president whose foreign policy is so strongly disapproved by Congress. Previously, presidents, even if they did not have a majority in the House of Representatives, defended the national interests of the American state on the outer perimeter and, despite the party’s differences, if they didn’t help, then at least they didn’t interfere. Democrats are trying to create some boundaries for Trump, a framework so that it becomes more difficult for him to work. They openly play against the US president, ignoring national interests that are higher than the internal party, internal political struggle, ”Danyuk explained.

Sanction Cycle

Recall that the White House on October 14 already imposed sanctions against Ankara due to a military operation in northeast Syria. This happened after Donald Trump was subjected to a flurry of criticism for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, just before the start of the Turkish operation "Source of Peace." Both Trump’s political opponents from the Democratic camp and his Republican party members called this step “betrayal” of the Kurds, whom Washington has long supported as its allies in the Syrian conflict.

  • Russian S-400 air defense systems arrive in Turkey
  • Reuters
  • © Turkish Military / Turkish Defense Ministry

After the imposition of sanctions in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence went to negotiate. The result of the meeting with the Turkish leadership was the conclusion of a ceasefire on October 17, during which Kurdish armed forces were to leave the designated security zone on the Syrian-Turkish border.

On October 23, Donald Trump lifted sanctions from Turkey through the US Treasury Department, noting that he was ready to reintroduce them, including raising export tariffs, if Ankara takes steps that "will not please" the United States.

However, Turkey was unhappy with the continued contacts of US officials with representatives of Kurdish armed groups, in particular with the commander of the Kurdish troops of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazlum Abdi, whom Ankara considers a terrorist.

At the same time, the issue of the situation in northeast Syria was resolved at the level of heads of state between Russia and Turkey. On October 22 in Sochi, negotiations were held between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the result of which was the adoption of a memorandum on a number of decisions aimed at stabilizing the situation on the Syrian-Turkish border.

According to Alexander Asafov, new sanctions by the US Congress will lead to the fact that Turkey will move further away from the US and NATO and try to pursue an independent policy and look for other allies, including Russia.

“The only question is whether this process will be quick or take a longer time,” the political scientist believes.

In turn, Nikita Danyuk noted that the reason for a new round of deterioration in relations between Turkey and the United States was the desire of Turkey, not coordinating each of its political steps with Washington, to become a leader in the region.

“Erdogan understands perfectly well that relations in the format of boss and subordinate are important for the USA. In these conditions, Turkey, which has its own geopolitical ambitions and considers it right to take certain steps without consent and looking back at Washington, is an irritating factor for the United States, ”the expert concluded.

* “Islamic State” (ISIS, ISIS) - the organization was recognized as terrorist by decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of December 29, 2014.