Last week, one of the most significant developments in regards to Turkish-American relations was the meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump with dozens of Republican senators. Reportedly, during the meeting President Trump tried to convince the senators in regards to the potential negative impacts of adopting sanctions against Turkey to the U.S. and its bilateral relations. Many have discussed so far the potential loss of Turkey if Ankara purchases the S-400 missile system; however as Sen. Lindsay Graham tweeted yesterday, the sanctions against Turkey will create a lose-lose situation for both countries. This situation can create adverse effects for U.S. national interests in three ways. First of all, sanctioning Turkey will likely damage potential geopolitical cooperation between the two countries.
For the last few years, the policies of the U.S. administrations against Turkey generated a significant problem of trust between the two countries.
Beyond influencing public opinion’s view of U.S. foreign policy, this trust deficit may also impact Turkish foreign policymakers. In an increasingly turbulent region and at a very critical time, it is vital for the U.S. to establish a working relationship with its NATO ally.
The tensions in the Black Sea, the status of Crimea, the instability in Iraq, and the conflict in Syria are only a few regions that the U.S. will need the support of Turkey to formulate and implement a long-term strategy.
The existing cooperation in the war against terrorism and the stabilization operations in Afghanistan and the continuation of the joint works in these areas are also extremely critical for U.S. foreign policy.
In the midst of all these crises and the critical roles that Turkey is playing in these conflicts, to generate a rift with Turkey can result in a serious loss for the U.S. administration. As mentioned numerous times in this column, the U.S. administration should pay significant attention to the possible destructive effect of the sanctions on the Turkish perception of the U.S. and the impact of this perception for the existing and future cooperation between two countries.
Secondly, sanctioning Turkey will also create an economic loss for Turkey. Following the statements from the Pentagon on excluding Turkey from the F-35 program, some analysts argued that it will create a minimum $500 million loss for the F-35 project.
The potential damage the exclusion of Turkey can create for the supply chain mechanisms of the F-35 program was frequently stated by U.S. officials. In addition to this, the delays in the delivery of the F-35s following Turkey’s exclusion will also generate a serious problem of order backlogging for the program.
Some reports also stated the potential increase in the unit price of the F-35 following such a step. Adopting further sanctions against Turkey may also spread this damage to other areas of economic relations between two countries.
In fact it creates another lose-lose situation for Turkey-U.S. relations. Although some in the U.S. seem very eager to “punish” Turkey through sanctions, they have paid attention to the economic losses that such action can incur on the U.S. side as well.
Thirdly, there is also a proxy loss from the deterioration of the relationship between Turkey and the U.S. All of the U.S. allies around the world are closely monitoring the actions of the U.S. against a NATO ally.
Threatening to sanction an ally and excluding it from a strategic weapons program may generate a high degree of anxiety among the U.S. allies in different parts of the world. Especially following the F-35 program announcement, all of the other partner countries, and the would-be partners for future weapons programs, realize that there is a possibility of unilateral action by the U.S. against other partner countries.
Without a doubt this will lead to second thoughts and studying different scenarios in regards to the future of these countries’ relations with the U.S. The already existing credibility gap of the U.S. will seemingly increase in the next few years due to U.S. policy toward Turkey. Thus it will be another serious loss for U.S. foreign policy.
All of these losses need to be analyzed and examined by U.S. foreign policymakers before making any decisions about the sanctions against Turkey. The domestic political clashes and politicking by some actors in the U.S. government should not lead to an irreversible and highly costly action that would cause a major rift with an ally. It should be understood that it will be a lose-lose situation for both countries and whoever is pursuing this policy will be responsible for the losses.
[Daily Sabah, 27 July 2019]