Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 air defense systems from Russia exposes Turkey to likely US sanctions and may bar it from getting F-35 jets, a State Department official said, adding that Turkey should “align with the West”, following the Anglo-American mantra “if you are not with us, you’re against us“.
The warning came on Wednesday from Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell, who spoke to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on behalf of his department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.
Ankara should be mindful of the risks in making strategic concessions to Moscow in order to achieve its tactical objectives in Syria. Ankara claims to have agreed to purchase the Russian S-400 missile system, which could potentially lead to sanctions under section 231 of CAATSA and adversely impact Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program,” he said.
Mitchell is far from being the first US official to express opposition to Ankara’s purchase of advanced Russian anti-aircraft weapons. But interestingly, he came up with quite a novel justification for his position. Earlier, the Americans said Turkey’s use of the S-400 system would compromise NATO’s communications and cause interoperability problems, which are legitimate concerns for the alliance. But Mitchell’s threat was purely about geopolitical loyalties.
“Turkey lately has increased its engagement with Russia and Iran,” he said. “The ease with which Turkey brokered arrangements with the Russian military to facilitate the launch of its Operation Olive Branch in Afrin District – arrangements to which America was not privy – is gravely concerning.”
The diplomat notably said that “it is in the American national interest to see Turkey remain strategically and politically aligned with the West.” Mitchell’s entire address to the committee was remarkably forthcoming. For instance, he described America’s goals in Syria as defeating the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), ensuring that “a Syria that is unified and stable emerge[s] from the conflict; and above all to prevent Iran, that aids and abets Hezbollah and that seeks the destruction of the state of Israel, from extending its malign influence in the region.”
Washington for years insisted that fighting IS was its sole wish in Syria and used a UN Security Council resolution calling on all nations of the world to fight the jihadists as a legal fig leaf to justify deploying some 2,000 troops in Syria against the wishes of its government.
However, since then, Washington has position their troops around Syria’s biggest oil fields.