It was the fall of 1989; the children were glued to the screen for Dr. Emmett Brown’s amazing time traveling car. “Marty! I need you to go back with me!” he said in great haste. Marty McFly asked where to, and Doc replied “Back to the future!” in part 2 of the American sci-fi movie ‘Back to the Future’.
In the hugely popular sequel, Marty (Michael J Fox) used a time machine to reach October 21, 2015 to save his own existence by changing the present and the future. The pictured future in the film with flying cars and skateboards, self-tying shoelaces etc. was quite different than what we have today.
Following eight elections over the past five years with the added burden of polarization, severe statements, unjust feelings, expectations, obstacles and fears; the victory of the opposition alliance in Istanbul’s re-run elections created the feeling that the motto “Everything’s going to be fine” had come true. But did it, really? Frankly, last week’s developments shocked and awakened not only the opposition but the whole Turkish society like a bucket of water filled with ice. From the hopes of normalization to the facts of events in foreign affairs – S400, possible US sanctions, and EU’s declaration over East Mediterranean drilling activities – we are back to the future. Unfortunately, as Marty did, we don’t have the time-hopping machine to change and restore the timeline.
Ankara, we have a problem
As a matter of fact, we have more than one problem Ankara.
To begin, there is the S400 purchase issue. In 2017, after prolonged efforts to buy US air defense systems failed due to disagreements, Turkey changed course to buy Russia’s S400 system instead. With all its ups and downs, the process continues into current year and on April 1 the United States announced that it would suspend all deliveries and activities related to Turkey’s F-35 jet procurement over Turkey’s plans to buy the S-400 system from Russia. They advised that instead of incompatible S400, Turkey should buy US Patriots that are compatible with NATO systems. U.S. Patrick Shanan, who was the Secretary of Defense at the time, declared his expectations on April 2 to resolve the S400 dispute between Turkey and the U.S. On the other hand, all senior Turkish authorities and President Erdoğan stressed that S400 was a done deal. On May 19, President Erdogan said that Moscow’s next-generation missile defense system, the S-500, would be developed by Turkey and Russia. “There’s no question of taking a step back from buying the S-400s. That’s a done deal,” said Erdogan and “The S-500 will be jointly manufactured after theS-400,” he added. On June 8, in a letter to his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, Turkish Defense Minister, Patrick Shanahan outlined a sort of ultimatum. Turkey, he said, could not have both the advanced fighter jets from America and theS-400 systems from Russia. In his letter, he also stated that the US was disappointed to hear that a Turkish staff was sent to Russia to train on theS-400. “If Turkey takes delivery of theS-400, Turkey will not receive theF-35,” he wrote. “You still have the choice on theS-400 to change course,” he added.
At a meeting of AKP representatives on June 12, President Erdogan said that Turkey had already purchased S-400 defense systems from Russia and was hoping for their delivery in July and added that Turkey would hold to account anyone who excludes them from the F-35 program. “We will hold to account Turkey’s exclusion from F-35 program in every platform due to reasons without legitimacy, ” Erdogan said. He mentioned that the program also includes Turkey as a production partner.
On June 13, when asked about the possibility of a U.S. sanctions regime against its NATO ally, Mevlüt Cavusoglu, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, stressed that Turkey was ready to respond. “If the U.S. takes any adverse action towards us, we will also take reciprocal action,” he said. “Under the governance of our president, we are already working on measures. In the face of U.S. decisions, there is no understanding like’ let’s sit silent and shut up.‘
In Osaka- Japan G20 Summit, President Erdogan spoke at a media conference and regarding S400 purchase he said that the shipment of the Russian missile defense system would start in the first half of July. The US warned that if it proceeded with the purchase, Turkey would be sanctioned. “We learned from him (President Trump) that nothing like this (sanctions) would happen,” Erdogan told to reporters. “Such a thing happens between two strategic allies is out of the question. I think it can’t occur,” said Erdogan. However, there was no U.S. confirmation of Erdogan’s claim. But, according to Reuters, Trump voiced understanding for Turkey’s decision, but in reaction he did not rule out sanctions.
Finally, the first sections of a RussianS-400 missile defense system were received by Turkey on July 12. Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the stance of the U.S. had not altered and he spoke for 30 minutes with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, but a scheduled Pentagon briefing was called off in response to Turkey’s attempts. Akar highlighted they had discussed purchasing of theS-400 missile system, but insisted it did not imply a shift in the strategic orientation of Turkey. He added that they also discussed a bid to get US air defense systems.
This is Ankara. Say again please?
The continuing conflict over hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean between the Greek Cypriot government and Turkey has flared up. The Greek Cypriot government is using every tool to exert pressure on Turkey, including its full membership of the EU. A joint statement was issued at a meeting of EU countries on June 14 saying that Turkey should immediately stop its illegal operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, or else the Union should consider appropriate steps. Turkey reacted by stating that the statement was a typical example of Greece and Greek Cypriot government abusing EU membership.
On July 12, “The European Union is set to limit Ankara’s contacts and financing in retaliation for what it calls Turkey’s illegal gas and petroleum drilling off Cyprus and is prepared to raise further sanctions,” Reuters reported according to a draft declaration.
“Despite our best intentions to maintain good neighborly ties with Turkey, its ongoing escalation and challenge to the sovereignty of our Member State Cyprus will inevitably lead the EU to react in complete solidarity,” said Donald Tusk, President of the Ministerial Council on 10 July.
On 11 July, national envoys in Brussels discussed a joint decision to penalize Turkey, a draft of which said: “In view of the ongoing and new illegal drilling operations carried out by Turkey, the (EU) decides to suspend negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and agrees not to hold further high-level dialog sessions for the time being.” It was also added that if Ankara continued drilling, the EU would be willing to implement more restrictive measures against Turkey.
Ankara, do you copy?
Turkey has finally faced the real deal after a series of seven elections in the last five years and the unnecessary re-do mayoral election in Istanbul. It is probable that due to S400 purchase from Russia, Turkey will face economic sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act by the US authorities. Moreover, Turkey signed up for buying US F-35 fighter jets, has invested in the program, and its pilots have been running training flights at an air base in Arizona. Some Turkish companies are manufacturing plane parts. This deal and the program can probably be nullified as well.
The deepening relationship with Russia also raises concerns about Turkey’s place in NATO. Adding potential EU sanctions regarding the Eastern Mediterranean conflict and poor relations with regional countries–such as Israel and Egypt, Turkey’s fragile economy may not withstand to these major seismic waves. As we don’t have a time machine to fix the past or the future, it’s time to take a deep breath and let the diplomacy and experts work to get Turkey back on track. Because of ideological beliefs and boundaries, it is not time to insist on ineffective discourse and policies; indeed, it is what brought Turkey into this trapped situation:
Ankara, do you copy?
Other highlights from past week
A forty-decare land on the campus of the Middle East Technical University (METU) was scheduled to be handed over for the building of a dormitory to the Credits and Loans Institution (KYK). On July 8, students protested against plans to bulldoze hundreds of trees to construct a new campus dormitory, as police used pepper spray to disperse crowds and started cutting down trees. Students have been camping for 55 days on the building site, stating that the building will disturb the ecosystem and cause harm to the environment. Also, several opposition MPs went to the campus in the morning to support the resistance.
Former Deputy PM resigned from AKP
On July 8, former Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Ali Babacan, announced his resignation from the ruling AKP. According to his written declaration, Babacan, a founding member of the Justice and Development Party, quoted profound disagreements over the direction of the party as a reason for quitting. “In recent years, there have been fundamental disagreements over the principles, values and views. The present situation in Turkey required a brand new view of the future because we have new, vibrant and promising generations with totally distinct requirements,” said Babacan. “We must work together and seek common ground. In view of this, it seems to me to be extremely difficult to perform on my duty as an AKP founding member,” he added.