Turkey's S-400 purchase sign of shifting strategic view on United States – Turkey expert

Ankara’s adversarial approach in foreign relations is very likely to lead to a shift in the United States’ Turkey policy, from cooperation toward containment, Nicholas Danforth from Georgetown University told Ahval’s Editor-in-Chief Yavuz Baydar in a podcast.

Danforth, a prominent Turkey observer and analyst, spoke with Baydar about his recent article entitled, “Between Cooperation Containment: New US Policies for a new Turkey”, and Turkey’s post-2016 security doctrine.

The latest reports on Turkey have presented a gloomy picture of Turkey’s relations with its Western allies amid a string of developments that are alienating Ankara.

According to Danforth, it is becoming difficult to promote good relations between Turkey and the United States.

It would be wrong to say Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems stemmed from frustration with the United States, the Turkey expert said, as Ankara’s new strategy shows its changing mind about the United States.

“Put simply, the Turkish government views the United States as a strategic threat rather than an ally,” Danforth said. “And a growing majority in Washington have come to view Turkey the same way.”

For the newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration, Turkey now presents not a relationship to be restored but “an unsolvable foreign policy problem to be managed and mitigated as best as possible,” he said.

Danforth said that the United States’ Turkey policy under Biden will “almost certainly continue its gradual shift from cooperation, toward containment.”

If Turkey is to seek more of an independent stance in its foreign relations, policy makers in the United States need to take its foreign policy statements seriously, Danforth said.

The West, according to Danforth, should recognise Turkey’s insistence on independent behaviour in defiance of its traditional alliances. Doing so will, however, “cause problems”, he added.

The United States maintains that the S-400 is incompatible with NATO weapons systems, and that it poses a threat to alliance’s security.

The scholar said that those who favoured a more independent foreign policy for Turkey should also acknowledge that they intended to change the country’s direction away from the West.

Turkey’s new security doctrine suggests that since foreign policy makers in Ankara understood that the country’s claim to soft power in the Middle East was gone, Danforth said, it was time to adopt a more realistic approach and exert hard power in the region.