What’s next for the U.S.-Turkish alliance? – analyst

The alliance between Turkey and the United States has finally reached a fork in the road in their defence industrial coupling, Aaron Stein, research director at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia said.

The U.S. Congress who has made clear that the future arms exports to Turkey depend on resolving the S-400 issue, may well block the sale of F-16s and even if it goes through, Ankara may well decide to buy more Russian weapons anyways, Stein wrote for War on the Rocks on Monday.

“Both sides should compromise. But both sides should also be prepared for the fact they probably won’t,” the analyst wrote.

Ankara-Washington relations have deteriorated after Turkey acquired S-400 air defence missiles from Russia in 2019, which resulted in Ankara’s exclusion from the F-35 stealth fighter jet programme and sanctions against its defence industry. Washington has called on Ankara to drop any plans to purchase more of the missiles or risk further punitive measures.

Last week, Reuters said that Turkey has made a request to the U.S. to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-made F-16 fighter jets, citing sources familiar with the issue. On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Washington had proposed selling Ankara F-16s to offset its investment in the F-35 programme, however, Ned Price, spokesman for the State Department, told reporters on Monday that Washington has not made any financing offers on Turkey’s F-16 request.

According to Ismail Demir, the head of the country’s Defence Industries Presidency, Turkey is prepared to consider purchasing Russian-made Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jets should it fail to reach agreement with United States on the delivery of F-16 fighter jets.

The United States has an interest in selling Turkey these F-16s, but with trust so badly broken, it is unwise for Ankara to assume that U.S. policymakers will sign off on the export over concerns about “losing Turkey,” Aaron Stein said.

“Turkish officials would be wise to seriously consider a compromise on the S-400. The future of the Turkish Air Force is murky and a single S-400 regiment is not worth the problems it will cause,” he said.

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