“The U.S. is using Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missiles for its ulterior motives, said a retired Turkish general” blared the headline of a doggedly pro-AKP Yeni Safak daily.
“Turkey’s Patriot process will be terminated if Ankara purchases Russia’s S-400 missiles,” said a top U.S. official on Thursday. This threat-oriented statement came as Turkey was holding crucial talks with Washington regarding Syria’s Manbij.
The threat of sanctiosn is real and spans several issues. The first is Turkey’s determination to obtain S-400 anti-missile defense systems.
US government will halt the process of selling the Patriot systems if Turkey proceeds with the purchase of the Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, a senior US official told Hurriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.
“We will not proceed as the condition of the congressional authorisation to make the offer to Turkey, we’re not in a condition to proceed with the Patriot sale if the S-400 sale goes forward”, the official said.
The official then weighed in on talks between Ankara and Washington at which the American side laid out the proposal for the acquisition of the Patriots:
“We are very concerned that the Turkish purchase of S-400 missiles will endanger Turkish participation in the F-35 programme and will likely result through our legislation in some sort of sanctions coming through the legislations called CAATSA”, the insider stated.
The remarks came just weeks after Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that the deliveries of Russian S-400s were not intertwined with the procurement of US Patriots.
“Our position remains unchanged: we will do everything that we deem necessary to ensure our national security. […] Turkey may buy Patriot systems in the future. But it will be impossible if abandoning S-400 is one of the conditions for the purchase”.
The gold connection
In an article titled “Mysterious Turkish Firm Helped Maduro Move $900 Million in Gold”, Bloomberg claims:
It’s not the first time that Turkey has positioned itself as a work-around for countries facing U.S. sanctions, potentially undermining Washington’s efforts to isolate governments it considers hostile or corrupt. Ankara has often tested the boundaries of U.S. tolerance, and the alliance between the key NATO members is now essentially broken, according to two senior U.S. officials.
An Ahlatci (a firm Erdogan tried to recruit to found gold refining operations in Venezuela, but failed) executive was among business leaders who last week met Marshall Billingslea, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Treasury responsible for combating terrorist financing, who was in Turkey on a twice-yearly visit, according to a participant in the meetings. Billingslea warned the group to avoid dealing with what he called El Aissami’s “blood gold,” the person said, asking not to be identified discussing a private meeting.
Billingslea’s priority in Turkey wasn’t Venezuela, but compliance with sanctions on Iran, according to two people familiar with the matter. Some U.S. officials have said they’re concerned there could be a connection between the two, though no evidence has been presented so far to suggest there is.
That bad blood means the nations can no longer be considered friends, leaving them to negotiate purely on a transactional basis, according to the two U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified discussing such matters.
The crux of rising tensions hall be Syria, where Turkey entertains offers from US and Russia about her role in the post-US world. If Ankara sides with the Russian-Iran Axis, US’ Mid-East policy could suffer a huge blow, which could be reciprocated by sanctions. A tri-partite summit in Russian city of Socii next week, with Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani should help Turkey decide which camp it intends to join.