Selçuk Çolakoğlu:President Erdoğan did not hesitate to carry out all these projects with Russia

Selçuk Çolakoğlu:President Erdoğan did not hesitate to carry out all these projects with Russia

EurAsiaAz spoke to Selçuk Çolakoğlu, Director Turkish Center for Asia Pacific Studies, Professor of International Relations.

President Vladimir Putin, speaking on Thursday at a meeting of the Valdai Club, noted the importance of developing Russian-Turkish relations. “Despite any pressure, Erdogan and I have implemented the Turkish Stream project in a fairly short time. Knowing and understanding his national interests, Erdogan said that we are implementing this, and we did it. As well as in other areas. For example, in the field of military-technical cooperation. Turkey decided that they needed a modern air defense system, and the best system in the world today is the S-400, a Russian-made Triumph, said and bought. It is not just pleasant to have such a partner, it is reliable to work with such a partner. ”Why did Putin call Erdogan a reliable partner?

Turkey and Russia have increased their area of cooperation from energy to defence industry. In this regard, building the Turkish Stream Pipeline and purchasing of Russian air defence system by Turkey were particularly important steps which angered the United States. Now Turkey faces a risk of sanction by the United States. Although European NATO countries are not against the increasing Turkish-Russian energy cooperation including the Turkish Stream Pipeline, European allies of Turkey like the U.S. are also against Ankara’s purchasing of the S-400 missiles. President Erdoğan did not hesitate to carry out all these projects with Russia. President Putin may praise President Erdoğan’s decisiveness to develop the Turkish-Russian energy and defence cooperation in recent years.The U.S. Congress may put sanctions as partial or full import ban to Turkish defence industry

The US pressure is increasing on Turkey because of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. The Americans “asked” Erdogan to send these complexes back to Russia, but he said that Ankara would never give up the S-400. The S-400 purchased from Russia will function independently of the NATO system, Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar said. Why have the Americans returned to this issue and continue to put pressure on Turkey? What are Americans really afraid of?

Not purchasing S-400 missiles was a red line for the United States and NATO for a long time. When Turkey got the Russian missiles in July 2019, President Trump made a revision on the U.S. redline for Turkey not to activate the missiles. If there is no change in the U.S. position, there will be no possibility to use the Russian missiles without facing sanctions even if they are not integrated into the NATO system. The U.S. and NATO consider if the S-400 missiles are used by a member country, Russia may steal some critical defence tech and learn NATO war game tactics.

The US State Department expressed the hope that Turkey will not put Russian systems - the S-400 - into service. As the American diplomats warned, otherwise Ankara will face "serious consequences." What serious consequences are we talking about? What extreme measures can the Americans take, with the exception of sanctions?

The U.S. warned Turkey that it risked sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act if the S-400 system were activated. President Trump, however, has held back on implementing the sanctions hopes Erdogan will not go ahead with activating the missiles. The U.S. Congress may put sanctions as partial or full import ban to Turkish defence industry and freeze assets of Turkish leaders and their close business circle in the U.S.

In your opinion, how will the issue of the fifth generation aircraft - F-35, for which Ankara has already paid for, be resolved?

The U.S. kicked Turkey out of the F-35 program in 2019 after it took possession of the S-400 system. Turkey was making components for the F-35 and had planned to purchase 100 of the stealth fighters. The U.S. decided to buy all F-35 jets bought by Turkey and returned Turkish payments.

Turkish President Erdogan insulted Macron after the murder of a teacher near Paris. France recalled its ambassador to Turkey. Relations between the two countries are slipping lower and lower. What to expect next from relations with France? How likely is the scenario of an armed conflict between the two countries, for example, in the Mediterranean?

The Turkish-French relations have become tense when they have supported the opposing warring sides in Libya. While Turkey has backed the Tripoli-based GNA government, France has supported the Tobruk-based parliament. Then, France has delivered active support to Greece and the Republic of Cyprus in the East Med maritime disputes against Turkey. The war or words between Macron and Erdoğan has moved another staged recently after the French President’s remarks on Islam. The Turkish-French relations have moved to the level of the Sarkozy era. It is expected that the relationship between the two governments will stay at the lowest level until a leadership change at least for one side. But there is no possibility of an armed conflict between the two NATO countries.

How did the situation in Karabakh, Libya, Syria affect the Turkish economy? In particular, how did all these conflicts, in particular the Karabakh conflict, affect the Turkish economy?

Turkey’s military engagement policies in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and the East Med have brought some burdens to the Turkish economy. Rather than military expenditure of Turkey itself, political costs of these interventions have brought some risks for Turkish economy. Recently, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have begun a boycott to Turkish goods. There may be some other difficulties for Turkish companies and goods in other countries in near future, if the Turkish government continues its active military engagement policies in close neighborhood. The Karabakh conflict has no economic cost so far for Turkey, because Ankara has not been directly involved in the conflicts.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar arrived on an official visit to Kazakhstan. He intends to discuss regional security issues with the Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan Nurlan Yermekbayev. What are the reasons for the visit?

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar previously visited Pakistan for the keel-laying ceremony of the second Milgem Class Corvette built by the Turkish state-owned Defence Firm Asfat. The Turkish government has given importance for joint defence industry contracts with other countries in recent years as a source of revenue and increasing strategic cooperation with other countries. Turkey and Kazakhstan have the existing relations in military training, cooperation, and the defense industry. Defence Minister Akar met with Beibut Atamkulov, Kazakhstan’s industry and infrastructure development minister as well as Defense Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev. This shows that Minister Akar’s main purpose of Kazakhstan visit is to search opportunities to increase defence industry cooperation between the two countries.

Seymur Mammadov
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