Any softening of the United States’ position on Turkey’s operation of the Russian S-400 missile system is not possible, analyst Bulent Aliriza told Voice of America’s Turkish edition on Saturday.
Aliriza, director for the Turkey program at the Washington D.C-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), shared his thoughts with the outlet about U.S President Joe Biden’s upcoming meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday. The two men are slated to meet on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels.
Turkey’s operation of the S-400 is expected to be a central issue between the two presidents. In the run up to the meeting, Turkish officials have been signaling that they are ready to reach some compromise on the system. On Saturday, Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar said it was “always possible” to find a solution to the debacle and that Turkey’s relationship with NATO was “deeper” than this single issue.
However, Aliriza said that it is unlikely that Biden will soften the U.S stance, pointing to legislation passed by Congress that mandated sanctions over Turkey’s possession of the S-400.
“It is not possible for the USA to soften on this issue because the F-35 sales to Turkey were within the framework of a law passed by Congress,” said Aliriza. “There is a condition that the S-400 should not be in Turkish territory.”
Going further, Aliriza said that Biden is unlikely to want to defy Congress’ will, pointing to the president’s own experience as both a U.S senator and chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee to emphasise his respect for the branch’s prerogatives.
In December 2020, Congress passed the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) that included a provision that mandated sanctions on Turkey for acquiring the S-400. Former President Donald Trump’s administration issued sanctions against the Turkish defence sector for the purchase which resulted in outrage from Ankara.
The Biden administration has maintained a consistent line in their interactions with Turkish officials. Their stance has been that sanctions relief would only follow a removal of the S-400 from Turkey.
Aliriza added that the chances of a solution to the S-400 situation were slim and that the issue would persist past Monday’s meeting. Postponing a solution to the S-400 and other bilateral issues with Turkey, he contends, will only continue damaging the relationship and raise questions about the decades-long U.S-Turkey partnership.
“It is certain that relations will continue from now on. But if some problems are not resolved – despite statements that talks went well after the meeting – problems that have been postponed (to deal with) for future will continue to damage relations,” said Aliriza.
“It is certain that the alliance between Turkey and the USA will continue, but there are question marks about how this will continue.”