Background to the S-400 crisis
By accepting the S-400, Turkey has engaged in a “significant transaction” with a Russian entity blacklisted under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and will be hit with secondary sanctions. Meanwhile, Turkey has been “suspend[ed]” from the F-35 fighter jet programme because, as the White House put it: “the F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform [i.e. the S-400] that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.” A process has been initiated to formally remove Turkey from the programme, including the F-35 supply chain.
There has been significant mirror-imaging from the team around Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a number of whom have believed that the US President Donald Trump can simply refuse to implement the law. (This is something of a turnaround from when it had to be explained to the King of France that the Ottoman Sultan was not “sole master” who “does as he pleases”, but rather “has to consult.”) In fact, there is little option but to enforce the law. The latitude is in how Trump applies it.
In fairness to Erdogan, it is not his fault alone that he has misunderstood the US policy. Despite consistent statements from US officials over many months warning the Turks what will happen if the S-400 enters Turkey, Trump has gone radically off-script several times. For example, in late June, on the edges of the G20 meeting, Trump blamed the crisis on his predecessor, saying President Barack Obama “wouldn’t let [Erdogan] buy the missile that he wanted to buy, which is the Patriot. And then, after he buys from somebody else, he says, ‘Now we’ll sell you the Patriot.’ … I don’t think he was treated fairly.”
As it happens, this timeline is not accurate.
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