WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – The stand-off between Washington and Ankara over the latter’s planned acquisition of the Russian air defense system, the S-400, continues, even as bipartisan opposition exists in Washington to the Turkish decision and it is difficult to see a resolution of the dispute.
Earlier this month, Kurdistan 24 spoke with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D, Virginia), on the sidelines of the NATO Foreign Ministers conference. Connolly explained that he “hopes” the dispute with Ankara “can be overcome,” but warned that NATO will have “serious problems with the Turkish decision” to proceed “with a Russian-provided missile defense system.”
Connolly, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, explained, “NATO exists for two purposes.” One is collective defense, and the other is “to promote common, democratic values.”
“There is a growing concern,” the Congressman continued, that “President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has strayed, at times, from those shared values and shown some authoritarian streaks that we worry about.”
Yet Connolly spoke approvingly of Turkey’s local elections. They are “reassuring,” he said, as they suggest “the opposition still has some life in it and can defeat the governing party in urban areas.”
Connolly also had high praise for the Kurds. “Without the Kurds and without the Peshmerga,” he affirmed, “ISIS would never have been defeated on the battlefield.”
“It was the Kurds who fought,” he continued, “and it was the Kurds who stood side by side with us.”
Gen. Wesley Clark, who is retired from the US Army and who served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), expressed a similar view. As he stated, “Turkey has to decide, really.” NATO “is saying to Turkey” that “we really want you with us.” But taking delivery of the S-400 would put Turkey in Moscow’s camp, and “you can’t be in both camps.”
“This is going to be a tough call for Turkey,” Clark continued, because Russian President Vladimir Putin has “really made some important offers.” Turkey is also “looking at the situation in Syria.” Russian forces are there, Clark noted, but “the US is pulling out.”
“There’s a lot of considerations that Mr. Erdogan is facing, and I just hope that he makes the right decision,” he concluded.
Clark also had high praise for the Kurds, noting that the US has “been involved with Kurdistan” for the past 28 years—“since the end of the  Gulf war.”
The Kurds “have been phenomenal allies to the United States, not only against ISIS, but before that.” They’ve helped promote “the Westernization of Iraq,” and so “we’re very comfortable with the Kurdish people,” he said.
We “respect them” and “value their friendship,” Clark continued, as he offered the reassurance, “I’m sure that the United States is going to do whatever it can to protect the people of Kurdistan.”
Last week, a high-level Turkish delegation visited Washington, including Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also Erdogan’s son-in-law; Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s Special Advisor and Spokesperson; as well as Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar. They all failed to resolve the S-400 dispute, even though Albayrak met with Donald Trump himself.
Indeed, on Tuesday, Akar, as well as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, again reaffirmed Turkey’s commitment to the S-400. “It is a done deal,” Cavusoglu said, and there is no “interim formula” involving third parties.
The US has not, as yet, responded publicly to the latest Turkish statements.
Paul Davis, a former Pentagon analyst and now a Senior Fellow at Soran University, put it starkly to Kurdistan 24. “If Turkey acquires the S-400, it can’t stay in NATO,” he said.
The problem, as Davis explained, is “for the S-400 to work, it has to be integrated into the NATO control system,” and that would allow Russia to understand and counter the NATO system.
The Russian press has suggested that there is, for Putin, a strategic objective in his determined courting of Erdogan: undermining the NATO alliance.
“Without firing a single shot, deploying a single tank or using a single internet troll, Moscow can soon destroy the unity of NATO by removing a key country from its military network,” an op-ed in the Russian-language Republic stated.
On Tuesday, Al-Monitor columnist, Metin Gurcan, expressed his doubts about the ability of Ankara and Washington to reach an understanding on the S-400.
“The basic factor that determines Ankara’s course is the personal political future of Erdogan," Gurcan wrote, citing a Turkish government source.
“Putin is the person who best understands Erdogan,” this source continued. “The personal relationship between Putin and Erdogan is one of the most basic parameters of the S-400 crisis. I think Washington doesn’t pay too much attention to this parameter.”
Is Washington prepared for the real possibility that Turkey will soon take delivery of the S-400? Davis thinks not. “We’re really unimaginative,” he complained.
“The whole area is failed or dysfunctional: Iraq, Syria, and now, Turkey. We keep trying to restore what used to exist, but it’s not possible to bring it back,” he continued. “So what are we going to do?”
Editing by Nadia Riva