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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, in Ankara, Turkey Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, in Ankara, Turkey, May 6, 2019 (Presidential Press Service photo via AP Images).

Why There’s No Easy Solution to the U.S.-Turkey Dispute Over the S-400

Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020

In response to strong bipartisan pressure from Congress, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on Turkey earlier this month to punish it for purchasing a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system from Russia in 2019. The narrowly targeted sanctions include a ban on export licenses for Turkey’s main military procurement agency, as well as asset freezes and visa restrictions on senior officials at the organization. Not surprisingly, Turkey, a major NATO ally, called the move a “grave mistake” and threatened to retaliate.

The yearslong fracas over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system, reportedly for around $2.5 billion, will go down in the annals of diplomacy as one of the most unnecessary, avoidable and bizarre episodes in modern history. Yet, as perplexing as the case may be, there appears to be no off-ramp to a dispute that is doing untold damage to Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and other NATO allies, as well as to the Turkish leadership’s pride and to the Turkish military. The only winner is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is not just laughing all the way to the bank, but is also enjoying the sight of Ankara and Washington falling out over yet another item on a long list of disagreements. ...

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