The US Congress report and economic sanctions - LEVENT YILMAZ

The US Congress report and economic sanctions

The U.S. Congressional Research Service published a report titled “Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations” on 31st August, 2018. The reasons why recently, our relations have been tense becomes clear after reading the report carefully. I am going to briefly write about some points discusses in this report. We are now observing together how the tensions in our bilateral relations with the U.S. has been impacting our economy.

Of course, I am not going to make simplistic arguments by linking the negative developments in our macroeconomic equilibrium to the U.S.’s Turkey policy. There are many negative variables in the world economy that causes negative impacts on developing economies and there are some things we need to do internally. However, we cannot ignore the fact that beginning from the economic sanctions the U.S. has put on Turkey, there are some overt and covert actions which are affecting our economy more than any other developing country.

How do they perceive things?

In the Congress report, the U.S. describes Turkey as “the country that is affecting a series of key security issues of the U.S. in the Middle East and Europe.” However, they state that this relationship, which has strategic importance for Washington, has been deteriorating over the past decade. For instance, it is obvious that the U.S. is not comfortable with Turkey’s policy regarding the Syrian civil war, the tensions between Turkey and Israel, and its cooperation with Iran and Russia. Moreover, Washington views the Brunson case as “the subject that reduced the relations to a historically low level.”

It seems that one of the issues that bother the U.S. the most is the purchase of S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia. Although Turkish authorities have been continuously stating that the agreement was signed, and the S-400 systems are expected to be delivered to Turkey on time, they still mention the defense systems as a “possible purchase” and signal that they plan to make some moves against it.

Another critical topic is the F-35 fighter jets, which is a project Turkey was a part of. The U.S. is aware that Turkey is an important country in its supply chain. They even considered the possible effects if Turkey leaves the consortium as a result of the sanctions. Furthermore, they even made references to the Congress proposal which preconditions the F-35 delivery to the cancellation of the S-400 deal.

While regarding the December 17-25 coup attempt as a “corruption scandal”, Washington dubbed the Gezi events - during which many places were vandalized and caused a $ 100billion worth of damages to the economy - simply “a protest movement against the government.” They still describe Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) leader Fethullah Gülen as a “former preacher” and FETÖ as “the Gülen movement.” Moreover, they describe Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan as “one of the most important political figures in Turkey” and even attached his CV to the report.

Although Devlet Bahçeli stated many times that “Kurds are our brothers and sisters, our problem is with the PKK”, they described the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) as a party “acting against the Kurds” and also got the party name wrong, mistakenly referring to them as the “Nationalist People’s Party.”

Economic matters

Maybe because of Turkey’s references to the international law, the report mentioned that the U.S. sanctions only worsened the already existing problems in Turkey’s economic developments. According to the report, it was stated that the Brunson case only accelerated the speed of the depreciation of Turkish Lira.

The energy issue was analyzed in a different section. While projects like TurkStream, Southern Gas Corridor, TANAP (Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline) and TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) were discussed separately in detail, nuclear power plant projects like Akkuyu were also analyzed in the report. For me, one of the most critical parts is the section on the “Eastern Mediterranean”. It was stated that Turkey is trying to reach the energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, but the process will be difficult because of the problems Turkey is having with Greek Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel. They also reflected in the report their discomfort regarding Turkey’s ongoing economic cooperation with Russia, Iran, and China.

The actual problem and solution

It is possible to elaborate on this report. However, in short, the Congress is stating that Turkey’s policies are not favorable for the U.S.’s interests. It also criticizes Turkey’s approach to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as a threat. The SDF is the umbrella organization for the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), and the U.S. has an alliance with this group. Turkey’s security concerns, the energy demand and the damage Turkey received from the Syrian civil war were ignored. It is obvious that all of these harmed Turkey. Of course, there is no such thing in international relations as “eternal hostility or eternal friendship.” There may be ups and downs in bilateral relations. However, if the U.S. seeks to restore relations with Turkey, which they describe as a “strategic alliance”, they have to take many steps. They can start this by removing the sanctions they imposed on Turkey, which violate international law.


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