Turkish Pres. Reçep Tayyip Erdogan believes the U.S. will stop short of forcing Turkey out of NATO, destroying its currency, and pushing it into an alliance with Russia and the People’s Republic of China. But is his confidence justified?
U.S. Pres. Donald Trump could also direct the State Dept. to lift its embargo on the sale of U.S. defense equipment to Cyprus (inexplicably in place since 1985) and penalize Turkey for using U.S. defense equipment illegally for the 1974 invasion and subsequent occupation of the northern 37 percent of Cyprus.
Pres. Trump’s signing of a $716-billion defense spending bill on August 13, 2018, included an amendment which prohibited the sale by the US to Turkey of F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft unless the Defense Department issued a report downplaying the damage to the secure operation of the F-35 if it was adopted by the Turkish Air Force while the TAF was also operating the Russian S-400 air defense missile system. The Pentagon has historically given Turkey the benefit of the doubt, but this time Pres. Erdogan has escalated his hostility to the U.S., which may make it difficult for the DoD to justify release of the F-35. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had, in a letter to Congress in August 2018, urged against stopping the F-35 transfer.
Significantly, Sec. Mattis made his case to safeguard the F-35’s industrial/cost base, but the sale of a proposed 100 F-35As to Turkey could be offset by a sale of a similar number of F-35Bs to the Republic of China (ROC: Taiwan) Air Force. Trump would simultaneously punish Turkey and bolster the ROC. And, many argue, hasn’t Turkey already left the West in all but name? And doesn’t the U.S. need, in any event, to bolster the ROC and Japan sooner rather than later if it is to contain the PRC in the Pacific?
In Washington, DC, on August 15, 2018, it was no coincidence that the private American Hellenic Institute (AHI) announced the publication of an Issue Brief on the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) under which the United States had prohibited the sales of US defense articles/services to the Republic of Cyprus since 1985. The ITAR listed the Republic of Cyprus, along with countries such as Sudan and Somalia, as a country to which transfers of US defense articles/services were prohibited. Related: Caught In The Crossfire: The Unintended Victim Of Iran Sanctions
In June 2018, AHI discussed the issue with State Department officials and submitted a memorandum with the key points which were in the Issue Brief. The officials forwarded the memorandum to the appropriate office for review. Since June 2018, AHI had raised the issue in follow-up meetings with the State Department. The Issue Brief described the ITAR, analyzed why the prohibition on the Republic of Cyprus was unlawful, explained how the State Department itself could remove the Republic of Cyprus from the application of the ITAR prohibition and concludes that legislation was not necessary.
“We contend the State Department has the legal authority to remedy what has been, for years, an unlawful prohibition on arms transfers to the Republic of Cyprus,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “We urge the State Department to exercise the requisite political will to get this done. It is in the best interests of the United States for the Republic of Cyprus to look to the United States, and not any other nation, to procure its defense materials.”
By GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs
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