ANALYSIS - Ankara's Potential Purchase Of Russian Fighter Jets Likely To Further Strain Ties With US

(@FahadShabbir)

ANALYSIS - Ankara's Potential Purchase of Russian Fighter Jets Likely to Further Strain Ties With US

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 15th August, 2019) The relations between Turkey and the United States, which have already been strained over Ankara's purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems, might be further shadowed if Russia manages to sale its fighter jets to Turkey, experts told Sputnik.

The United States announced in July its decision to suspend Turkey's participation in the F-35 international fighter jet program over Ankara's purchase of S-400 systems, adding that the country would be completely removed from the project by late March 2020. Shortly after, Russian state corporation Rostec said it was ready to export Su-35 fighters to Turkey if requested to do so.

Last week, the Yeni Safak newspaper reported, citing a military source, that Ankara was considering Russia's Su-35 offer. Turkey's arms procurement agencies have reportedly instructed the defense industry, the Air Force Command and other parties concerned to assess Russia's proposal. A positive feedback will kick-start negotiations with Russia on the issue, according to the newspaper.

HIGH CHANCES OF TURKEY OPTING FOR RUSSIAN JETS

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently vowed that his country will search for analogues of US-made jets in other countries should the United States refuse to sell them to Ankara. And, as the relations between Ankara and Moscow are on the rise, Turkey may purchase the Russian jets on the heels of S-400 deliveries.

"There are good chances that Turkey might purchase Russian jets. There is clearly a strong push from Russia to export jets to Turkey. In Turkey, President Recep Erdogan is clearly trying to establish his foreign policy as being independent of the United States and purchasing Russian jets would come as evidence of that independence," M. V. Ramana, the Simons chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia, said.

The expert underlined that "Turkey's purchase of Russian jets would definitely be a further strain on US-Turkish relations.

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Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow and the director of the Research Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, is in agreement with Ramana that the purchase of Russia's Su-35 jets may strike a blow on the Turkish-US ties.

"It would unmistakably be viewed as a further weakening of an already-strained relationship. I don't think that has to be fatal to the security partnership, but it is concerning," O'Hanlon noted.

DANGERS TO TURKISH-US COOPERATION ON CREATION OF SAFE ZONE

Ankara and Washington have recently reached an agreement on creating a safe zone on Syria's border with Turkey and a center to coordinate joint operations. Damascus opposes the plan, qualifying it as a violation both of Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and of international law.

US Air Force European Commander Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian said on Tuesday that military cooperation between the United States and Turkey remained strong despite Washington's decision to suspend Ankara's participation in the F-35 program.

The experts, however, differ on whether the creation of a security zone could be derailed by Turkey's potential purchase of the Russian fighter jets.

"There would definitely be an effect on what is happening in Syria but the extent of the effect depends on the state of Russia-US relations too," Ramana said.

O'Hanlon cited the example of the US cooperation with India, which is mainly unaffected by the deliveries of Russian weapons to the Asian country.

"In principle, we could still get along with Turkey and cooperate with Ankara on a number of issues, including Syria, even after the Su-35 sale. After all, we cooperate in many ways with India, a major buyer of Russian weapons," the senior fellow with the Brookings Institution noted.

At the same time, if the potential deal on sale of Russian Su-35 fighter jets falls through, there is a chance that Turkey will turn to the aircraft produced by China and Pakistan, according to the Yeni Safak newspaper.

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