IR & PoliticsSecurity

CAATSA, the European Union’s sanctions and Turkey

The United States have imposed sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the S-400 missile system from the Russian Federation. The Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) obliges the U.S. President to select at least five out of twelve possible sanctions against Turkey despite it, since 1952, having become one of the most valuable members of NATO with the second biggest military power in the organisation and living up to its duties where and when it has been necessary. So how can it still be alienated within the alliance?

At the moment, it is not definite which sanctions would apply in the frame of CAATSA to Turkey’s case or when but the decision is debatable. The reason why is that three other NATO member states: Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia have already used the S-300 missile system in different ways. For instance, Slovakia has asked for modernisation and maintenance from Russia while the other two have tested the missile system and participated in joint military drills with other NATO members.

In the international arena, Turkey has been praised for being a successful NATO member, has a significant geopolitical position, is a security valve of the alliance and is used as a nuclear shield. In contrast to these, Turkey has still been criticised and sanctioned for having the higher version of the air defence system.

Furthermore, the EU Council came to conclusions on implementing additional sanctions against Turkey between the 10thand 11th of December, 2020. The decision will be reviewed by March, 2021, in accordance with Turkey’s intentions regarding “unauthorised drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean”. This conclusion can be interpreted as against Turkey’s ‘Blue Homeland’ doctrine, which involves the protection of Turkish high seas and the presence of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. The EU also articulated that the organisation will seek to deal with the USA on “unilateral and provocative activities” and “insists on sustained de-escalation as to allow for the early resumption and smooth continuation of direct exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey”.

However, the EU’s unilateral activities definition is quite to the contrary. France, for example, describes Turkey as a threat even more prominent than Russia or China so takes counter-steps against Turkey while cooperating with Egypt and signing arms deals. Additively, it summons other EU countries to act against Turkey by the side of Greece while Greece has occupied islands in the Eagan Sea and armed them, in direct opposition to the Lausanne agreement.

This type of stick and carrot strategy undermines Turkey’s relationship with the EU, the USA and therefore implicitly with NATO. It should be known that Turkey is not a dovelike country; it is more significant. Sanctions and conclusions should not be applied because of populist reasons. Dialogue between the parties will solve the problems, not threats or one-sided impositions. The EU, The USA and Turkey need each other. In the middle-east and in the Black Sea region Turkey has a vital role against growing Russian influence.

Geographical realism, aka realpolitik, can draw states to new destinations. It urges states to pursue their interests but this can’t be done only with hard power strategies. In this way, the relationship with Israel plays a crucial role. It is known that Israel is not satisfied with the East-Med gas forum over the dispute with Southern Cyprus. If a maritime deal can be signed with Israel just as how Turkey has signed one with Libya, it can change the direction of the game and turn it into a win-win situation.  Not just with Israel but reactivating the relationship with Egypt and a potential maritime agreement with Cairo could empower Turkey’s position in the region.

In the middle-east and the Levant, Turkey has become isolated. Turkey must defend its vital rights on the high seas in parallel with its ‘Blue Motherland’ doctrine, along with strengthening its foreign policy and reorientating it with deep-rooted soft power. However, the implementation of erroneous policies detracts Turkey from its institutional standards. Turkey can’t be isolated in its central zone or seas. In order to achieve the aforementioned acquisitions, Turkey has to make concessions at the diplomatic level, should not practice artificial policies and has to re-centre itself.

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Berk Can Kozan

He achieved his BA Degree from the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus and obtained his MA degree from University of Pécs in Hungary. His main research fields concern on nuclear deterrence, international security and foreign policy issues, international relations’ theories, and internal/external affairs of Turkey. Currently, he is a third year PhD student at the National University of Public Service in Hungary.
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