Is Turkey Drifting Again? A Missile Deal Gone Bad & Internal Shifts in Ankara
Turkey today is at a crossroads. It is more globally engaged than at any time since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Yet in the wake of the “Arab Spring” and the massive domestic “Gezi Park” protests against the decade-long rule of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ankara’s international relationships are strained. Predictably, given this turmoil, an announcement concerning a highly anticipated missile system – which will be Turkey’s largest military procurement to date – has taken on a life of its own. Unfortunately, in the midst of all the analysis and prognostications, policymakers and commentators are missing internal shifts in Ankara that have broader implications for the age-old debates about Turkey’s orientation and U.S.-Turkey relations.
Turkey announced in September that it had chosen the China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation (CPMIEC) to buy its first long-range anti-missile system, estimated to be worth over $4 billion. The announcement raised more than a few eyebrows and is symptomatic of evolving dynamics in Turkish domestic and foreign policy. The move irritated its NATO allies, particularly the United States, which had put together competing bids from Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, as well as the Italian-French consortium Eurosam, not to mention Russia’s Rosoboron. To add insult to injury, the winning Chinese company is facing sanctions for selling arms and missile technology to Iran and Syria at a moment when Turkey continues to benefit from NATO-provided missile defense systems in its southeast on the Syrian border.