Turkey: Background, U.S. Relations, and Sanctions

Some specific Turkish actions have raised questions about Turkey’s commitment to NATO and overall strategic orientation. In 2019, Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria and acceptance of components for a Russian S-400 surface-to-air defense system have brought bilateral tensions to crisis levels, and contributed to Trump Administration sanctions on Turkey and the possibility of additional sanctions or other actions from Congress. Events in Syria and a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey appear to have led Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to act more independently from the United States and cultivate closer ties with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.

Turkey faces a number of political and economic challenges that inform its relations with the United States. Observers voice concerns about Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism, and question how he will govern a polarized electorate and deal with the foreign actors who can affect Turkey’s financial solvency and regional security. To meet its security, economic, and energy needs, Turkey cooperates with the United States and several other countries whose respective interests may conflict.

Without significant rents from natural resources, Turkey’s economic performance is largely dependent on maintaining diversified global trade and investment ties, including with the West. The following are major points of concern in the U.S.-Turkey relationship which are discussed in this monograph. Turkey’s October 2019 incursion into northeastern Syria (Operation Peace Spring or OPS).U.S. sanctions and other U.S./NATO actions or options in light of OPS.S-400 acquisition from Russia, removal from the F-35 program and possible sanctions.

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